Thursday, September 9, 2010

Adventures in Peru: North of Lima, part 1

One of the ruins at Caral, a city over four thousand years old.

There were three phases to our adventure in Peru: first Kate and Jill and I spent four or so days doing the archaeological sites along the coast north of Lima; then the three of us took an overnight bus back to Lima followed by a flight to Iquitos, where we made arrangements for a stay at a lodge on the Amazon. There were four marvelous days in the jungle. Then we flew back to Lima to meet up with Elliot and Spencer, and we did the more touristy parts—Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, the Sacred Valley, etc.

Anyway, we visited five pre-Incan archaeological sites on the first part of the trip: Caral, the oldest city in the Americas; Sechin, the home of a warlike culture dating between 1800 and 900BC; Chan Chan, the largest adobe city ever built; Huaca de la Luna, built by the Moche, who flourished during the first millennium A.D.; and el Brujo (also Moche), home of the tomb and mummy of the Señora de Cao—a powerful female ruler whose arm tattoos are still clearly visible. (More on her next time.)

At Caral we met Nathalie, a lovely Frenchwoman who lived in Spain for many years and was traveling on her own for a few weeks before meeting up with her boyfriend. We took a taxi back into town together and had dinner at a little restaurant by the sea (which was a lot less picturesque than it sounds, but it was still a nice time).

Charming.

A view over the ruins at Sechin from the walkway that goes up the hill behind it and around the site.

Sechin was a much smaller site, and we were able to walk around without a guide. There's a small museum, and in the basement we were appalled to find the preserved body of a teenaged sacrificial victim stuffed on the bottom shelf of a rickety glass case. Jill was saying something about mummies actually being comforting to her somehow, not creepy, but then she amended her statement: 'Well, I didn't find her comforting because she was buried alive...' Her mouth was wide open. Taken with the bloodthirsty nature of the stone carvings that Sechin is known for, this one was certainly the most disturbing of our archaeological visits.

If you'd been unlucky enough to be born here three thousand years ago, this is the guy who would have chopped off your head to feed the sun god. Or maybe just for kicks.

And now for something completely different. We saw these signs on every bus:

("Only for number one.")

I must say this perplexed me greatly. Like, what if I can't help it?

This was one of those situations where the sights blow you away but the towns you've got to sleep in aren't quite so amazing—although we did manage to find a friendly little spot in Barranca (our base for Caral) for jugo de piña and some breakfast cake.

Next post: Chan Chan, Huaca de la Luna, and el Brujo.

3 comments:

Sarah Miller said...

I have to admit, I'm nowhere near mature enough to keep from laughing every. single. time. I read the words "Lake Titicaca."

So glad you had a good trip. :)

Kate said...

Did you ever email the Caral pictures to Nathalie?

I was in such a fog that first day at Caral--I don't even remember taking that charming photo of me.

KB said...

If you gots to, drop your load upon the road.