…and the Peruvian pipe-band played on: Musings from old Peru

…sure, the guidebooks might want you to believe that Peru is all cockfights and ceramic genitals but the truth is that it’s more than that.

But just a little more.

Best to get your info here because we’re here on the ground, riding the dog for the moment in deepest darkest Lima as the CB cools down for a spell; taking some time out to genuflect.

But lets go back, way back to one’s first crossing into this strange and savage land of Incans and gold. One remembers the death roads, ah yes the death roads. One remembers them because they simply cannot be forgotten.

The road to Kuelap: Up and up we go, inching towards the sun on a death road carved into the side of the Andes, leading a body to the ancient fortress of Kuelap. The Chachapoyans were on to something here man, and one gets the feeling that something big was going on all the way up here in the mountains of Northern Peru back in the days of yore, but just a little something half-spied through the swirling mists of time. Cloud warriors, white skinned and blond, usurped by the Incans and dying out sometime in pre-history before the coming of the conquistadores. A mystery for the ages. The last vestiges of a dead race appear in the guise of different archaeological sites that dot the area, remnants reachable only by foot or the occasional death road to nowhere, built to service communities that shouldn’t even exist.

30 foot high walls of stone

The ancient fortress of Kuelap at dawn’s first light and the magic hour. Awaking from my tent to an icy Andean dawn, I would have the run of the place, sneaking around the back and then inside like a covetous Incan. Kuelap is a tremendous ruin, well-built enough to withstand the ravages of time, and huge. Muy impressionante.

Revash: Ancient bones still line the floor inside the sarcophogi of Revash, set in cliff’s niche high above the Leymebamba valley. Yet another site I would have entirely to myself, Revash is left unprotected to all and is in surprisingly good condition, considering it’s nearly a thousand years old…and with all the names and shit carved into it.

Emoliente in Leymebamba: Dubbed emoliente, this weird drink has a gooey texture and is used to cure all sorts of ills, and even chills as it comes served up piping hot; a perfect tonic for the cold Andean night.

Considered one of the pre-eminent death roads in all of Incandom, the stretch from Leymebamba to Celendin is just another one of the death roads that bring new life as we go up and up through the rain and sleet and slick muck over the pass only to do it all over again as next we go down to the Rio Marañon and back up to Celendin. All in a day’s work.

Eyeing up death-road continuation whilst looking across the Marañon River valley. That’s the same road off in the distance, an hour or two’s ride away.

Scenes of utter-destruction as the Ecuadorian welds fail epically, yet conveniently just as we hit pavement, and right in front of a welder’s shop…who sloppily, lazily welded up the frame with a couple of pieces of rebar for added strength.

Conga No Va! A chant a body would hear ad nauseum over and over again as we get stuck and have to spend the night in Celendin. There would be no gasoline for sale, especially to white interlopers on vintage Honda twins, and the CB tank was plumb-dry. Conga is an acronym for an American mining interest who the local populace fear will pollute the environment. Images of angry protesting Incans interspersed with images of angry Incans pissing and shitting in plain sight, throwing plastic bags of garbage into rivers and streams and everywhere else while wearing brightly colored traditional clothing and adorable bowler hats are forever intertwined and scorched into the memory. Although, taken in I was that night by a couple of kind-hearted mestizo school marms, and even given my own personal room with dirt floor and sexy posters of Jesus and babes lining the walls.

Markwahuamachuco: Another sassy pre-Incan ruin with hilltop setting. Pushy security guards and Frenchmen on recumbent bicycles would ruin the set and one is led to the conclusion that Kuelap conquers all. A massively fucked up boulder strewn road tops out at 3800m at ruins edge.

Back to the sea: A gray mist blankets the Peruvian coast as the garua fog rolls in and signals that ‘winter’ has come to the sea. Up in the North and outside the city of Trujillo the impressive remains of Chan Chan scour the coast. Built from mud and straw, the ruins of Chan Chan may only be appreciated for their size, which is immense, and even in this modern age with Trujillo fast approaching, they can still be oggled. One can make good time riding the curveless and paved Panamericana and the desert highways of Peru’s arid shores. Little settlements pop up here and there and glimpses are caught of obscene poverty and most houses are nothing more than four sticks and reed mats for walls and roof.

Hey lady, I can see you through the wall!

Huaraz and the Cordilleras: Death roads galore as the legendary Cañon del Pato road leads a body away from the coast through oodles of tunnels blasted and carved into solid rock as it inches its way up Peru’s Cordillera Negra and into the beating Andean heart of a nation. Dozens of snow and ice-capped 6000m+ peaks are all jammed together in and around the dirty burb of Huaraz, representing Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. Completely surreal and amazing is the setting and the scale so immense that it blows the mind. Incredible no doubt but after a while the alternating hot days, cold nights, and altitude will eventually get to a body and lead it to Lima.

The Canon del Pato road through the Cordillera Negra

View from Punta Union pass at 4750m.

Looking down the other side of Punta Union.

Laguna Churup

It seems as if one is always, always waiting for sun. Camped at 4000m, the difference between sun and shade is stark.

Images shown from Santa Cruz ‘trek’. They call hiking ‘trekking’ here, which I don’t appreciate. Done solo – no burros allowed yo. This is one of the ‘bathrooms’ that pop up every now and again. For some reason, half of them were stuffed with dead animals and I never got a straight answer as to why.

The Purple Potatoes of Old Peru: Peru has something like 80 different kinds of potato. This is not interesting to me in the least because most of them taste and look exactly the same but some of them are purple. That I can dig, and the purple ones taste sort of like yams. Subdued yams but yams nonetheless.

C’mon, what’s in the box?!: Pizarro’s remains repose in an annex of the Lima Catedral, battered and bruised, head and body reunited after all these years. The OG conquistador.

Travel Tip: Free Yellow Fever shots are dispensed at the Hospital Laroazya in Central Lima on Avenida Ugarte every Tuesday from 8 to 11am. Make sure you’re on time or you’ll need to argue for your shot in broken castellano. You don’t want to end up like these two gents, eh?

Inkin’ Dunkin’ Donut:



4 responses to “…and the Peruvian pipe-band played on: Musings from old Peru

  1. dude, lil’ skyler was at mountain creek that day. the shattering of transition lenses were heard echoing round jersey foothills, along w/ the newest craze of ufo apocalypse trumpets http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwclvkYtO2Y.. Even that donut’s cute Riche, wtf mayn?

  2. your pictures show epic beauty, wow! is what I say when I look at them. and i really dig the tent set up, gooey hot drinks yum yum, and the preserved dead guys remind me of the painting “Scream” by Munch.

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