Ancient Buildings, Terraces and Cave Surprises around Ollachea

WARNING: this blog post contains images of mummified remains some people may find disturbing

Puno Region’s Ollachea district in southern Peru has fantastic, easily accessible pre-Columbian sites including chulpas, ruins, ancient terraces and mummies in caves!

An Ollachea shopkeeper told Rocío about places to visit outside of town on our October 2016 visit. Not only this, she kindly arranged for her son to pick us up and take us around in his trike-trailer. The sites, south and north of Ollachea were all close by the Interoceanic Highway.

South of Ollachea: Chillacori Chulpas, Ruins and Condors in the Sky

The son first took us to the Chillacori (also known as Chichacori and Chickakuri) Archaeological site featuring two chulpas (tombs) and other ancient ruins in an amazing valley setting.

Chulpa at Chichacori surrounded by potato fields, Ollachea, Carabaya, Puno, Peru

A pre-Columbian chulpa on a rocky outcrop surrounded by modern potato fields

High above in the sky, Andean condors circled. In the archaeological site we spotted another bird, likely an Andean tinamou.

Bird at Chichacori archaelogical site, Ollachea, Puno, Peru

Resembling an Andean tinamou, this bird on a rock wall poked around the archaeological site

Chichacori sign and mountains, Ollachea, Peru

Condors circled above these rugged mountains overlooking Chillacori

Old stone house, Chichacori, Ollachea, Peru

An old house, likely occupied until recent times given the thatched roof still exists, albeit in poor condition; the potato field is kept tended

Driver and Rocio on trike trailer at Chichacori, Ollachea

This Ollachea man generously drove Rocío (pictured) and I around in the back of his trike-trailer

Standing on the Interoceanic Highway at Chichacori, Ollachea, Peru

The Interoceanic Highway passes through spectacular mountains and valleys around Ollachea

North of Ollachea: Caves, Moyoqpampa and Challouno

After Chichacori, the trike driver took us north through Ollachea, past the waterfall and hot springs, stopped on the side of the highway. He was leading us up a steep mountain to see caves.

The mountainside was covered in bromeliads, ferns, cacti, orchids and other plants. Near the caves we saw ancient rock art, likely a depiction of a camelid, either a llama, alpaca, vicuña or guanaco.

Ancient camelid rock art, Ollachea, Peru

Pre-Columbian rock art depicting a camelid north of Ollachea

Reaching the caves, we were shocked to see them occupied – by mummies! Our guide did not say there would be mummies.

In various stages of deterioration, the mummies, as is custom, had coins, bottles and even cigarettes offered to them by visiting locals. Those in best condition were still in foetal position like the mummies we saw in Taype.

Mummies in caves near Moyoqpampa, Ollachea, Carabaya, Puno, Peru

Two mummies with bottles and a full cigarette (central bottom)    Coins in mummy shoulder joint near Moyoqpampa, Ollachea, Peru

Five 10 Peruvian centimo coins placed in a mummy’s shoulder joint in a cave north of Ollachea; note the frayed original wrapping material

Mummies in caves near Moyoqpampa, Ollachea, Carabaya, Puno, Peru

This group of mummies includes a juvenile torso in the centre of the photo

Mummy hand bones and rope, Ollachea, Carabaya, Puno, Peru

Mummy fragments strewn amongst the caves included this limb bone, hand and rope

The cave area provided impressive views of the valley below including the Interoceanic Highway, Moyoqpampa and Challouno archaeological sites and Kuri Kullu Gold Mine.

View of Moyoqpampa, Challouno, Interoceanic Highway and Kuri Kullu Gold Mine, Ollachea, Puno, Peru

This view encompasses the Interoceanic Highway, Moyoqpampa and Challouno archaeological sites and the excavated mound of the Kuri Kullu Gold Mine

Upon climbing down the mountain our guide brought us to our final archaeological sites: Moyoqpampa (also called Moya Pampa) and Challouno. Both places contained ancient terraces.

Pre-Columbian terraces, Moyoqpampa Archaeological Site, Ollachea, Peru

Ancient agricultural terraces form part of the Moyoqpampa Archaeological Site

Ancient terraces in front of modern mine, Challouno, Ollachea, Puno, Peru

Pre-Columbian terraces of Challouno in front of the Kuri Kullu Gold Mine outside Ollachea

Dropping us back in Ollachea, the driver, when asked, only requested 25 soles (AUD$10) although we gave him 30. This amazing tour south and north of Ollachea took less than two and a half hours from start to finish. What an incredible morning.

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