Trujillo, Chiclayo, and Chachapoyas
5/27/06 29 °C
After a night bus ride being thoroughly entertained by a 1970's Mexican Western playing on the scratchy tv, Jacey and I arrived early morning in Trujillo, a bustling coastal town that starts the majestic ruins of Northern Peru. We joined up with Mary, a French Canadian who had trekked with us, to take a cab to Casa de Clara, a family run hostel with comfy beds and hot water, but a creepy dysfunctional family atmosphere. That day, we visited Chan Chan (meaning Sun Sun), the religious and political capital of the Chimus where nearly 100,000 people lived in the largest adobe citadel in the world. We walked for hours along a dizzying maze of tall adobe walls engraved with geometrical figures and mythical creatures, dead end pyramid passages, secret tunnels... so cool. This is all found in the middle of the city of Trujillo...the city just developed around these amazing fortresses. After that adventure, we went back to the center of town and started an official ceviche hunt. Ceviche is my favorite Peruvian dish, raw fish marinated in lemon and herb juice that cook it, making for a citrusy seafood feast. We asked the first person on the street where we should go for ceviche. A local favorite, Mar Picante. How far? 4 blocks. Great! After having walked 6 blocks, the restaurant was nowhere in sight. We asked a second person. Oh...3 more blocks. Fine. 3 more blocks and still no sign. This episode repeated itself 3 more times, until we had walked about 20 city blocks to reach Mar Picante. Tired, ravenous, and forever suspicious of Peruvian estimates of distance, we feasted on fish, crabs, lobster, clams, octopus, and snails, all raw but marinated in a delicious sauce. Yum!
The next day, we feasted on a breakfast we made consisting of quail eggs we had found, fresh fruit, cheese and crackers and avocado. I love food. We then hopped a cab to go visit the Huaca del Sol y la Luna (Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon), two huge pyramids crowned with mysterious tombs and ceremonial grounds . We entered Huaca de la Luna which was comprised of overlapping temples built right over each other. The first temple was built and painted with beautiful facades and then 100 years later, they built a second temple right on top of the first one, hiding the original facades with new ones. And so on and so forth to make 5 different layers. The brilliant thing about it is that archaelogists cannot see the previous layers...they would have to destroy each layer to see the previous one. Like the Russian babuschka dolls. The last layer is painted with beautiful red, blue, and green facades of warriors, mythical sea creatures, and scary serpent gods. And the previous facades...well, that will remain a mystery forever.
Feeling like true Indiana Joneses, we left Trujillo in the late afternoon, me, Jacey, Mary, and a Dutch filmmaker we had picked up named Peter and headed north to coastal Chiclayo, arriving late at night at Hostal Lido where we all got private rooms right on top of the roof overlooking the city. Well, the rooms were more like stuffy and unsavory closets but the view was worth it, and the family running the place, so nice. While we were in Chiclayo, there was a parade celebrating something every hour (save the rainforest, vote for Ollanta, hug Mickey Mouse, you want it, we got it!) so it was cool to have a bird´s eye view of it all. We got up early in the morning to continue our archaelogical adventure. We visited Tucume, a vast area which has 27 covered pyramids! They are just starting to excavate the area and they recently uncovered warrier tombs with pottery and gold. We snuck onto the construction site (one of the workers yelled "quick! before my boss comes!") and talked to one of the archaelogists who explained the excavation and preservation process. There's so much left undiscovered, it's amazing to think of what it´ll look like in 20 years when it's all been excavated. I felt proud that we were the first tourists to ever see the tombs.
The real highlight of Chiclayo was the Royal Tombs of Sipan. In 1987, an archaelogical team discovered in a series of pyramids a royal tomb belonging to the Lord of Sipan, governor of the Mochica civilization (1700 to 1900 years ago). In his tomb, they found a breathtaking collection of gold jewels, necklaces, breastplates, helmets, bracelets, as well as semiprecious stones. The museum is absolutely amazing, you can see the actual bones of the lord and his burial party as well as all these amazing gold crowns and necklaces with scary bird-god figurines and geometric figures. One of the best museums I've ever been to. Jacey and I spent the whole afternoon gawking at everything. Then it was time to go home, at which point we did the next best cultural thing we could do... we went to see "The Da Vinci Code". Except for the fact that the sound was mixed in with the fighting sounds of XMen playing next door, ruining several dramatic parts, it was a great experience. We then decided to go clubbing. Chiclayo is supposed to be famous for Afro-Latino beats but we when got to the club, it was just the usual reggatone. The place felt like a wedding with one big dance floor and people sitting around staring blankly at the dancers. We were the only gringitas in the place which got us enough attention to not even dare start to dance so eventually we moved to the more private basement where we were finally accepted by the basement Peruanos and had a jolly old time learning cumbias steps. I of course convinced Jacey to end the night at the casino where we each lost 1 sol, approximately 30 cents. She convinces me to go rock climbing and I convince her to gamble. Am I the bad influence??
The next day, it was off to the bustling market where I think I ate goat soup but I'm not quite sure. After lunch, we visited the Mercado de Las Brujas (witch's market) which is an actual witch's market, not a tourist trap, where they sell so many things I've never seen before I can't possibly cover them all: llama claws, bottles and bottles of roots, strangely colored powders, insect pollens. I didn't really understand any of it, I don't think I was supposed to. Dutchman Peter bought something and went to shake the guy's hand and the man did some kind of motion with his fingers, apparently a spell, and lo and behold, Peter kind of frigged out 20 minutes later flailing his hand around and straight out ran out of the market. I didn't see him again. So strange, I don't know what to think of it. Jacey and I spent our last afternoon together looking at the caged guinea pigs and rabbits that would be someone's dinner and shopping for 4 sol clothes which I think might be more dangerous than gambling. I left her sadly and caught an overnight bus to Chachapoyas, home of Kuelap, a mysterious fortress in the misty cloud forests that is called "The Machu Picchu of the North".
I arrived at 5 am, settled in my hostel, and hopped on a tour of the fortress. I got there by taxi on unpaved mountain roads, crammed in the car with four dentists from Nebraska. The dentists got out to hike up the mountain but I was feeling tired from my Santa Cruz trek (ok, I'm LAZY. Is that what you want to hear?? It's a 3 hour vertical hike and I'm LAZY!) so I went up the mountain with taxi cab driver Rubio. We had a nice talk about food and family and arrived at the top at the same time as the dentists, the road was that bad. Rubio was a professional though and treated his ´87 Pinto like a Jeep Wrangler, tailgating huge trucks around the cliffs and trying to run over unsuspecting cows. We toured Kuelap which is a moss covered treasure, full of circle stone houses, a compass, irrigation ditches, and ceremonial platforms, all surrounded by a thick fortress wall that has not detoriated the least bit in 900 years. The Spanish tried destroying it but COULDN'T. The only way the Incas were able to vanquish the Chachas' palace was by starving them out. It uses 3 times as much volume of stone as the Egyptian pyramids. It's quite an amazing place and what was more brilliant was that we were the only ones there. This is more well preserved than Machu Picchu but receives 10 tourists a day while MP receives 1,500. That's probably a good thing...makes it more special. We went halfway down the mountain, ate a yummy lunch of chicken soup and corn, and drove the violently bumpy 3 hour ride back to town.
The next morning, I started a two day journey in a combi to Pedro Ruiz, one of 3 modes of transport I would use to get to my next destination, the Amazon jungle. Of course you have to end this trip with the Amazon, I'm no fooooool.