Our day of the dead: The Caverna de Qiocta & the Sarcofagos Karajia

Days: 278 (30 March 2015)

Total distance travelled: 53,668.3 kilometres (33,334.35 miles)

Two days, two tours.

That was how we kicked off our fourth day in Chachapoyas, a place that I can’t stress enough, has so many amazing locations to visit in its near (and occasionally far) surrounds.

As such, we were happy enough to partake in a second tour, discovered only after after seeing images on the wall of a tour office, then following that up with a little research on the internet, to get ourselves out to the Sarcofogas Karajia.

Utilising the same well priced tour operator we’d enlisted for our previous excursion to Kuelap, we found ourselves in yet another mini-van bouncing our way out of Chachapoyas.

Our first destination was in fact somewhere we had no prior knowledge of, however it was preceded by a quick stop in a rural town where all members of the tour were encouraged to fork out a couple of extra soles for some rubber boots (which we all did).

It was not long at all before these were donned and we found ourselves traipsing through a muddy field.

To where exactly, well our destination was the Caverna de Qiocta.

We weren’t sure what to expect, but an underground stream/sacrificial site double was certainly not it (sure one or the other, but both?)!

Paying our respects to their dead

Paying our respects to their dead in the Caverna de Qiocta

The running waters kept the place incredibly damp, the boots proving their worth immediately as we traversed the flowing streams, or gingerly tip-toed over muddied areas.

Beyond the sanctity of the place as a home to the long dead, it was also just a damn pretty cave, with some lovely rock formations, many glistening in the wet, as well as a good selection and variety of stalactites, and stalagmites.

Things get a little damp (left) & a mighty tall, yet narrow Stalecmite (right)

Things get a little damp (left) & a mighty tall, yet narrow stalagmite (right)

Incredibly, we both did a ridiculously good job of keeping ourselves mud free during this excursion into the underdark… that is until the last few minutes (seriously, we could see daylight) when I slipped on a submerged rock, getting both my jeans and socks a little damp, and a touch muddy!

Exploring the deep vast in one of the caverns

Exploring the deep vast in one of the caverns

Back at the bus, it was boots off and into a waiting bag (so we wouldn’t dirty the vehicle we assumed), and onwards to the headline act of the day.

It was a couple of kilometres down from the town that we were forced to tip-toe (we’d again abandoned the bus), a long journey only because the path was atrocious, in truth probably used primarily by cattle, and therefore a wet morass of muck and filth.

Those boots we’d been forced to remove would’ve been mighty handy!

Still we eventually navigated what was at times an admittedly gentle, yet still slippery slope.

The path leveled out, we rounded a bend and there they were, perched high up on a small narrow ledge, the Sarcofogas Karajia.

Our 1st glimpse of the

Our first glimpse of the Sarcofogas Karajia

The final 6 sentinals...

The final six sentinals…

These final coffins of the Chachapoyan peoples (apparently from around a similar time to the Inca), are all that remains of what has been speculated as a ledge that originally ran the whole length of this wall.

Having seen images that at first suggested they were huge, statue like things, then others which had us question if they were tiny, although we were viewing them from afar, their size was still pretty impressive.

Standing at almost 2 metres tall (left) & natural layered colours in the rock (right)

Standing at around two metres tall (left) & natural layered colours in the rock (right)

We took in the view, then did a little exploration of our own along the narrow path as it snaked its way along beneath a tumbling waterfall.

This gave us the chance to look at the site from the opposite side, spotting as we did so remnants of other tombs and sarcofogas from the same period.

Indeed bones lay collected under the sheltered overhang, remnants from coffins long ruined when they tumbled from above.

Remnants of sarcofogi lost above...

Remnants of sarcofogi lost above…

...and the remains below

…and the remains below

Nature now appears the keeper, but also the enemy of the remaining residents of Karajia, as the difficulty in accessing the ledge above protects, and has protected in the past from grave robbers, however as time wears on, so do the chances increase that others may fall (apparently an earthquake in the 1920’s already sealed the fate of one of their past companions).

A ledge once ran the length of the wall, all laden with various sarcofogi!

A ledge once ran the length of the wall, all laden with various sarcofogi!

Still, it was a fascinating glimpse into a different, less famous people of ancient Peru, fully worthy of our time and the day we invested.

Just remember, if you can, keep those boots for both legs of the excursion!



* Our tour was booked through Santa Maria on the Plaza Mayor for $50.00 Soles per person.

* Entrance into the caves cost $5.00 Soles per person, plus an additional $2.00 Soles each for the rubber boots.

* The Sarcofogas Karajia cost us $5.00 Soles per person (the boots would have been very handy then as well!).

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