[As I post this, we are between Easter Island and Pitcairn and have just gotten internet back after two days of being "in the footprint" where the satellite the ship uses for internet has no signal. Bear with me FaceBook friends and regular readers. It will probably happen again.]
Salaverry is the port for the city of Trujillo, the third largest city in Peru. As our ship’s Reflections noted, it is a portal to the past. As we ate breakfast outside the Lido in back, we watched the morning mist begin to clear and reveal a beautiful mountain in the distance.
Before us was a fleet of small fishing boats, their colorful hulls bobbing in the water waiting for the call to go fishing. As we were finishing our coffee one of our dinner partners saw us and asked if we were interested in an adventure. He wanted us to join him and his wife in securing a taxi for a tour to the ruins in the area. It sounded like fun so we agreed to meet and set off on our own excursion.
On the dock we were greeted by a costumed Peruvian who quickly assured us he knew a good English speaking driver who would give us a good deal, of course. He led us to a nice van and the driver assured us that he knew English by telling us he’d spent several years in the USA. For $30 each he agreed to be our driver for the day and we set off to the first ruins called Chan Chan, a UNESCO site.
Chan Chan was established sometime between 850 and 1300 AD by the Chimu Nation (predating the Incas). The city once held about 60,000 people and is made of mud. Yes, mud. The walls are very thick and the substance made from the clay in the area included sea shells, sand and other materials that have lasted quite well over the years. There is a lot of restoration that has been done but it seems the parts that were original have faired better than the newer portions which are already showing the wear of wind and sand and sun.
A guide took us through the ruins and gave us a great description of what we were seeing and how they imagined life to be back then. Each time a new ruler came to power, a new palace would be built and the remains of the old ruler would be sealed off in the area where he’d lived. Of course all his precious gems and gold trinkets were buried with him which was incentive enough for the Spaniards to excavate when they arrived.
There were about nine rulers they figured and so the major part of where we were visiting expanded quite a bit. The area we were in took up about 11 acres but they were sure that the city stretched quite a bit further than that. Monies that come in now are keeping the site preserved but there is little left over for more excavation.
It is always amazing to me how early people knew so much and were able to understand much of what we now know from our enlightened sciences. There was a mural of sorts depicting the two types of currents that affect the seas in that area. We know one of them now as the Humboldt current.
Several temple areas I assumed to different gods were present. Our guide explained that there were areas where idols must have been displayed but they were all destroyed by the Spaniards who wanted to be sure that the Christian religion prevailed. I can’t help but wonder if the people who were normally sacrificed (probably those virgins) were relieved.
Other squared-off sections were said to be storage areas for grains and other foods. Everything though was built from the same mud substance. The designs were exquisite and included pelicans, standing or flying, several kinds of fish and other animals but most having to do with the sea which was all important to them.
Water was supplied by wells that were shallow in comparison to what they are today. A reservoir was in the middle of the city and still has some water trickling into it from below. It is the only place where you find green plants. Our guide pointed out the reedy plants and said those were what the horse boats were made of. That reminded us to tell our driver that we wanted to see those as well.
After some back roads that took us through some strange housing developments, we finally got back to a main street and found ourselves in Huanchaco at the beach. There, lined up probably more for the tourists to see, were the boats known as caballitos de totora which means little horse of the totora reed. They are also known as the horse boats since the boater must straddle it much like riding a horse. A split rod of bamboo is used for the paddle. If this is what they used to go fishing on, I wonder how many survived. Imagine casting your line into the water with bait on the hook while your feet dangle in the water as well. No thanks. I’d be afraid I was shark bait.
From the beach we drove back toward Salaverry to stop for a few minutes in the town square. The church was beautiful on the outside and we were amazed at how even more beautiful inside. The paintings on the ceiling looked as if they had recently been restored. The brilliant colors and artistry reminded me of the Sistine Chapel.
After our short stop in the center of Salaverry, we visited another famous area of ruins called the Huacas del Sol y de la Luna, the temples of the sun and the moon. They are two large temples which cradled a city called Moche between them. It is said they pre-date the Chan Chan area. They are built mostly of adobe brick and are a pyramid shape. The temple of the sun is comparable in size to the pyramids in Egypt.
The temple of the moon survived the Spaniards better than the temple of the sun and it reveals a lot of layers of beautiful murals. Still it had a dark history in that, here too as in Chan Chan, human sacrifices were made to appease the gods.
A museum sits nearby and houses many of the ceramic pieces that were excavated from the temple. Many are in extraordinary shape and have amazing detail sculpted into them. Each piece seemed to be a portrait of someone from that era.
It was an amazing day and an enjoyable time with our new friends and it cost us half of what a ship excursion would have been. Hopefully we will be that fortunate in other ports as well.
The evening was capped with special entertainment from the singers and dancers on board. They did a program in association with iLuminate called The Tourist. The dancers were all dressed in black costumes that were wired with lights controlled electronically. Everything else was dark as well and when they danced or moved they appeared to transport across the stage at times. It’s hard to describe but it was fascinating to watch as lights went on and off and dancers appeared to float or move across the stage like the Flash.
The days are passing way too quickly. Our next port, Callao (Lima) is the end of the first segment of our cruise. Some will be leaving us and new faces will be coming on board. The adventure continues.