Eggy breakfast twelve was followed by meeting Rob, Vilaya Tours owner and our guide for the next three days.
I'd forgotten our itinerary, choosing (erroneously) only to print out the major route and guide contact numbers, so Rob walked us through the next week's roadmap.
First stop was Huancas pronounced disconcertingly similarly to w***ers, an isolated village outside Chachapoyas where up until the last 20 years the women made and sold thumb pots - biscuit-ware pottery formed without the aid of a wheel - and sold in the local markets. This provided the women with independence and some financial security. However, Chachapoyas is now a victim of its own success doubling in population over the past 15 years and attracting the Huancas residents to move into Chachapoyas, returning to their roots at weekends only.
The other attraction is a 360 degree panoramic view over the surrounding valleys and hills.
We stopped in at Chachapoyas market (open daily) for a root about, buying a small thumb pot from an old Huancas woman who did not wish to be photographed (95p), a huge slice of chocolate cake (70p), and a block of locally produced chocolate used to make hot chocolate (25p). It didn't stand a chance of fulfilling its planned destiny though. Probably about the 60% solids mark I'd say - delicious!
After our incautious and flagrant retail therapy indulgences it's off to Leymebamba and the cliff face tombs and sarcophagi, along a filling-loosening road of nearly interminable length.
A gentle walk down in the cool of lunchtime became a sweat inducing climb once the sun came out.
Rob had brought a tripod and telescope to view the cliff face through, and putting my iPhone camera to the eyepiece, produced, with a bit of jiggling about some great pictures through the 'scope.
At the remove we are currently from wifi, broadband, smooth roads, etc., it will take me a good while to load pictures for your delectation and delight - apologies for the inconvenience!
The sarcophagi are made from a tripod of sticks supporting large, decorated mud forms that recall the Moai of Easter Island. They guard a recess or shallow cave that probably holds the remains wrapped in cloth. Dating is imprecise veering from 600 to 1200 years old. On closer inspection there are also a number of other tombs, where niches have been carved and remains placed with a totemic guard.
That all this is still available to view is due to the overhanging cliff, protecting the sarcophagi from wind, rain, land slips and the prevailing weather to ensure that the rain is not blown into the cliff face, dissolving the mud and stick constructions.
After more bone juddering road toward tonight's resting place, I pass the highlight of my day - a new political graffiti asking for your vote for Hitler for Regional Mayor.
I kid you not!
Apparently there is a local tradition of taking famous (infamous?) surnames and making that your newborn's first name. Nixon, Clinton, Marx, Lenin, Hegel, Engels have all been perpetuated in this manner, but it is still something of a shock to read 'HITLER ALCALDE DICTRITAL' on the side of a garage in rural northern Peru.
Photographic proof now attached (upside down for some reason - sorry!)