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February 2015
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Cerro Pirapi and Pirapi Chico Necropolis and Fortress

Chulpa near trailhead

Chulpa near trailhead

About halfway between Caquiaviri and the Bolivia/Chile border at Charaña are two hills on which the ancients chose to build a necropolis and a fortress.  I haven’t had the chance to fully explore these hills, but even the short visits I have made to this area have been very interesting.

Flamingos on Laguna Achiri

Flamingos on Laguna Achiri

Even without climbing the hills you can visit some beautifully constructed stone chulpas (tombs) and nearby is a lagoon which, at least when we were there, was brimming with flamingos and surrounded by llamas and alpacas.

Alpacas Near Laguna Achiri

Alpacas Near Laguna Achiri

Pirapi Hill and Little Pirapi Hill are located just south of Achiri.  They can be reached either from Achiri or from Coro Coro, allowing for an interesting loop trip out across the altiplano to the southwest of Viacha.  In later posts I will cover some of the other stops along the way.  For now, it is worth noting that other possible stops on this circuit include the Century Plants at Comanche, the  Colonial Chapel in Caquiaviri and the post-independence chapel in Achiri.

Various Loops Through Pacajes

Various Loops Through Pacajes

Outtake from 5842-III

Outtake from 5842-III

To visit Cerro Pirapi, follow the directions in Caquiaviri and Pacajes Province.  Those directions take you well beyond Caquiaviri on the road to Achiri.  From Caquiaviri, it is another 30 miles to Achiri.  In Achiri, you take two lefts to get onto the road to Cerro Pirapi.  The two trailheads are about 5.5 miles form Achiri, and there are two entry roads, forming a triangle.  Map 5842-III Cerro Pirapi (which you can find online at http://www.igmbolivia.gob.bo/) covers the area around the hills at the 1:50,000 scale.  You can find larger scale topo maps of the area at the same site.  You can use the attached .gdb file in your gps or in Google Earth.  Here is an outtake from the map, with the gps information plotted on it and the trailheads marked.

Alex Up Against the Chulpa.  As you can see, it's pretty big.  Take a look at the quality of the stone work.

Alex Up Against the Chulpa. As you can see, it’s pretty big. Take a look at the quality of the stone work.

I’ve taken short hikes up the hill from the Cerro Pirapi trailhead.  I included the routes on the .gpd file, but they are not necessary, you can set out in any direction.  The top of the hill looks to be a difficult climb, depending on the direction from which it is approached.  A local guide might be helpful if you want to make it to the top of either or both hills.  In any case, the chulpas are quite accessible, from very close to the trailhead, and there are quite a variety of stone chulpas, round and square and in various states of deterioration.  The stonework on some of them seems to approach Cuzco quality, with stones set together permanently without the use of mortar.

 

Landscape with Chulpas

Landscape with Chulpas

Round and Square Chulpas.

Round and Square Chulpas.

Tatyana with Chulpa in the Background

Tatyana with Chulpa in the Background

Take a look at the hill behind the Chulpa.  That is Cerro Pirapi.  As you can see, to get on top you will need to find a way up that escarpment.

Take a look at the hill behind the Chulpa. That is Cerro Pirapi. As you can see, to get on top you will need to find a way up that escarpment.

Another nice landscape with chulpas

Another nice landscape with chulpas

And a lone chulpa with the incredible azure sky of  the altiplano in the background.

And a lone chulpa with the incredible azure sky of the altiplano in the background.

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