Knowing that travel would grind to a halt with this week’s transportation strike, on Monday I hopped on a bus and headed down the valley to Oropesa to check out some very interesting places near the more famous site of Tipon.
Almost no one knows about this area as nearly everyone arrives in a tour vehicle or simply doesn’t bother to get off the main road. That leaves a number of ancient burial sites virtually unknown, never visited, and undisturbed.
The badly deteriorated ruins of an old Spanish hacienda is still standing and appears to be at least partially used, but it’s not clear if someone has occupied part of it as a residence or not. Inside the rear courtyard, drying crops were visible, but there’s not much left besides the walls and some outlying buildings.
Some very small fields are still being used among the ancient inca terraces on the steep mountainside above the hacienda. Water comes from a small stream flowing down from the mountain above.
An Inca Road
Most visitors to Peru think the famous “Inca Trail” is the only Inca road still in existence. The fact is that there are hundreds of kilometers of Inca roads that still exist all up and down South America.
A few have been reconstructed, but most are in an unsurprising state of disrepair since they were first built by the Incas more than 500 years ago. Indeed, it’s quite common to find many stretches of primary and secondary Inca roads all over the region that are still used by people in the mountains in exactly the same way as they’ve been used for centuries — as a means of getting from one place to another by walking.
Reconstruction of this section of road was completed in early 2020, but has been closed off during the pandemic.
I first saw some of these tombs in 2019 when I made one of my usual “let’s see what’s up that canyon” hikes, but I had no idea just how much was there. On subsequent trips I found even more tombs — both simple holes in the the cliff sides along the mountain and more elaborate “chullpas” (burial structures) indicating that the site was used by more than one group of peoples over the thousands of years of occupation of the Cusco valley.
Getting up to the tombs is quite challenging and, thanks to the very heavy brush made up of deeply entangled thorny plants, I wasn’t able to find a path up. With a machete, it would probably be fairly easy to hack my way through, but that will have to wait until another time.
I was able to get reasonably close, but, to be honest, I wanted to be very respectful as these are burial sites. No matter how old they are, respect is still my greatest concern. (That’s why I’m not posting any detailed information on how to reach this site.)
Certainly they were scavenged by scavenging grave robbers long ago looking for treasure and other items that they could sell to collectors. It’s very possible that bones still exist so avoiding any kind of disturbance of the site is my biggest concern.
After a couple of hours exploring beneath the cliffs, approaching dark clouds sent me back down into the valley to catch a ride home after a quick stop to eat pollo (chicken) a la plancha in the small town of Saylla along the way. It was an amazing day and I hope to go back soon to do some filming there for a project I’m planning about burial sites. (Most people are surprised to learn that sites like this are quite abundant in the region.)