New Favourite Archaeological Site!

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Peru  ,
Friday, August 31, 2007

Arriving here at night, we took a taxi tour around town to try and find a budget hotel. We found the prices they were asking exhorbitant compared to the south of the country. I inadvertently walked into a cheap hotel used by ´ladies of the night´on our search and gave the taxi driver a giggle. Finding a decent place, we slept like babies after more than 13 hours travelling and one robbery attempt!

The next morning, we were able to appreciate Trujillo in the daylight - it is a really attractive colonial city. A sparkling clean neighbourhood cafe served up yoghurt, fruit, fruit juice and filled potatoes - a great start to the day.

Trujillo is fully developed for tourism. There are numerous travel agencies around the main plazas and pricey tourist restaurants. We were grateful for the local tourist office who patiently explained the public transport options for sightseeing, so we weren´t crammed into a minibus with other gringos for a premium.

First stop, Huaca de la Luna. It was a pretty, short drive out there with villages breaking up the desert and well-maintained ancient aqueducts flowing alongside of the road - some with children playing in the flow.

The pyramids are one of my favourite archeological sites we have seen on all of our travels, created in the first six centuries AD. Seeing grey stone ruins at most archeological sites, it is easy to forget the colour and decoration which they once displayed. Not so, with Huaca de la Luna - luckily for us the Moche culture (pre-Inca) had a custom of building a temple and then generations later building a updated version on top. Scraping away the adobe exterior reveals stylised frescoes and artwork with fantastic detail and bright, bright colours. Fascinating too, is that you can view an image of the same deity on different levels of the building and see the artistic development over the generations.

We had a excellent guide and for me these ruins top Machu Picchu. MP equals stunning location, views and huge expense - a place you would only visit once in your life. Also, seeing the workmen on the site basically rebuilding it feels a little contrived. With Huaca de la Luna they aren't restoring, only preserving and there is a real feeling of excitement about what may be uncovered next. We would like to visit again in future as there is another relatively untouched (except by ancient grave-robbers) pyramid and city to be worked on. Also, a site museum is due to open to display the finds from nearby. For some reason, the site isn't goverment funded and all money towards its development comes from entry fees and corporate sponsorship.

Next stop on our whirlwind tour, the Chimú archeological site of Chan Chán, an imperial city which was part of a thousand kilometre coastal empire subdued by the Incas in 1471 after eleven years of siege. It is a huge complex, deserving a little more time than we had but our guide was enthusiastic and informative. Again, the building material is of adobe and the city contains huge plazas for various ceremonies, temples, streets, houses, adminsitrative buildings and a pool complete with lily pads and ducks. The foundations are quite well preserved due to the almost complete absence of rain in the region and there are beautiful designs of fish and other animals, as well as walls which are in a fishing net design, reflecting the coastal focus of this community.

Also interesting, at both sites was our first sightings of a typical Peruvian dog breed. They are ugly grey wrinkly things, almost hairless apart from one female who sported an impressive-looking mohawk - kind of like overgrown, unattractive, hairless chihuahuas. The locals believe they help cure arthritic complaints and that you can use them as a hot-water bottle due to their extremely high body temperature. And worse, that drinking a little of their blood can cure asthma - I think I´ll let modern medicine be the judge of that!

Our last stop was Huanchaco, a small surfing and fishing town near to Chan Chán. Our main reason for going there was to see the traditional reed rafts - caballitos del mar - little horses of the sea -  the local fishermen use. They are a bit longer than a big surfboard and they sit on them and ride the breaker out to a fishing spot. We saw plenty standing upright on the beach and needed to fend off some locals trying to sell us little ones for souvenirs.

OK, the truth is that the local fishing boats weren´t our main reason for going to Huanchaco - we both had a huge seafood craving which we satisfied with a cerviche (variety of seafood "cooked" in lemon juice) and some fish in garlic sauce. Absolutely delicious!

Only another 3 or 4 hours on a bus to Chiclayo to finish off an action-packed day...
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