By far the biggest and best preserved site in the whole Chachapoyas area is the ancient city of Kuélap, perched high on a mountaintop with commanding views on all sides. It’s quite an effort to reach the ruins, at the end of a very bumpy, windy gravel road, and absolutely worthwhile.
I spend about three hours wandering around, at first in awe of the massive perimeter wall, then the tiny detail on the house buildings. Excavation and restoration work is still underway and it’s especially cool to see the sections that have been restored alongside the original decaying ruins.
All the employees are extremely friendly and happy to chat about anything and everything. It’s obvious they are very proud of the city and the work being done there, and rightly so. I wind up having lunch with a bunch of the workers and it’s really interesting to see more of what goes on ‘behind the scenes’. About 10 ladies are painstakingly cleaning, sorting, labeling and boxing everything unearthed, from tiny fragments of pottery to entire human skulls.
After I’ve climbed under, over and around everything in site I camp in the parking lot, a grassy area high on the mountainside where I watch both sunset and sunrise – beautiful.