We farewelled Helen, Martin and Virginia and headed for Peru. The journey to Mañcora, Peru, was long but very enjoyable. Our bus followed the Andes, which turned from lush mountains to arid and rocky mountains with little oases in the valleys below where the rivers run.
Mañcora was a lovely little beach town that reminded me a lot of what Bali and Lombok were like 25 years ago. Our hotel was on the beachfront with another perfect yoga spot! We had arrived to the hotel on tuk-tuks (the local transport of the town), which was amusing in itself.
The couple of days were spent lazing on the beach chairs watching the pelicans competing for space with the kite surfers and continuing the ceviche feasting we’d started in Ecuador – not too shabby! It was nice to be at sea level again – I had gained a new appreciation of the fortitude of the spaniards to mount their conquest of these countries with areas of high altitude.
A chance meeting on the beach with fellow Galápagos cruisers Johannes and Eva was a lovely surprise. They had also been making their way through Ecuador. We enjoyed a lovely beach lunch and reminisced about the great cruise.
The tour group were then off to explore another beach town – Huanchaco. Another great bus ride. I was on the top level above the bus driver so had a fantastic view of the desert, sugarcane fields and rice paddies along the way. I also had the extra thrill of experiencing the driver playing chicken with the traffic coming our way; prompting my seat buddy to ask on a couple of occasions whether we were on the wrong side of the road – I had to deliver the bad news that yes we were.
Huanchaco is known for having the world’s longest left hand break. The town was very close to Trujillo so we took the opportunity to visit Huaca de la Noche and Chan Chan.
The Huaca was a moon temple of the Moche people who lived between 100AD and 800AD before integrating into the Chimu people. The site was found in 1990 and was excavated in 1995. More than 140 skeletons were found during the excavations leading the archeologists to believe that the site was used only for religious purposes and that one body was sacrificed to the mountain god every 25 years.
The temple is like a non-pointed pyramid of mud bricks that grew every 100 years when a new layer was added (a sacrifice was also given for each new layer). My photos show the third and fourth layers. The face (depicting the mountain god) didn’t change with each layer but the decoration around it did. Each layer made the structure stronger, confirmed by it never having been affected by the earthquakes that has disseminated so many other structures. The temple faces north to preserve the colours on the walls from wind and rain damage.
From the moon temple we could see the sun temple, which was bigger than the moon temple until the spaniards built a river by it which destabilised the temple. The Chimu people then used it as a palace rather than a temple.
The temples had a melted chocolate look where the bricks had been exposed to large amounts of water.
The museum of the Huacas had an extensive collection of relics (particularly pottery) found from the sites (after tomb raiders had taken all of the valuable items) which had helped piece together the lifestyle and rituals of these people.
We were then off to Chan Chan. This adobe structure was used for ceremony only – it was the burial palace of the Chimu King (each palace housed just the one king mummy). This king had his 600 wives buried with him (along with his servants). The mummy was brought out from its tomb once per year and displayed in the second plaza for the high society to pay their respects before it was displayed in the first plaza for the commoners. Interestingly it was only the first plaza that contained the decorative markings in the mud structure.
It was an impressive structure being 1km long and 500m wide with 12 metre walls surrounding it. Don’t panic family, I’m still ok with the mausoleums I saw in Punta Arenas. There were 10 palaces, with the same layout and decorations in the precinct, for these kings who prevailed until the arrival of the incas in 1470.
The next bus ride was to Lima. This one was the most professional to date. Although the photographing of our faces once we were seated was a little disconcerting – for their manifesto in the event of an accident! It felt like a rainy day spent at home in a Jason recliner watching movies. I managed to score an upstairs front seat with two screens. One showing on-demand english subtitled films and the other showing the latest in the north Peruvian coast – a delightful way to spend the day!
How to make your citizens remember important historical milestones? Give the street names the date, eg 28 Julio Avenue; named for the independence of Peru by its liberator General José de San Martín.
I went for a quick look at the main plaza, Plaza de Armas, after checking in. The streets were abuzz with people and the buildings surrounding the plaza were beautifully lit up.
Our full day in Lima was spent exploring the key local sites in our own groups. The first stop for Patrina, Monika and me was the Cathedral in the main square, the final resting place of a leader of the Spanish conquest, Fransisco Pizarro. Only the facade of the cathedral is original with the remainder having been rebuilt following earthquakes in the city.
The next stop was the pidgeon clad San Fransisco Basilica. The Basilica was originally built in 1546 and then rebuilt in 1656 after it was destroyed by an earthquake. The library was beautiful with its huge leather bound texts and choir sheets with lamb skin pages – it was like something out of a Harry Potter movie. We took a visit through the 10 metre deep catacombs which are claimed to contain the remains of 25 000 people. The churches of Lima are said to all join through a labyrinth of tunnels – enabling the clergy to stay under the radar of the Spanish occupiers.
My visit to the Palace of the Inquisition was disappointing given the great display I’d seen in Cartegena; the Lima display was generally just recreations.
We enjoyed lunch in the very busy Chinatown. It was a fun lunch with a new technique for translating being adopted – this time animal noises! The waitress did a great pig and duck impersonation.
The rest of the day was spent at the Larco Herrera Museo with its fabulous collection of pottery and other artefacts (the separate erotic section was pretty funny) and then wandering the city enjoying the lovely colonial buildings with intricately carved timber balconies.
That night most of us headed off to the ‘Magic Water Park’, which displayed 15 fountains one of which had a pretty spectacular light show projected onto the water spray – it was quite magical. It was then back to the hotel. I’d had a pretty low key week so didn’t hesitate when Kristina invited Patrina and I to join her for Pisco Sours at Maury’s Bar (supposedly the place that the cocktail originated).
After a few and the arrival of Kristina’s colleague, Richard, we all felt that some dancing was in order so off we went to Miraflores – the hip part of town. We went to a great club with a Cuban band and worked on our salsa moves until the wee wee hours of the morning. Of course, before heading out,I had made the mistake of arranging a relatively early morning shopping trip to the Miraflores markets with Monika. First time in years that I’ve craved a coke and meat pie!!!
With Shakyna and Rose leaving us we gained Alison and Denny from Wales, Isabella and Rosie from England and Megan from Australia (Megan being my new room buddy) who we met before loading onto our first bus to Pisco.
The smell when we jumped off the bus in Pisco was overpowering, turned out this town was a big exporter of guano – bird poo! We were here to see the Ballestas Islands, known as the Peruvian Galápagos on a minor scale.
The little port town of Paracas was cute with the tourist boats filling the harbour. The first site to be seen during the boat trip was the cactus lines (also referred to as el candalaria) etched into the island dunes. It is speculated that the lines have been there since 400 BC (Paracas ancients – pre-inca) with many stories about their origin but all acknowledging that José de San Martín undoubtedly used them as a navigational tool when he arrived to free the Peruvians of the spaniards. San Martín was a free mason so there are also some suggestions that he may have commissioned them – candelabras being a feature of free mason symbolism – happy to be corrected by any closet free masons out there! The area only receives 2mm of rain a year so there is no risk to the 59 metre wide lines disappearing.
It was then onto the islands for the wildlife viewing – more boobies! There was a conglomeration of animals and birds sharing the space – sea lions, humbolt penguins, Peruvian boobies, inca terns, red legged cormorants and oyster catchers. All of the wildlife feeds off the abundance of anchovies and are non-migratory; sharing the space year round. The cormorants are said to be the biggest producers of the guano, which is collected from the island – what a job; the smell was something else!
We then drove to Huacachina, a little (and I mean little) oasis town surrounded by high white sand dunes. Some of the group went off in dune buggies to have a go at sand boarding. Preferring not to be coated in sand for the later bus ride, I headed to the regional museum with a couple of fellow travellers (I know – such a nerd).
The regional museum was small but very interesting as it contained a great collection of textiles, pottery, weapons and mummies from the various cultures – Paracas, Nascar, Wari, Chincha and Incas. There were some interesting displays of head trepenation – a technique used to repair wounds involving skull penetrations; doctors ahead of their time. There was also examples of the head deformation that was done on high society babies – a form of skull binding, which helped create a long head. It’s still not know whether this practice caused any brain damage.
We were then onto Nascar. The reports in our guidebooks of accidents involving the planes providing the Nascar line viewing flights caused some discussion within the group but wasn’t enough to stop any of us from booking onto a flight. They use eight seater Cessnocks – you are each weighed for the flight and then placed within a group of six – getting an allocated seat to balance the plane.
It was a great experience – I was able to recognise all 12 of the symbols. They were first noticed in 1927 but it is believed they were etched into the plains between 500 BC and 500 AD. They’ve survived so long because the coast receives so little if not no rain. Their original purpose is still a mystery – a giant astronomical calendar, ceremonial centre or alien landing strip??? The same designs are prominent in the pottery and ceramics found from this period. Maria Reiche, a German mathematician, was the eminent researcher on the Nascar Lines. She concluded just before her death in 1998 that they were part of a large astronomical chart used to communicate with the gods to secure water and blessings for the crops. Sounded more realistic to me than the alien theory.
The flight goes for just over half an hour. I don’t think I could have done any longer than that – the planes really tilt to give you the best views; with the wing becoming the pointer! It gave us all an appreciation of what was ahead as we make our way to higher altitude over the coming days.
“I see dead people”, well at least I did that afternoon at the Chauchilla Cemetery. It was full of graves dating back to the Chincha period of 1000 AD to 1400 AD. Tomb raiders had taken all of the valuable stuff and left the mummies exposed to the elements – surprisingly you could still see the skin, nails and hair on some.
While packing up for our departure on an overnight bus to Arequipa we experienced a fairly long earth tremor prompting the hotel to advise us to keep the doors ajar so we wouldn’t get locked in if another struck – another town I felt very comfortable with leaving!!!