Sleeping in a Cock Fighting Ring and Visiting the Pre-Incan Fortress of Kuelap

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Following the river south from San Ignacio.

With all the birthday jollities behind me I had a nice easy day heading south from San Ignacio. A forgiving incline gave way to 20km of downhill and soon I was down at the valley floor, only 400m above sea level, tracking the river as it zig-zagged south. With little to no traffic my attention was diverted by the legion of millipedes inching their way across the hot road and the eagles soaring above.

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I dodged hundreds of these little guys.
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I bought some roadside chicha, a local drink made by boiling corn with fruit. It smelt like bad wine but went down easy.
paddy
Eventually the valley gave way to a huge plain full of rice paddies.
big sky
Big skies round these parts.

In Bellavista, a grubby little riverside down, I asked the police if I could camp in front of the station and they obliged. I popped over the road for a meal at the tiny restaraunt, and while the food was top drawer filth, the owner, Mercedes, said I could camp at her place.

“Why don’t you camp in the colliseum?”
“Excuse me?”

cock fighting
Turns out the rear of her restaurant houses a cock fighting ring. I couldn’t resist putting up my tent in the middle.
cocks
The downside being the noisy gladiators who got very excited at my arrival.
mercedes
Mercedes and I spent the evening watching Korean soap operas. It wasn’t remotely weird.

At 3.10am one plucky little idiot jumped the gun and started crowing. Embarrassed at his mistake he went back to sleep but at 4.30 the whole godforsaken chorus started. There’s little more annoying than trying to sleep while 20 cockerals compete to see who can make the biggest racket. If there was a hatchet nearby I would’ve gone all Patrick Bateman on those feathery little shits.

bike boat
After an enforced early start I made for the river where I met the little crew of boatmen. One of them were clearly still drunk and insisted on showing me his rock collection. “Look at this…you could make a beautiful necklace with it”

Probably because of the roosters I found myself in a bad mood as I made my way to Bagua Grande. It started raining and the arid land smelled of dead pig. Bagua Grande calls itself “the heart of the Amazon” but to me it seemed more like “the distended, cirrosis scarred liver of the Amazon” although my impressions may be tainted by the girl who laughed at me when I stepped ankle deep into thick mud having mistaken it for solid ground.

raspadilla kids
After narrowly escaping their bloodthirsty dog I had a nice chat with these kids over a raspadilla.
switchback city
Back in the clutches of another big valley I scaled the one climb of the day. At least in Peru they were kind enough to build switchbacks.
camping bandstand
I ended up camping next to a restaurant. All was well until I realised…
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…I was right next to Cock Fighting Ring 2: The Revenge. Goddammit.
turkeys
At least I had a nice turkey dinner.

After once again succumbing to the 4.30 wake up call of the-birds-that-shall-not-be-named (one day I’ll return to Peru and go on a Stalinist purge of all red combed creatures) I had a fairly uneventful day, memorable soley for the sting in the tail: a very tough climb up to Chachapoyas.

rivr valley
Some of the overhanging rock roads wouldn’t look out of place in a James Bond movie.
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Chachapoyas is a pretty little colonial town which had me in mind of Popayan, albeit with a dusty Peruvian flavour…
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…and it proved the perfect place to rest my chaffed behind for a few days. I roamed the streets eating ice cream…
ceviche
…and eating ceviche in the market for between $1-1.50. I had about 4 of these over the course of my stay.
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However, the main reason to visit Chachapoyas was to check out the pre-Incan hillside fortress of Kuelap.
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Barely 2 months prior they opened a system of cablecars, sparing my weary legs a 4 hour hike up to the top.
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Dating back to the 6th century AD, Kuelap was built by the Chachapoyan people before later being commandeered by the Incans and later the Spaniards. To this day much remains a mystery about the enigmatic fortress.
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There are patterned walls, llama footprints indented into the stone and entire towers filled with human bones.
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Head in the clouds.

Next Up: Huge climbs and descents into a desert valley and back out again.

Tunes: Alkaline Trio – Goddammit → Good Mourning, Amy Winehouse – Frank, Bon Iver – 22, A Million

Books: The Martian – Andy Weir, Richard Yates – Disturbing The Peace 

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