From Chachapoyas we took an 13 hour bus ride to Cajamarca. Cajamarca is a big city in the middle of no where, as most places in Northern Peru are, that is known for their hot mineral springs which are filtered to several bath houses and saunas, which you can rent for 30 minutes at a time.
We decided to stay only two days in Cajamarca but wanted to check them out. We ended up going to the same Inca baths that the Inca Emperor Atahualpa bathed in (before he was captured and executed in Cajamarca’s main square). Ben also got some good footage of a market a few blocks from our hostal (below)
From our experiences visiting a few small towns and a few cities, Peru seems wilder, more chaotic, and less developed than Ecuador. The people are a little harder to understand because they speak Spanish much faster here (or maybe our Spanish is getting worse, not sure which) So communication has been more challenging lately.
After Cajamarca, we headed back to the coast and stopped in a small beach town called Huanchaco. The blending of desert, mountain, and beach culminated in a beautiful yet very strange way in Huanchaco. Walking along the beach felt like walking into a parallel universe or walking into a new civilization on the moon or something. All the dust in the air added to the eerie effect of the town.
We spent the day relaxing by the beach and a riding a “Combi” (small rickety bus) between town and Trujillo, which made for a really interesting cultural experience. Sometimes the best way to get to know a place is to relax somewhere and observe.
When it comes to bus travel in Peru, you really have no idea what your going to get. Sometimes you step into a bus that has stopped at nothing to make you feel as comfortable as possible. Your allotted personal space is way more than necessary, and with the constant flow of air conditioning and HD movies, you feel like royalty. Sometimes even they serve lunch complete with a dessert.
Other times, you step into a bus that should have been traded for scrap metal, where you spend the ride sharing a seat, squished between a women openly nursing her baby and a farmer (who just finished tending his livestock) while listening to everyone chat very loudly with one another, competing with the Andean music blaring over the loudspeaker.
For example, on our ride from Chachapoyas to Celedin, we were on a small, rickety bus for 8 hours on the roughest, windiest road we’ve been on. Before we departed the attendant handed out small plastic bags to everyone, which we assumed was for our trash. The ride was really rough. Every time we hit a pot hole, our bus shook violently and I could feel all my insides moving around. That combined with the sharp turns through the mountains pretty much guaranteed everyone on board would get sick. A couple hours into the trip, we realized what the little plastic bags were for. Some people started sticking their heads out the window instead of using their plastic bags and it got so bad that half-way through the trip we pulled over so the attendant could hose down the bus.
What’s interesting is that, no matter what the bus facilities are like, the price of the ticket is usually about the same. So you really never know what your going to get. But after a few long trips, we’ve concluded that the latter makes for a way more interesting and valuable way to travel. One of the best ways to get insight into the daily lives of people is to choose the cheapest mode of transportation.
Anyway, back to Huanchaco…below are a few shots around town and the beach. The town is full of really colorful and creative murals, like this one.
The next two days we spend at ruins just outside of Huanchaco. Some of the most famous ruins of South America’s ancient civilizations are here. In my opinion, really exciting ruins can be kind of hit or miss. In the past, I’ve read some really alluring descriptions in guide books about a site, but arrived only to stare at a little bit of rubble (usually while bearing intense heat) that completely falls short of its written description.
But the ruins outside of Huanchaco are so awesome and would impress even the most discriminating person-regarding the act of touring ruins.
First we went to “Huaca de Sol y La Luna” (Temple of the Sun and Moon) This is where the Moche people lived from 100-800 ad. The civilization had towns spread along the Peruvian coast, but this site was their capital. There are two temples (one called The Sun and one called The Moon) and the city was in a valley in between the temples. With the Sun temple closed for excavations, we could only tour the Moon.
The Moon was completely buried in sand 15 years ago and looked like nothing more than a huge dune. No one excavating the city portion or The Sun temple had any idea there was anything of value underneath (let alone a 4 story temple). It was only when an archeology teacher visiting the site found an artifact while walking on the dune that they started digging. As they dug deeper, they found that the temple gets narrower and narrower towards the bottom because every 100 years the Moche people would cover the temple completely in Adobe brick and build on top of it, expanding each time.
The Moche loved art, especially pottery. They spent a lot of time colorfully and intricately decorating the walls of the temple. Inside we saw 3 levels of the temple (each representing 100 years of Moche life). Their artwork had very few differences between each generational layer.
They are finding mummies and artifacts all the time and have a long way to go until its fully excavated.
The next day we went to “Chan Chan”. After the Moche people died out (from a natural disaster they think) the remaining people moved a few kilometers closer to the ocean around 850 AD. They are known as the Chimu civilization (but have Moche heritage) and Chan Chan was their palace. It’s less colorful than the Moche temples but still has some of the same themes in the artwork, with depictions of the animals they worshiped (mainly animals relating to the ocean which they depended on for survival).
It’s demise was the arrival of the Incas in the 1400s.
Today we are taking an overnight bus South to Huaraz, a town on the edge of a National Park. The photos I’ve seen of people hiking through the mountains to bright blue lakes and glaciers look breathtaking. Hopefully our next post will be filled with those same images.