The road to Kuélap is not for the faint of heart. For three hours on Sunday, we rode up a narrow dirt road that clung to a series of mountainsides, wondering at times whether the ruined fortress we were going to see would be worth the moments of sheer terror on the trip.
The Chachapoyas, who called themselves the Warriors of the Clouds, were a federation of tribes who apparently fought among themselves most of the time but banded together in the face of common enemies. They built their fortress on a 3000-meter mountaintop over about a thousand years starting in A.D. 500, carrying the stones from a quarry a week's walk away. Kuélap fell first to the Incas and then to the Spanish, but the ruins that remain are the most spectacular either of us have ever seen.
There were eight of us in our tour group, and--probably thanks to that road--we had the place almost to ourselves.
Rie was fascinated by the lichens and bromeliads . . .
. . . but I got to see the llama.
Kuélap is still a working archeological site, and the locals have high hopes it will someday rival Machu Picchu as a tourist magnet. We haven't been to M.P. yet, but it's got a tough act to follow.