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  • Day20

    Huanchaco, Peru

    April 29, 2018 in Peru ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    A more local side of Peru, a visit to some ancient ruins and the first bout of sickness for the trip.

    The overnight bus from Máncora was unfortunately punctuated with a sudden onset of severe stomach pains and consequently a couple of vomits...thankfully these long distance buses are equipped with toilets on board! It did make for a bit of a battle over the following couple of days to reintroduce foods again but at least it was relatively short lived.

    Trujillo is one of Peru’s biggest cities and is only 10km or so away, but we decided we’d prefer to stay in a smaller place rather than a big city. In the end our stop here was mainly to break up what would otherwise be a 16 hour journey to the Huaraz, but also to see some of the ruins in this area.

    Until the 1970s Huanchaco was supposedly a bustling fishing village but today it is relatively laid-back, although many of the boats called caballitos and made from totora (a type of reed) remain lining the beach. Otherwise the beach is pretty substandard compared to Máncora and Montañita in terms of lounging and sunbathing but there’s still a fair amount of people surfing here. In fact, an hour or so further down the coast is actually the world’s longest left.

    Chan Chan was the capital city of the Chimú Empire, an urban civilisation that appeared on the Peruvian coast around 1100-1300AD and is the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas. At one point the city covered roughly 25km2 but now only spreads about 14km2. At its peak Chan Chan housed approximately 60,000 people before the Chimú people were conquered by the Incas around 1460. Later the Spanish looted the city, as it was well known for its wealth. One particular tomb of one of the Kings was found with an extortionate amount of gold inside. Every time a king died, his wife and servants would also be sacrificed and buried - so the palace would become a mausoleum and the next king would require a new palace. Over the years, nine different royal palaces were built. I hate to think how many people this means were sacrificed.

    We only saw a small portion of these ruins due to the fact that this was all that was open to the public but the size and scale of the place was insane, not to mention the detail in the clay walls. Originally these were thought to have been painted colourfully too but today no colour remains, although many drawings of various animals and lines do. Their building knowledge was very also clever for this time - some walls being up to 4m thick or designed in such a way to withstand the amount of earthquakes in the area. Given this site has only been subject to restorations in the last 30 years, they’ve definitely done a good job.

    Our ticket for Chan Chan also gave us access to a couple of other smaller ruins but without a guide they didn’t mean an awful lot to us so these were relatively short and sweet visits! In hindsight we probably should have booked a proper tour including a visit to the temples of the sun and the moon which we later found out were incredible as they still have coloured walls too but hey, can’t win them all.

    The rest of our time in Huanchaco was spent relaxing, perusing the markets for fresh local produce to make use of our hostel kitchen and a couple of visits to a bakery we stumbled across that did some great pastries, cakes and ice cream! You have to make the most of these things when you find them as they’re a rare occurrence in these parts.

    In the end I decided to go a day ahead of Kit and Bronte to Huaraz, partly due to the fact that there wasn’t a massive amount to do in Huanchaco but also to start acclimatising for some of the hikes I wanted to do. Somehow I ended up on a VIP bus, complete with VIP lounge pre-boarding with free crackers, tea, computers and the best couches I’ve seen in a while. Then on board I got given a pillow, blanket, hot tea and a snack bag. Very unexpected! The night buses here are actually very comfortable, with mostly ‘semi-cama’ seats which generally lie back to 160 degrees with leg rests as well do they definitely beat plane seats. Peru’s bus system was notoriously dangerous but has had a big overhaul particularly for long distance buses which requires them to display their speed, have seatbelts and not make extra stop to pick up any rogue passengers. Win for us really.

    Anyway, it’s definitely time for a break from the beach - take me back to the mountains!
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