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February 2013
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Cala Cala (Qillqata) Rock Art

_MG_1018The small, but interesting, archaeological site at Cala Cala, less than 15 miles from Oruro, together with the colonial-era chapel in Sepulturas, along the way, make for a very pleasant half-day trip from Oruro.  If you have a full day for an excursion, you could certainly pack a picnic and spend a few hours hiking around the area.

Cala Cala (sometimes listed as Calacala, Qala Qala in Aymara), or “Rock Rock” in English, seemingly signifying an area strewn with rocks, which is certainly accurate.  What makes this rocky area stand out from the rest of (mostly rocky) Bolivia, are the pictograms (aka pictographs), or paintings of llamas, felines, and humans found in three groupings on the underside of an overhanging cliff.

_MG_1024The area, known as Qillqata (“writing,” in Aymara) to the locals, contains three groupings of figures painted mostly in red, but with a few white and black figures mixed in as well.  They are believed to date back some 2,400 years, according to the sign at the site, and likely were much more extensive in the past, as weathering is clearly affecting the remaining figures.  The site was declared a national monument in 1970.

The area surrounding Qillqata (pronounced kel-cat-a) is made up of semi-hoodoos set around a valley.  Hiking and exploring among the rock formations would be entertaining.

_MG_1012Visiting Cala Cala from Oruro is easy.  You leave town on the Avenida del Ejercito, which turns into the Panamericana when it passes the Avenida Circunvalacion, or ring road.  After passing the airport and crossing the train tracks, you turn left some three miles from the ring road, into the small town of Vinto.  You can’t miss it, as it is overshadowed by the major tin smelter which shares its name.  This smelter, purchased by Swiss multinational Glencore from a previous President of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, in 2005, was then nationalized by current President, Evo Morales, in 2007.

In just a few minutes, you begin to see the Iglesia de Sepulturas, on the other side of the river on your left, and almost three miles from the turnoff, you will want to turn left again to visit the Iglesia.  You do have to ford a stream (though you cross the river on a bridge), but we did that even after substantial rain had fallen, so it should not constitute a serious problem.  The chapel is only a half mile from the main road.  For details on the Iglesia, see La Capilla de Sepulturas.

_MG_1014After returning to the main road, where you will be turning left to continue along your way, you will arrive at the town of Calacala in about 6.3 miles.  You would do well to stop at the store on the main square and ask about access to the site.  A woman from there accompanied us out (in our car), picked up the key from the family living nearby, charged us our Bs10 per person, and guided us.  The site is protected with a fence, complete with several strands of barb wire on top – an unfortunate but necessary addition to the site, given the number of similar places I have seen defaced with graffiti.  This site, while small, and with it’s natural view obstructed by both the fence and an elevated wooden access walkway, is at least not defaced.

It’s only another mile-and-a-half to the site itself.  Beginning in the town, there are good signs to guide you to the site.  Attached you will find a .gdb file with the routes, which you can view on a GPS or on Google Earth, though this route is simple enough that you should be able to find it with minimal assistance.

Tatyana and Aliciya (the budding  photographer)

Tatyana and Aliciya (the budding photographer)


Pingback from Larry Memmott's Blog » La Capilla de Sepulturas
Time February 12, 2013 at 6:32 am

[…] Sepulturas is less than 10 miles from Oruro, on the road to Calacala.  Directions and a .gdb file for the whole trip, including the turnoff to Sepulturas, are covered in the post on the Rock Art at Calacala. […]

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