Chachapoyas – Kuélap

Chachapoyas & Kuelap

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The Warriors of the Clouds

The mysterious pre-Incan Chachapoyas were known as the “Warriors of the Clouds” or the “Cloud People” what in Quechua means Chachapoyas, those who inhabited cloud forests of northern Peru, above the river valleys of the Utcubamba and Marañon. In 1843, seventy years before Hiram Bingham broadcast the splendor of the Inka “lost city” of Machu Picchu through the pages of National Geographic, Juan Crisostomo Nieto, in an obscure letter to a regional administrator, proclaimed the discovery of Kuelap, a colossal ruin hidden in the rain forests of the Amazonian Andes. Whereas Machu Picchu was immediately catapulted into international fame, Kuelap was never widely publicized, and it languishes in relative obscurity, nevertheless it is a truly magnificent monument to the skill and industry of pre-Columbian people with more than four hundred buildings and massive cyclopean stone walls, usually described as a fortress, although “citadel” would be a more apt description. It is ample testimony that the Inka were not the only ancient Andean civilization to build on a megalithic scale. The Chachapoyas, were an Andean people living in the cloud forests of the Amazonas region of present-day Peru who were conquered by the Incas shortly before the arrival of the Spanish in Peru. When the Spanish arrived in Peru in the 16th century, the Chachapoyas were one of the many nations ruled by the Inca Empire.

Their incorporation into the Inca Empire had not been easy, due to their constant resistance to the Inca troops. The mountain scenery is stunning, with deep canyons, cloud forest and waterfalls including Gocta Waterfall, the third highest in the world. These habitats are home to many different birds including some endemic species. The rich plant life and a lush greeness is a feature of the Chachapoyas area. The area has recently featured on a BBC Documentary “Lost Kingdoms of South America: People of the Clouds” and David Attenborough’s “Life: Birds” where the BBC filmed the Marvelous Spatuletail hummingbird which is unique to the Chachapoyas area and considered one of the most beautiful birds on the planet.