Trujillo & Mancora: That is a GIANT Sand Castle!!

Trip Start Aug 09, 2007
Trip End Jul 29, 2008

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

After an overnight ride from Huaraz, we arrived bright and early to Trujillo.  Trujillo is famed for a few reasons including the fact that it is a World Heritage Site, the 3rd most populous city in Peru with nearly 800,000 people, and it is also one of the largest exporters of asparagus in the world.  After asparagus, it is known for its exports of rice and shoes. 

We weren't there as much for the shoes and asparagus as we were to visit the sites that have earned Trujillo its status as a World Heritage Site.  But first, we needed accommodations.  I suppose due to it having one of the strongest economies in Peru, all the hotel prices were waaaaaay more than we had anticipated paying so we had to do some searching.  We came across a place recommended in the Lonely Planet book...well, not exactly recommended.  I believe the direct quote was something like, 'if you'd like to stay in a prison, here's your place', or something like that.  We checked it out, found it to be mildly dingy but really cheap and decided that prison life was good enough for us.   Really, had the owner actually wanted to make it look a lot nicer with paint and such, we would just have to pay more.  The rooms were clean and that's the main thing. 

So, there were two main heritage sites to see, the first belonging to the Moche peoples and the second to the Chimu peoples.  The Moche lived between 100 and 800AD in the Peruvian desert and are known primarily for their elaborate adobe pyramidal constructions, Huaca de la Luna and Huaca del Sol, and for their irrigation practices.  Living under harsh conditions in the desert, they attempted to control the elements through the use of human sacrifices.  Typically, they would capture warriors from other tribes during territorial battles and keep them for weeks, draining their blood to drink and use in ceremonies and finally, they would sacrifice this warrior to their gods hoping for fertile land and a stable climate.  At times, they also ate this warrior in ritual cannibalism.  In the end, it is believed that the demise of their culture was brought on by a 'Super El Nino' around 536AD that created 30 years of rain followed by 30 years of drought.  While some Moche did survive beyond this, their culture never really recovered.

We had a chance to see the Huaca del Sol from the outside and visit the excavated Huaca de la Luna.  I was really thinking, 'Wooooow, another ruin...and one made from adobe bricks at that', but these ruins were actually fascinating - second only to Machupicchu in my mind.  Basically, the first ruler of the Moche's lived at the core of this pyramid and each subsequent ruler re-built his home around the previous rulers until the characteristic pyramidal shape had formed.  The archeologists have excavated each layer of these pyramids and they are surprisingly intact for going through30 years of constant rain and another 1200 years of desert sun.  The colours remain vibrant and the sacrificial areas, ruler's hall and passageways are still remarkably preserved.

Nik's guide on how to make adobe bricks:  Step 1 - Take sand or dirt or Llama shit or whatever you find on the ground and put in pile, Step 2 - Mix with water and limestone, Step 3 - Put concoction in mould, Step 4 - Put out in sun to dry.  Voila instant bricks to make pyramids, Yeah!  

We also encountered the ugliest ratty-pig dog in the world in Trujillo.  This dog is hairless except for a tuff on its head and a little on its tail.  Its completely black, because you can only see the black skin of the dog, no hair.  It resembles the cross between a black pig and a rat.  Really f-ing ugly.  Apparently there is no special name for this dog only Hairless Peruvian Dog.  Interesting facts - It is a persistent myth that the body temperature of hairless dogs is higher than other dogs; they may feel warmer due to the lack of hair. Letting the dog "hug" you is supposed to help with stomach pain and other disorders, according to Peruvian folklore. Other myths are the dog is a vegetarian or that it cannot bark.

That afternoon, we went to the most famous site in Trujillo and the largest pre-Columbian city in South America.  This site is known as Chan Chan and was created by the Chimu peoples between 850 and 1470AD.  Like the Moches, everything they built was from adobe but rather than worshipping felines, the Chimus worshipped marine life like fish and pelican's and also the moon as they viewed the sun to be a harsh destroyer (but then they *did* choose to live in the desert...).  This city-state was incredibly interesting to walk through as it was constructed a lot like an Ikea - It had long maze-like hallways with very elaborate rooms for ceremonies, chambers, temples or residences every so often.  It was also huuuuge, housing about 30,000 people and covering over 20km2.
The day itself was pretty cool as we did both of these tours with a large Spanish family who were there for a wedding and took a large interest in us and in Canada and we really enjoyed their company throughout the day and during lunch as well.  We had lunch at this restaurant featuring typical Peruvian dancing and such, so that was pretty cool.

The only part of the day that wasn't so cool was that we showed up about 5 minutes late for our tour.  We were late because we are subject to every other Peruvian being oblivious to time and therefore were held up at breakfast and later at the grocery store, nothing that normally bothers us too much.  So as we arrived - still early in Peruvian terms - we were surprised to have our agency freaking out on us and embellishing how late we were, yelling about 15 minutes!!, and telling us how our guide is now gone and our tour is impossible to complete yadda yadda yadda.  Well, as it turned out they were crazy and the van was sitting just outside - we figured this out after we waited 15 minutes in the office while they talked about us in Spanish.  Finally they shuffled us into the van with the nice Spanish family and two Aussies.  Ironically, we remained waiting in the van for another 30 minutes until the English guide decided to show up.  And, clearly, there is no problem with her being late and us waiting 45min total for her.  This is normal; apparently it is only a problem when white people are late.  As it turns out, her English was terrible so only the Aussie's went with her and we went with the Spanish guide.  Later, this same English guide dragged us away from lunch early insisting that the van was waiting and when we got outside it was nowhere in sight.  Again, 30 min later it showed up full of other people so our group had to go with some taxis to the next site arriving only 15 minutes before closing - which according to the English guide was looooooots of time.  It wasn't enough to have her wasting our time, but she brought her 8 year old kid who felt that she could yell at all of us as well telling us to hurry up and sighing at how many photos we're taking and such.  But, on the bright side, our Spanish guide in the morning was wicked and it was entertaining to see the Spanish dad constantly reminding the English guide how late she was making all of us. 

At the end of our tour, we ended up at this famous surfing beach right outside of Trujillo known as Huanchaco which was beautiful and chill, a great way to finish.  This beach is known for its fishermen that build their own boats out of reeds and then literally need to surf these boats back into shore since the breaks are perfect for surfing - pretty cool to watch!  The shoreline was also filled with street vendors selling really interesting and delicious food.  Nik dared to try this long rectangle of bright orange pastry from this cute old man and, as it turns out, this is one of the most delicious things we've ever eaten.   We went back to this man at least another 3 times - we were totally addicted to this sweet, raison-y cookie-like pastry...mmmmmmm...

After another night in jail, we packed up our stuff, took the day pretty easy and hopped the night but to Mancora - a popular beach and surf destination in northern Peru.  We were stoked that this night-bus had a bathroom as that seemed to be rare on most buses heading up that way.  It was a pretty comfy ride, made more interesting by the old man who repeatedly spit on the floor next to us...odd...but it really shouldn't have been a night-bus as we rolled in around 4am, pretty much the most awkward time to find a hotel.  Luckily for us, our tuk-tuk driver was really a genuine, chill beach -town kinda guy and was willing to help us find a nice, cheap and comfy place in town.  He drove us all around until we found a sweet deal at a sweet price just a 2 minute walk from the beach.

Our first day at the beach was literally a dream come true for me.  We walked aimlessly from the town towards the beach and there, staring at me, one might say calling to me, are two gorgeous Peruvian horses.  I bee-lined straight at them and the owner said, yup, we could go right away, and no sooner were we up on these horses that they were absolutely tearing down the beautiful coastline of Mancora.  Never in my life have I been on a horse this fast - not even one that compares to this speed.  Our horses would start to gallop together but the minute Nik's horse even came into view of mine, it was like this whole other gear existed and suddenly we were literally flying, blazing ahead of Nik and anything else.  It was incredible - one of the most memorable rides I've ever had and I could then put a check next to 'ride horses on the beach' on my life's 'to do' list.  I liked it so much I went again a few days later on another horse and while this one was pretty cool as it's a Peruvian Paso horse and therefore has a really specific gait, it just couldn't compare to my incredible ride earlier. 

Really, there's not much more to say about Mancora - we spent our time chilling on the beach or in a hammock and it was awesome.  It was a chill little town and a nice time for us but we were both ready to move on as well so we hopped a bus driven by a speed-demon, prayed for our lives, and arrived to Cuenca, Ecuador seemingly unscathed where the rest of our adventure just began to unfold. 

Love Niko & Sarita

By the way...We are coming to the end of our trip.  We leave Latin America in the next few days, these blogs are a bit behind and next we will be flying to Australia.  Here is DETAILED info on arrivals

Easter Island                              -       June 4th ARRIVAL
Australia (Sydney)                      -       Sunday June 15th ARRIVAL 
CANADA (St. Johns's)              -       Monday July 21st ARRIVAL
CANADA (Thunder Bay)           -      Tuesday July 29th ARRIVAL
CANADA (Return to OTTAWA)-     Wednesday August 27th at 6:54pm ARRIVAL
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