The Inca tunnels under Lampa, Peru

Coca leaves, money, smokes, and skulls. What better memorial?

Luckily we made a quick detour on our way to Bolivia otherwise we would have missed one of the most bizarre sites we have visited on this trip (and that’s saying a lot). Ten miles down a dirt road past herds of alpacas and tumble-down buildings brought us to the rose-colored adobe town of Lampa, Peru. Dominating its central square is the 400 year old Church of the Immaculate Conception. At first glance it resembles one of the finer cathedrals in Cusco: gold plated altar, ornate wooden pulpit, bloody Jesus statues in glass boxes, and Virgin figurines in glittering robes. Things get weird when you descend down a claustrophobic stairway to the Inca tunnels below the church. Skulls and bones decorate the entrances to tunnels that supposedly lead all of the way to Cusco, Arequipa, and Puno (over 100 miles away). The story goes that years ago people tried to follow the tunnels to find out where they led…and they never were seen again!!! The tunnels have now been sealed off, so we’ll never know. Climbing back out of the catacombs we next visited the newer chapel that was built when the church was restored in the 1970s. The architect thought it appropriate to dig up the bodies that were buried under the church so their bones could be used to decorate the temple. He then reserved the space at the bottom of the temple for his eventual final resting place. Interesting choice. Tomorrow we head for Bolivia.

Peering in to the depths of the tomb