On January 22, 2016 we went on a tour that took us to the Quiocta caves and the Sarcofagos of Karajia. Eliot and I and a Peruvian couple were overflow so we got to ride in a new Hyundai Suv behind the combi. The Peruvian couple were in their early 20’s and were from Chicklayo (a mid size city between Chachapoyas and Trujillo). Augusto is a business manager for a PR firm and Yanira is a primary school teacher. Augusto with his hoodie, cap, iPhone 6 and Yanira with her modern outfit could easily pass for hip North American 20 somethings. I guess fashion is international. However, they were anything but superficial. Both were very politically and socially aware and had informed views on urbanism, development and Peru. They immediately figured out that we were a couple and wanted to know how long we had been together. Augusto had this contagious enthusiasm and optimism which reminded me of what Tony, the Scottish hostel owner in Popayan had said about Colombians they have huge challenges but yet are more positive than the people back home.
The tour cost 50 soles ($20). Once again we had a windy drive down steep dirt roads along mountain sides. This time we got to hear the drivers’ mix usb that included new order, Dire Straights, “fly robin fly” and salsa. The landscape was dryer than the road to Kuelap with roadside cactus, eucalyptus and huge agave plants sprouting 10 meter high trunks with twirly flowers. “Yerba mala” said the driver as he explained that the agave is not the kind that can be used for tequila.
To get to the cave we walked across a field and down along a cliff. The cave was large and had some impressive stalactites and less impressive stalagmites. There were also some human skulls thrown in but I did not understand the connection. The cave was dark and muddy and we saw bats having upside down from the cave top.
What I like about touring in South America is the lack of fear of litigation. There was no waiver to sign and the cave had no guard rails, lights or exit signs. The guide carried a young girl in his hands and we had one light per 4 people. A Peruvian -German couple shlepped suegra (mother in law) through the mud. We were told that the stalactites sometimes fall on visitors and that we should be careful. That was our waiver.
After the caves we went to the town of Lamud for lunch and then back up into the mountains to go the sarcophagos. From the square of a very small town we again walked down a trail through fields with potatos, farm animals (sheep, donkeys and bulls) to get to a cliff side. On the cliff we could see the sarcofogas (hollowed burial structures shaped like humans) used to inter Chachapoyas notables. The Sarcofogas are 2.5 meters high, and date back to the 1400’s. They look a bit like the easter island monuments. Our guide indicated that no one knows how they got the heavy sarcofogas onto the cliffs. A little kid from the village escorted one of the tour members on a horse.
Later on we waited in a small square and I made a grass whistle and the local kids imitated me and did the same. The little kid with the horse failed to make a grass whistle so instead he joined in the music by making arm pit farts. Some things are universal.
On January 23 we went to Gocta falls. We decided to take a cab to Cocachimba. At the tourist office we paid out entrain fee of 20 soles (for a hike the falls?) and were told that we need to hire a guide for 50 soles. We informed her that we did not want a guide and channelling my Zaidy z’l I asked in Spanish “voo is es geshriben” (where is it written) that we need a guide to walk along a 6 km trail to waterfalls? Are we going to fall in? The official saw that we were not buying the guide business and pulled out a waiver form for us to sign (guess I spoke too soon about no waivers). After signing she gave us her instructions, walk straight along the path, do not take any spurs, keep right. That was it, for that we needed a guide. Oh Peru, lesson learned.
It was a hot day but a great walk, The falls were impressive even though from our vantage point we could only see 1/2 the way up. On the drive back we saw a bunch of Vultures congregating near a farm.