On: Toro Muerto

Toro Muerto with Corire in the background.

On Sunday, we actually managed to get out of town for the day. We took a $5 bus at 7:45am into the town of Corire, which is three hours away from the city of Arequipa, but still in the region of Arequipa (which is massive). Unbeknownst to us, there was also a shrimp-fest going on that weekend, but we came for another reason: the 1200 year old petroglyphs of Toro Muerto scattered over 3000 volcanic sillar rocks.

Just a small portion of the rocks.

We took a three minute combi ride from the town of Corire to a drop-off point along the main highway. Luckily, our friend Marta (from Spain) was with us, so she could translate the muttered directions of the combi driver. The dirt path lead through a small town, and then into someone’s animal pens with a very angry peacock squawking at us. After trying to surreptitiously follow two other Spaniard tourists we saw along the way, we finally joined forces and had to knock on someone’s front door. A very friendly man answered, shook all of our hands, and opened a gate for us to pass through to the next village along the path. We were then chased down by some random guy who told us we had to sign in, and gave us a hand-drawn map to get to the petroglyphs and sent us on our way with such helpful directions as, “Turn right at the electricity pylons, and then a slight left and the destroyed white house. You will see the rocks in the distance.” And man oh man, were the rocks in the distance.

Kyle and Marta checking out some petroglyphs.

After over an hour’s walk from the highway and uphill hike from the village through the desert, more and more drawings started appearing on the surrounding rocks. Although no one is totally sure, it’s generally believed that the pictures are around 1200 years old, which puts them as being made during the Huari culture. The theories behind why they are there are nearly as numerous as the petroglyphs themselves, but the reason that nowadays the location is called Toro Muerto (“Dead Bull”) is from all the livestock that died of dehydration while being herded from the mountains to the coast.

Peruvian engineering.

It was so hot in the desert, and the altitude only made the sun even more powerful. The loads of sunblock we put on may have kept our skin happy, but it didn’t change the absolute lack of shade. The one shade hut we came across seemed to have fallen down long ago, but as is the Peruvian way, no one has gotten around to repairing it. Kyle and I still managed to find some shade, while the Spaniards tried to keep cool under the shade of their own hats.

Me in front of more petroglyphs.

After an hour’s exploration and only not even one quarter of the rocks explored (I have over 100 more photos of them, and that was just a small portion of all to be seen), we decided to head back into town. It was another hour’s trek back down the mountain and through the villages, and then we hit the main road and just had to keep walking. There were no combis to be found, so we walked another half hour into the valley seen in the first photo. Exhausted and hungry, we realized it was Sunday which meant that nearly all the stores in town were closed. After finally finding something to eat, we tried to get a bus ticket home and were told that because of the shrimp-fest, only tickets for the last bus (at 7pm, three hours from when we asked for tickets) were available. So we spent a long time in the Plaza de Corire watching the world go by and getting mauled by bugs.

Even though we all didn’t get back home until 10pm, beat and itchy, it was well worth getting off the beaten gringo path for a day and checking out a fascinating piece of Peruvian history in the middle of the desert.