|July 1984, Expedition to Mameria
--Leaving from Cusco--
*British photojournalist, Michael Mirecki
*Cusqueño architect, César Vílchez
*Cusqueño businessman, Guido Vílchez (César´s brother)
*Explorador norteamericano, Gregory Deyermenjian
--Leaving from Amparaes, in valley of the Río Yanatile--
*Explorador peruano, Paulino Mamani
--Leaving from Chakupangu, in Mameria--
*Frontier settler/campesino, living with the Machiguenga, Goyo Toledo
Leaving Cusco, we traveled to the north and northeast through Amparaes, in the valley of the Río Yanatile, then crossed the Cordillera de Lares to come to Parobamba. Then we crossed the Río Yavero, to traverse the Cordillera de Paucartambo, following an Incan camino de piedra, road of stone, along the crest of the mountain range, to the cold boggy area known as "San Martín", overlooking the Amazon basin, from which we descended the eastern edge of the Andes through the ceja de la montaña, the "eyebrow of the jungle", then through cloud forest, to finally emerge at the small Río San Martín. We followed this river down into the selva alta, the high altitude jungle, then climbed up the monte, the jungled hillside, to view below us to the northeast the Río Sarhuato. We descended to the Sarhuato, which we followed to the area known as Mameria. Here, near the confluence of the Sarhuato and the Río Mameria, lived "Goyo" Toledo, at his chacra upon the hill known as "Chakupangu" with his two Machiguenga Indian wives and Machiguenga children.
Led by Goyo, we explored the "Ruinas de Mameria", finding the area downstream and overlooking the Río Mameria to be honeycombed with the remains of an ancient Incan habitation in the form of ruinas rústicas, walls, kilns, artifacts of tumbaga (an alloy of copper and gold), ceramics, low terraces, and wild coca trees. (this was the site to which the Machiguenga had led the helicopter-borne Herbert and Nicole Cartagena in 1979.) We also explored the site found directly atop Goyo's Chakuapngu; this was, we came to realize, the same hilltop site that had been found and sacked four years before by the Peruvian General Essenbanger, who had been accompanied by the invererate Paititi-seeker, Padre Juan Carlos Polentini Wester.
July-August 1985, Expedition to Mameria
--Leaving from Cusco--
*Cusqueño, César Medina (nephew of 1984´s Vílchez brothers)
--Leaving from Pukyopata, overlooking the Río Paucartambo
*Campesino and muleteer, Gavino Toledo, brother of Goyo
--Leaving from Chakupangu--
We returned to Mameria, this time going from Cusco to Paucartambo, then through Challabamba and Acobamba to where we left the Río Paucartambo far below us and ascended to Pukyopata, the highland frontier home of Don Tomás Toledo, Goyo´s father. We picked up the same Incan road of stone that traverses the cordillera and again descended the eastern edge of the Andes, from San Martín, until we reached Chakupangu in Mameria. We soon found ourselves again descending the Río Mameria, accompanied by Goyo Toledo and his Machiguenga neighbor, "Angel", where we uncovered other sites in areas above and adjacent to the river, including that which has since become known as "Arete Perdido," "Lost Earring," after the gold earring ripped out of my ear by the tangled and bushy vegetation as we followed, on our knees, the very rough trail cut by Angel. As in 1984, all the ruinas were of a "rustic", yet late Imperial Incan, style. On our return upriver, we visited other Machiguenga chacras, such as that of "Raimundo" and his wives, on the northern side of the Río Mameria.
After our leaving the selva alta and having arrived again at San Martín, at the edge of the highlands, the clouds covering the Amazon basin to the east momentarily parted, and we caught a rare and brief glimpse of the distinctively shaped peak, "Apu Catinti", which we had also been seeking because it features prominently in legends concerning a Peruvian Paititi. We calculated its location from afar, vowing to return the next year to climb it and see what may actually be there.
June-July 1986, Expedition to Mameria, Attempt to Ascend Apu Catinti
--Leaving From Cusco--
*Cusqueño, Renato Medina (César Medina´s brother)
*North American author, David H. Childress
--Leaving from Pukyopata, overlooking the Río Paucartambo--
--Leaving from Chakupangu in Mameria--
We further explored various Incan sites in Mameria, including that of el horno, "the Kiln", and then headed southeast toward the legendary twin peaked massif of Apu Catinti. The going was long and tough, with the burly Goyo himself getting sick on our expedition energy bars, but eventually we found ourselves climbing the jungled hillside of the tropical mountain. Soon, however, we realized that we had to turn back, at Goyo´s strong suggestion: it appeared that conditions were becoming too difficult, with poisonous sap on trees, supplies low (from too many big appetites too early on in the expedition), and large holes in the mats of vegetation (these springy mats having been formed by the decades of leafy debris that had fallen onto the branches and tops of trees, with the trunks of these trees snaking their way up the precipitous hillside such that we were actually walking along the tops of trees that had their trunks and roots further down the hillside below us).
We returned to Goyo's Chakupangu, finding various archaeological remains, including rough semicircular walls, some up to eight feet in height, in the areas immediately below the Río Choritia, an afluent of the Mameria that provides water for Goyo´s chacra.
With time to kill before our return to the highlands--where we would, according to previous arrangement, meet a campesino acquaintance with our pack horses at a predetermined date a couple of weeks in the future--I spent much time accompanying Goyo and Gavino and the Machiguenga on hunting trips, where I gradually came to realize that the most primary reason for Goyo´s insistence upon turning back had been interpersonal/intercultural friction between the Peruvian country folk and the city folk within our group. I proposed that after I return to Cusco I attain a good quantity of fresh supplies and then we make another attempt upon Apu Catinti. Goyo agreed.
July-August 1986, Expedition to Mameria, Ascent of Apu Catinti
--Leaving from San Martín, at edge of highlands--
We headed directly toward the area of Apu Catinti, rather than going to Chakupangu. We camped by the Río Niatene. Continuing on, we began our ascent of the jungle-covered mountain. The massif was devoid of streams, and so we suffered greatly from thirst, although surrounded by exuberant jungle vegetation: to get any moisture in us at all we had to put out sheets of plastic to collect hailstones, cut into bamboo to extract a bitter liquid, and squeeze a gritty trickle of water directly into our mouths from jungle moss. And, unable to cook our usual soups, we subsisted primarily on popcorn. We finally did reach the highest of its twin peaks. There were no signs of past habitation anywhere on Apu Catinti. I wanted to explore the second highest peak, as well, that lay across a saddle in the middle of the massif, just to be absolutely sure; yet, none of my companions wished to go, since it appeared that it would be a wasted effort since it appeared the same as what we had already reached, and the Incas would certainly have left remains on the highest peak if they were to have left them anywhere.
We camped on the peak for one night, which got quite cold at 10,100 feet altitude, facing the unimpeded winds and mist ever blowing from the east. We finally were able to attain enough water for cooking from squeezing it from the thick blanket of moss that covered the saddle between the two peaks. The next morning we were greeted by a sight akin to that of Tres Cruces, with the sun poking up through the clouds to our east, filling the sky with its yellow light, we being at the highest point between here and the Atlantic thousands of miles away.
Before leaving the peak, Angel related to Goyo how this place reminded him of a high area called Toporake, through which he and his Machiguenga brethren had passed on their flight from the near slavery that they had endured along the Río Yavero nearly 25 years before; he related their having seen casas de los Inkas , and a "mummy encased in stone," there. He spoke as well of a strangely shaped lake, at a high cold place where they almost died.
Returning toward Chakupangu, approaching the Río Niatene, we uncovered from jungle vegetation an Incan wall that was, although "rustic," quite well-made from tightly fit stones.We determined that our next journey would be to reach this Toporake.
November 1989, Expedition to Mameria, and to the Meseta de Toporake
--Leaving from Cusco--
--Leaving from Pukyopata--
--Leaving from Chakupangu--
Our goal this year was to investigate Angel´s report of three years before concerning the "Incan houses" and "mummy encased in stone" at a plateau called Toporake. Once again we followed the road of stone along the frigid Cordillera de Paucartambo, then made camp at San Martín as we waited for the weather to clear. We were hit with hailstorms and intense cold, yet eventually we left in spite of the bad weather. We hid the supplies that we would not be able to carry--in that we had had pack horses for our traverse of the alturas--15 minutes down into the thick vegetation of the "Eyebrow of the Jungle," and, then down the monte below San Martín we went, cutting our usual route to Mameria and Chakupangu.
Upon reaching Chakupangu, the hill in Mameria upon which Goyo's chacra had been, we found ourselves at a different settlement, one that we had never before seen, and that was relatively newly built, but deserted. Paulino went on alone to seek Goyo and the Machis further downstream, down the Río Mameria, while Gavino and I gorged upon a cache of bananas found in one of the huts. After a time, Paulino returned with Goyo and Angel, and we learned that the Machis had all moved temporarily downriver to escape a local disease that afflicted their yuca and plátano, two food crops without which a Machiguenga cannot be happy.
Goyo and Angel began the long climb up toward San Martín in the highlands, where the rest of us had hidden the extra supplies, in order to retrieve some. Meanwhile Paulino, Gavino, and I headed east, down the Mameria, and past the area we had explored in 1985 known as "Arete Perdido," to look for a structure there that Goyo had described to us as a "mini-Saqsaywaman". After much laborious struggle and cutting through dense dry vegetation, we came to a stone structure, built of two levels, with walls about ten feet high. It was of a rustic construction, but was the largest stone structure yet found east of the Cordillera.
Back at Chakupangu we met Goyo and Angel, with the former having drunk a good part of one of the bottles of rum that we had left at San Martín, "contra el frío", as Goyo explained. They had a very hard time finding the supplies we had left there because a thick layer of hailstones had covered and obscured everything in the cloud forest.
Now came the initial goal of the expedition. Goyo led us down the Río Choritia, then through the dense, dark selva, headed in a direction that was to take us out upstream along the Mameria. Along the way toward the Mameria we encountered numerous low stone structures and disembodied walls. Here, far from any river, were numerous stone structures in an area otherwise devoid of stones (as opposed to the riverbanks, which are full of stones, but where the Incas almost never built).
We came out at the Río Mameria, at a spot further upstream than I had ever previously been. Up the Mameria we went, over the course of the next two days, feasting on monkey the first night and the next morning. Then up numerous waterfalls we climbed, to reach the Mameria´s headwaters, where it became a mere narrow and shallow stream. We then turned to the steep hillside to our left, and climbed through the mud of the monte to finally emerge at the beginnings of the Plateau of Toporake.
Days later we came to broad, low-walled structures, perfectly rectangular in shape, at an area at which numerous Incan roads seemed to converge. There were skeletal remains in shallow caves, and platforms for Incan sun worship. It appeared that the structures had been barracks, with one lone trail heading off to the north, toward the unknown Plateau of Pantiacolla. This had been a far outpost of the Inca, and it would be our furthest point reached as well. at least for a few years. We debated following the lone trail that headed off, but the fact that we had already been so long on the trail, with dwindling supplies, necessitated our turning back. To follow that trail onto the unknown Pantiacolla would have to wait.
Soon after beginning the trek back, we were caught by a sudden storm with intense winds, sleet and hail, and sheets of rain. It lasted for hours, and during this time Angel, unaccustomed to the altitude of the plateaus overlooking the jungles, became disoriented; he soon found himself separated from us and lost. With the storm threatening us all with hypothermia, it fell to Goyo to head back in the direction of our last camp, to look for Angel. In the late afternoon, just as the storm broke and a bright yellow sunset filled the sky, Goyo and Angel appeared at the top of a hill, slowly but surely approaching us. The relief we felt warranted a spontaneous shooting of a .22 into the air.
Our return from that point was made not by returning to Mameria, but, rather, after bidding goodbye to Goyo and Angel--who would return to their lower territory to the southeast--by our heading due southwest, down a ridiculously steep, hours-long mule trail of unremitting mud. We passed an extensive patch of sub-tropical forest covered with various stone ruins very akin to those of Mameria, these being known as Las Ruinas de Miraflores. And eventually we crossed the Río Yavero (as the more northern extension of the Río Paucartambo/Mapacho is called), climbed over the frigid Cordillera de Lares-Lacco, then descended to the valley of the Río Yanatile and the town of Quebrada Honda, where we were able to attain passage back to Cusco in the back of a creaky old freight truck.
October 1991, Expedition to the Petroglyphs of Pusharo
--Leaving from Cusco--
*Cusqueño owner/operator of Southern Cross Adventures, Hugo Paullo Alfaro
--Leaving from Atalaya, astride the Río Alto Madre de Dios--
*Cusqueño, Entrepreneur, and Jungle Guide, Santiago Yábar Calvo
*Employee of Parque Nacional de Manu, "Celso"
--Leaving from the Machiguenga Native Community, "Palatoa Tepa," along
the Río Palatoa--
--Leaving from a temporary Machiguenga encampment further up the Río
*Machiguenga man and woman, "Pancho" and "Josefina"
From Cusco, we followed the traditional route to the selvas of the Amarumayu, the jungles of Q'osñipata, going through Paucartambo, then climbing over the puna and plunging down through bosque de nubes, down to emerge onto the sub-tropical plains around Patria, and the tropical lowland llanura of Pilcopata. The distinctive landmark of the Cordillera de Paucartambo, the mysterious and jagged-peaked Apu Cañaguay, was seen off to our northwest. (We were heading for the Manu area, rather than to our usual target, that of the Cordillera and Toporake and the camino de piedra -- the road of stone that leads into the unknown Pantiacolla -- because of the heightening of political problems in the Provincia de Calca through which we would have had to pass; access to the lower jungles of Manu would take us through no risky territory.)
We came to the village of Atalaya, astride the Río Madre de Dios, the "Amaru Mayu," the "Serpent River" of Incan times, where we were met by Santiago Yábar. Then to the village of Salvación, where there was a last government outpost, where we attained a permit to enter the restricted archaeological zone of the Manu. Then, back at Atalaya, where Hugo Paullo and the vehicle would await us, as the rest boarded a motorized canoe conducted by Gustavo Moscoso and his wife Marianna van Vlaardingen de Moscoso, and proceeded down the Madre de Dios, then turned to the northwest, up the Río Palatoa. At the Machiguenga Native Community of Palotoa Tepa we began our traverse on foot, led by the Machiguenga "Alejandro." We augmented our supplies by gorging ourselves on bananas that Machiguenga peoples had cached under piles of leaves astride the river. We came to a temporary Machiguenga fishing encampment, but, after some interaction, we continued on up the Palotoa, only to be overtaken and joined by a Machi couple, "Pancho" and "Josefina," from the encampment we had just left. They later guided us further along the river, the mysterious and misty range of jungle mountains, the Cordillera de Pantiacolla, ever off to our north, until we came to the enormous rock face upon which is to be found the Petroglyphs of Pusharo.
The carvings on this enormous rock face are quite unique. Most impressive are the deeply incised, double bordered heart-shaped faces. Some glyphs are pan-Amazonian in style, while others are unclassifiable. They cover a rock face, stretching for about 75 feet along the rock, up to a height of nine feet. The Machiguenga with us admitted to having absolutely no knowledge as to the glyphs' meaning or origin--the carvings had simply always been there.
(For more details please see <http://www.athenapub.com/pusharo1.htm>.)
After photographing and filming every square foot of the site, Santiago Yábar--who had come here previously by helicopter with Dr. Carlos Neuenschwander--directed us to a rock ledge in back of and above the main site. Here we saw a series of strange cuneiform-like lines carved into the rock, in a manner and style quite unlike any of the glyphs below.
After a time, we began our return, visiting other more substantial Machiguenga chacras, including that of one Machi gentleman who seemed to know some delicate secrets about the disappearance almost 20 years before of the Bob Nichols party hereabouts. Later, at the Machiguenga fishing encampment, we were caught by a deluge that began the rainy season in earnest. We could not cross the swollen and turbulent river on foot. However, without even being asked, our gracious Machiguenga hosts proceeded to build us a substantial balsa wood raft, and, when we finally did leave, we made swift progress downstream to the Native Community, then in motorized canoe to Atalaya, and then in Hugo Paullo's vehicle to Cusco.
September-October 1993, Expedition beyond Toporake, onto the Meseta de Pantiacolla
--Leaving from Cusco--
--Leaving from Zona de Lacco
*Local cattleman, German Condori Mendoza
The political problems in the highlands having been sufficiently lessened, we headed back toward Toporake, our goal being that of following that lone trail from there onto the Meseta de Pantiacolla. This time we traveled in vehicle through Calca, and then down the valley of the Río Yanatile from Amparaes to Quebrada Honda, to the point at the end of a rougher dirt road extension from Quebrada to "Punto Carretera," where we were met by campesinos with packhorses for our equipment.
We headed through the sub-tropical regions of Lacco, then up that seemingly unending and muddy mule trail, to the Meseta de Toporake. Soon thereafter we left, to finally begin following that lone trail, the continuation of the camino de piedra that begins way down toward Paucartambo, on our way toward the Plateau of Pantiacolla.
The Pantiacolla offered us daily storms with heavy cold rains that caused brand new streams and rivulets to flow over the rolling tall grasslands. We followed the trail to a point at which it dipped into thick cloud forest, in the direction of the Río Timpía, as we frequently left the trail--because the accumulation of centuries of fallen trunks and other debris from landslides and other ravages of time had made it impassable--to descend to the headwaters of the Timpía, below, to wade our way downstream. Before too long, however, we realized that it was fruitless, that we were slowly wending our way down a suffocatingly enclosed and dark valley, at a turtle´s pace that was getting us nowhere. We decided to turn back, in the realization that the only way to make sufficiently rapid progress to this point, and then further down this valley to whatever site lay at the end of the trail that traversed the hillside above the river, would be to come here by helicopter. That then, would be our goal for future expeditions.
August-September 1994, Expedition to Callanga
--Leaving from Cusco--
--Leaving from Parobamba--
*Ignacio Mamani (Paulino´s brother)
--Leaving from Hacienda Callanga--
*Local young campesino/settler, "Juan"
We had not been able to attain the funds to allow us the services of a helicopter, so we headed instead to the rain forests of Callanga, an affluent of the Río PiñiPiñi, that lies to the southeast of Mameria. Callanga fits very much into various of the Paititi legends, and so we would explore for ruins, as well as investigate for Dr. Carlos Neuenschwander his observation, 20 years before, of extensive terracing on hillsides overlooking the area down the Río Callanga, getting toward its confluence with the PiñiPiñi.
We left the Cordillera de Paucartambo further south than had we been heading to Mameria, and descended to the Río Sihuas, which then becomes the Callanga. At the lone structure in the Callanga zone, the house of settler Sr. Rubén Mercado Ocampo, we set up base camp, from whence we were shown various rough stone ruins thereabouts, as well as the particular sugar cane press that had been used in manufacturing the over-proof liquor that had become famous throughout the back areas of the highlands, from whence came the generic term which is used in those remote areas to denote any very strong drink: "Callanga".
With Juan accompanying us, we descended the Callanga to reach the point at which it is joined by the Río Yungaria, where it--technically, although not popularly known--then becomes the PiñiPiñi. Exploring the hillsides above, we found a plethora of small but long terraces, which appeared to have been reused, perhaps by Machiguenga, within the past 50 or so years. Closer to the Río Callanga, we found small conical structures. Much of this had a pre-Inca appearance (long terraces, proximity to the river, conical structures that didn´t appear to be storehouses, etc.). After making a brief attempt to climb the tropical peak that rises above and away from the southern bank of the Callanga, known as "Llactapata," "the town above," we began our return to Cusco.
August 1995, Expedition to Callanga, Ascent of Llactapata
--Leaving from Cusco--
--Leaving from Hacienda Callanga
In 1995 we returned to Callanga, and did reach the peak of Llactapata, where local legend spoke of there being "una iglesia incaica", an Incan temple. We found that, although the base of the mountain was littered with rough stone ruins that included water channels, the long ridge at the peak, which was covered with a maze of extremely dense bushes, vines, stunted trees and fallen logs, had nothing at all to offer in the way of ruinas.
1996, Expedition to "Pyramids of Parotoari"
--Leaving from Cusco--
*Fernando Neuenschwander, son of Dr. Carlos Neuenschwander
*Cusqueño, jungle guide, Dante Núñez del Prado
--Leaving from Machiguenga Native Community of "Palatoa Tepa" along
the Río Palatoa--
*Machiguenga, "Roberto", along with his wife, "Grenci" and infant daughter "Reina"
Still lacking funds for a helicopter with which to penetrate the Meseta de Pantiacolla, we headed off toward the jungles of Manu, to an area directly southsoutheast of that of the Petroglyphs of Pusharo, in order to see once and for all whether the formations that appear so uniform and symmetrical on a NASA satellite photograph were in fact the "Pyramids of Pantiacolla"--otherwise known as "the Dots" or the "Pyramids of Paratoari"--or natural features.
We descended the Río Alto Madre de Dios in motorized canoe, then walked overland--because of very low water level--to the Machiguenga Native Community of Palotoa Tepa, where we attained the services of "Roberto" who brought his wife and infant daughter along as well. We walked up the Palotoa, to the point at which we suspected that the river that entered the Palotoa from the southwest was the Yana Mayu, or the Río Negro--and which was confirmed as being so by our GPS and satellite photo we carried. We ascended the Río Negro towards its headwaters, then climbed steeply to then descend to the area of the "Pyramids." The area was among the most uncomfortable we´ve ever encountered, with extremely oppressive heat and insects, even lacking any flat land for a decent campsite. Our investigation led us to believe that the formations--which are in a distinctive area called "Parotoari" by the Machiguenga--are natural features. For our return we continued on in a loop, descending through and along the banks of the Río Inchipiato, until we met, once again, with the Alto Madre de Dios.
1999, Expedition to Meseta de Pantiacolla, Headwaters of Río Timpía
*Cusqueño, owner-operator of "Manuadventures", Marco Rozas
*Film Photographer, from Lima, Pedro Neira
*Film Maker, from Germany, and expedition sponsor, Heinz von Matthey
*Helicopter pilot, Pablo Luque F.
*Helicopter co-pilot, Carlos Reategui W.
*Crewmembers, Pedro Ramos S., David Quintana, and one more
--Helicopter and on foot--
(Please see http://www.athenapub.com/timpia1.htm, for a thorough description of this expedition--for some of which we did have the services of a helicopter-- and its findings of ruins--and the strangely shaped lake described by Angel back in 1986--in the area around and adjacent to the headwaters of the Timpía, Plateau of Pantiacolla.)
(Please also see http://www.athenapub.com/timpia2.htm, and
(To contact Gregory Deyermenjian: email@example.com.)
Copyright, 2001, Greg Deyermenjian