Chiclayo – Peru’s 4th biggest city was our next stop – on retrieving my rucksack from the luggage store I found it was completely sodden – luckily only with water – but it made it difficult to carry. Relying on my 13 year old guide book we made our way to the town centre – to look for the Hotel Royal – described as old and run down, but overlooking the plaza. However, it had been converted into a pricey department store – so Kat went off to find somewhere else cheap enough for us! She did find somewhere that was small and dusty, but the room was not ready for us so we headed off to the market area, finding a much cheaper, balconied hospedaje on the way – ‘muy peligroso’- very dangerous, said our original hotel owners, but we moved there anyway!
The busy street below our room became very busy in the evening with ‘ambulantes’ – street traders, with a variety of goods from piles of yellow knickers ( good luck for the New Year – we tried but couldn’t find any big enough to fit me – the Peruvians are quite small!) boxes of puppies, and fake plastic cockroaches. A couple of young lads set up a small PA system and performed Michael Jackson impersonations. We walked up to the market, people all fascinated with Kat’s hair – is it a wig? Is it natural? and had fried cheese turnover (like a cheese churro!! SO GOOD) and a maize drink called ‘Champu’ and our evening meal was sorted.
We took a shared taxi the next day to Lambayeque to visit the Bruning Museum – full of amazing treasures from the 1987 discovered Royal Moche tomb – the Lord of Sipan. This dark museum was full of displays of the tombs of priests and priestesses, usually buried with a couple of sacrifices, some with their feet cut off, some with a headless llama. The burial process included several layers of goods buried with them – incredible gold necklaces (one with beads the shape of peanuts!) gold plated copper tunics, headdresses, intricate woven shell necklaces, elaborate nose rings, big fat ear plugs.
We took a minibus from here out to Tucume – a huge desert area of 26 pyramids, occupied from 800 – 1532 by various civilisations – Lamabayeque, Chimu and Inca. Not much of it has been excavated, but freizes have been found showing bird-men and other mythological creatures, and shells have been found from Ecuador and lapis lazuli from Chile – so the people here must have been travellers too.
Hardly anyone else was on this enormous site, which is also being created as a bio reserve – we saw a vermillion fly catcher and Kat got munched by invisible flies.
Then it was back to Trujillo and to the beach village of Huanchaco. I came here 23 years ago, and it was tiny and undeveloped – we came to see the reed boats and the Huacas – the Temples of the Sun and the Moon. On my visit all that time ago, the tombs were just uninteresting piles of dusty adobe bricks in the desert, with loads of pottery shards lying in the sand and dodgy looking guys trying to sell you tomb robbed goods. It was amazing to come back, after they have managed to excavate part of it – the temples are made of millions of adobe bricks, lots of them with markings on that some speculate to be the hallmarks of the workers that made them – maybe the workers were taxed a certain number of bricks, and this was proof they had paid! Inside the huacas are a myriad of rooms in which they found ceramics, gold and silver, and polychrome friezes of things like spiders, slaves being led along with ropes round their necks– seven different levels all built on top of one another. It was amazing to think this had all been uncovered since I had last been here!
New Year’s Eve was spent in Huanchaco – with a group of friends we drank far too many shots of tequila before we strolled the two blocks to the sea front which was heaving with people, the beach was full of tents and mini bonfires – a great atmosphere and a load of wild conversations – makes me grin to think of some of the revelations and sharing! It was four when I stumbled back to my room, with my jean turn-ups full of sand and a yellow lei around my neck, and memories to bring back to rainy England.