Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Peru – Trujillo, slowly melting away

The City of Trujillo, Peru's 3rd largest, is not much visited by Western tourists. Actually, the entire country north of Lima sees only a fraction of the tourist headcount compared to what we experienced in the south on the "Gringo Inca trail."

Trujillo is in Peru best known for its beer of the same name, but tourists don't seem to come here for a brewery tour (note: we don't know if there is any brewery tour either). They come to the nearby beach and surfing town of Huanchaco and the famous Chan Chan Ruins.

As good tourists do: we head straight to Huanchaco (a 20 minute/1.5 soles bus ride from Trujillo) and check into the lovely Oceano hotel – a great place that we found through TripAdvisor.

Another one of these Garúa days
Huanchaco reminds us of the sleepy laid back towns in the Florida Keys in the quiet winter months. The temperature is certainly below the shorts 'n' t-shirt level and yet there are still surfers riding the rough waves. Unfortunately, the Garúa, this ever present oceanic mist is also stealing our sunshine. At least, it clears for a few hours everyday in the afternoon. We will spend two nights here and thanks to the comfortable "Cruz del Sur" night bus we have two full days to explore again. We feel young again!

Temple of the sun, melting in the rain
Carlos, the owner of our guesthouse, encourages us to visit the "Sol y Luna" archeological site south of Trujillo. So off we go again in a tiny mini-bus to the city and change to the next colectivo south to these Moche Ruins.
The driver and his Ayudante must not see too many foreigners and start chatting with us about where we've been so far and what we do in Trujillo, they even gave us a ride off the normal route to drop us just before the ticket office to the archeological site. The last time we had such service was... Hmmm??? Never, actually. And another surprising fact is that none of the transport tried to overcharge us. We were armed with the knowledge of the correct price, but each time we received back the proper change. Wow! Another nice aspect of the north. Actually, we have noticed that Peru is honest in this respect, even Bolivia. It's Central America where we constantly battled the overcharging Ayudantes!

A large part of the moon temple has
been excavated
"Huacas del Sol y de la Luna" are gigantic adobe temples and surrounding city that was built entirely of mud brick a few thousand years ago. It's unusual for temple structures to use mud brick since it's obviously not as durable as stone, but this area is quite dry. The temple of the moon has been excavated to a great extent and is now open for visitors. The 10 Soles ($4.50) entrance fee even includes a guide. We have to wait for only 15 minutes before an English speaking guide is available. That's right, even an English speaking guide is included!
Original artwork
We are the only two tourists and for a good hour our guide explained much about the history, rituals, and social structures of the Moche people that lived here – they are to our surprise closer to the Mayas in Central America than to the native Incas. Our guide is a recent university graduate in tourism and her English is the best we've had so far and her knowledge is also excellent.
The temple is quite impressive and our guide made it come to life again, we gladly gave her a generous tip.

From the ruins, we head back to Trujillo to explore the town a bit. Our luck wanted it to be another sleepy Sunday town tour. Most everything was closed and beside a little market street selling mainly clothing, big city Trujillo was truly in a deep slumber.
Once more we have to disagree with our guide book: Trujillo is actually quite charming and although not Cusco or Arequipa, it is definitely worth a visit if you happen to be in the area. The hotels are overpriced but if you stay in the neighboring Huanchaco village you have a nice choice of reasonable accommodation.

Trujillo on a Sunday:
So many lanes and no cars
I can't handle this pressure any longer

Our second day of exploration focused on Chan Chan the largest pre Columbian city in the Americas and the largest Adobe city in the world.

The Chan Chan walls blend in
perfectly with the sand dunes
Just like Sol y Luna, it was entirely built of mud brick and has largely eroded away by the wind and occasional rain. Little more than a few walls still exist and those blend seamlessly in with the sand dunes. It's eco-friendly to the nth degree here! We enjoy walking along the 2km dirt road through the "melted" ruin walls to reach the main site.

Sand dunes, mud brick walls,
ocean, and the Garúa make it hard
to distinguish what is what.
One area has been restored and it's called the Tschudi Complex and is open for visitors for a reasonable 10 Soles entrance which also includes the "Museo de Sitio Chan Chan" and 2 other sites nearby. The museum was in our plans but naughty Monday now strikes. Yes, that's the day that most museums are closed.

Actually all 36km² (13.9 sq miles) of Chan Chan can be visited and the rest of the ruin site is open to the public without any entrance fee at all, but as a foreigner you are running the risk of being mugged, so that's a high price actually in the end! So Patrick used his MBA skills to make a risk assessment with alternative scenario planning and came to the conclusion that the opportunity cost to visit the "safe" part was 4.35 times lower than visiting the free areas. ;-)

View within Chan Chan
We also wanted to visit the restored part of Chan Chan in honor of our friend Markus Tschudi, who somehow managed to get his name affiliated with Chan Chan.

Chan Chan's Tschudi Complex is vast and only a small area can be visited, but it still takes an hour or more to walk around the area open to the public within the restored buildings. The people that lived here were quite skilled in creating nice structures out of nothing else but mud. Too bad that this ancient civilization never learned the skill of firing mud bricks to improve their strength and longevity.

Is this Tschudi?
These reliefs resemble fishing nets,
but hopefully they didn't use mud
bricks to try to catch fish!
The traditional
fishing boat
We decide not to visit the other temple sites as we want to see a bit of Huanchaco in daylight. Before tourism hit Huanchaco, it lived from fishing. The fishermen used a most intriguing fishing boat...well boat is not really the right word for their floating device. It's actually more of a half of a surfboard constructed out of reeds. They straddle it and use a paddle to break through the harsh waves that now attract the many die hard surfers to this village.

Must be tough to row into the
waves in on of these things
Our village sightseeing tour is soon interrupted by hungry stomachs that cried for Ceviche. Let's see what the fishermen have brought in from the ocean today!? It's been a long 4 days since we last had this, by far, our favorite traditional Peruvian dish.

The long wait was worth it, we hit the jackpot in finding a place called "El Pescadito" a block behind the tourist mile. 22 Soles ($10) for the biggest and freshest Ceviche that we ever had. The best part: it tastes even better than it looks. Two Travelers in fish ecstasy!
I don't want to leave this
place, the Ceviche is
just too good!
We see why some people arrive in Huanchaco with the idea to stay a few nights and end up staying for a few weeks. The combination of our very cozy guesthouse "Oceano" with the fantastic Ceviche at "Pescaditio" is a tempting proposition for us to stay a day longer. But fortunately the Garúa fog is restricting the sunshine to about 3 hours per day, making our decision to buy a ticket to our next stop Cajamarca, back in the Highlands a bit easier. We won't be seeing the coast for a long time again...maybe not again on the rest of trip!?