Karajia’s Sarcophagus (Northern Peru/March, 2006)
Down the road about a mile and a quarter, down its rocky slope to a cliff area, scrambled rocks of all sorts linger about imbedded in the mud from the rains two days previous. Down this path, or trail resides the famous Karajia site, of the Chachapoyas from 800-years ago, or at least their remains, and their standup coffins in the shape of odd looking hollow statues of their ancestors, or perhaps themselves, where their remains rest in a fetus position in the center of these hollow statues: embedded into the cave of the cliff. Here six- sarcophagi remain looking west, down toward the valley below, where the river runs.
We all, all five of us are in the middle of the Northern Amazonas of Peru; we’ve struggled through the mud to get to the bottom of the road here, the path that is, tumbling along the side fields of corn and potatoes fields (of this long enduring mud path), and at times we had to walk along the inner side of these vegetable farms, for the grass was more solid than the deep rooted mud packed trail, which had big fissures we had to step over, around, or walk through.
Then we crossed over to the rocky bridge, where the cliffs are, and below us, the valley is. But it is the cliffs that are home to the sarcophagus, called Karajia (also spelled with a ‘C’). Henceforward, we climbed down further looking up and there they were (a few minutes ago: as I take these notes whenever I can), the sarcophagus, all six of them with three skulls, two above them, one on the cliff floor, beside them.
Upon knowing around the bend the site would be, I leaped to see it, walked up and down the side of cliff to get a better view. [Now I making my notes again.]
Stone Seats (Karajia)
A mummy is sitting in a stone cave, perhaps fifty-feet up and into, and onto the cliff, as if it is watching over the site, and the valley at the same time, as if it is the guardian; as if he’s in a theater—and to its right, three more tombs are standing upright, as if they were statues, not as impressive as Karajia’s six, but worth a moment of my time.
[Written afterwards] In a blink of the eye, one could see this whole arrangement. We, the archeologist and I tried to figure out how they got down into the cave to cultivate such a scene. My suggestion was: perhaps they built a tunnel on top of the Mesa above them, and used a ladder to bring down the tombs, and placed them accordingly; it sounded better than trying to lug them up that cliff. In any case, they could fill the tunnel back up, and cover the spot, and no one would be the wiser. In eight hundred years, perhaps other rocks would crisscross, blocking the tunnels once hollowness, or once dugout dirt, making it harder like it previously was; or perhaps they threw rocks back into the tunnel and filled it up with soft dirt. But like everything, or almost everything, it was a theory, and we all had one.
I could see the river below, the Urcubamba; I was full of pure happiness, gladness to have made such a hard trip. I could not make it back up that road, my condition was not good, thus, we found a young man with a horse, and he rented it to me for 10 s/. Double the price he usually got, and to boot, he made the cane for me to assist me in my daily adventure further, and it helped.
The Rio Urcubamba
As I looked down upon the river Urcubamba—running back through the gorges, into unpeopled water-land, everything around me was drying up from a heavy rains two days ago, and as a result, everything was sparkling green and healthy looking. All the different shades of green faded into the snake-like canyon, where the river was. I kept thinking: here I was up on this cliff, with 800-year-old mummies buried in shell like tombs, a breeze shifting the heat, warm air pushing warm air, the closer one gets into this environment, the more enmeshed he becomes with nature, the more spiritual he feels with the world.
Back in St. Paul
I wondered what everyone was doing back at the bookstore in St. Paul (Roseville), Minnesota (At the Har Mar Mall, Barns and Noble, bookstore café: Gene, and Gary and Sue and the Professor, and Johannes, and Cindy, and Jerry the Café manager, and Erica: oh, the whole lot of them, all book lovers, and Jessica and Tom and Kathy, all bookworms) had they come with me, they’d be enjoying this moment. I picked up my thoughts and moved on, looked for that young man with a horse ready to bring me back up that muddy pathway to the small village we had originally parked our vehicle at. (Then made some notes in my notebook).