Ayapata in Carabaya Province, Peru, is a place I never knew existed*. This was until Rocío and I saw Macusani posters advertising Ayapata’s first coffee festival for 25 September 2016. We thought it was a great excuse to visit, despite the excellent Maps.Me showing no roads leading to Ayapata. Even today, Google Maps still shows a road-less town of Ayapata District.
An unsealed road did link Macusani to Ayapata, with vans departing from Macusani’s bus terminal for the two hour journey. Flamingos, Andean geese, ducks and other birds inhabited the stunning Andes mountain and lake scenery.
The journey’s second half encountered fog, darkness and rain. Rocío feared the steep roadside drops and poor visibility combined with the usual South American driving style.
Sitting in front of the van travelling to Ayapata on mountainsides in low visibility
Knowing coffee is typically grown below 2,000 metres, I expected Ayapata to be at low elevation. Instead, Ayapata sits at 3,475 metres, which, although still high altitude, was a relief from Macusani’s oppressive 4,315 metres.
An old bell tower and church with a foggy backdrop, Ayapata
Although smaller and less accessible than Macusani, Ayapata is older and historically more important. The town centres around a square, Plaza Tupac Amaru (also known as Plaza de Armas), featuring a large tree la Chascosa, multiple topiary hedges and a monument of 18th century rebel leader Túpac Amaru II.
A clearer day highlights the mountain behind the topiary hedges and huge tree (“la Chascosa”) of Ayapata’s Plaza Tupac Amaru town square
This giant chicken is one of several topiary designs in Ayapata’s Plaza Tupac Amaru
Túpac Amaru II fought for independence and indigenous rights against the Spanish colonial rulers. Túpac was executed and dismembered by the Spanish in Cusco in 1781. To intimidate rebellious locals into submissiveness, the Spanish exhibited and buried Túpac’s left arm in Ayapata.
Ayapata’s monument features Túpac Amaru II proudly lifting his left arm while standing on a giant right arm. The right arm may be a mistake as I would have expected a giant left arm given the symbolism.
The monument of Túpac Amaru II in Ayapata’s Plaza Tupac Amaru
On Ayapata’s outskirts is another monument to the town’s cruel past. Hueca Piedra (Hollow Stone) was where the Spanish flogged and occasionally hanged rebellious locals. Behind the stone is a wall with indigenous symbols including the condor and Inti, the Incan sun god.
Hueca Piedra in the foreground surrounded by a condor and Inti
A beautiful, yellow, black and cream coloured Ayapata butterfly
The Ayapata area is historically known for its gold. Nowadays, reserves are depleted although compro oro (buy gold) signs still feature prominently in the town’s commercial streets.
Compro oro signs outside Ayapata businesses
I now know about Ayapata and although the town has limited sights, the journey from and to Macusani alone makes it worth visiting.