| Entry 204 of 247
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The bus was ok and we left only 15 minutes late, which means on time in South America. The real shock came on the road. What the hell has happened to my beautiful South America? I checked my passport whether I had really stamped into a new South American country or accidentally into Kazahkstan again. The countryside looked as if George Bush had bombed it or if Peru was using it as a nucleair testing zone. How depressing! Complete desert here and an ugly one! To improve the barren and sandy desert the Peruvians tried to decorate it with all sorts of rubbish making the Panamerican Highway more a route through a dump. Unbelievable. I got instantly homesick to Ecuador.
Well, I had no other choice then finding a way to enjoy it so I started working on trying to see the beauty of this barren moonlike landscape which was shockingly different from the beautiful mostly green mountain trip I had enjoyed the previous day. In Chiclayo, a city that makes you wonder whether that desert came into existence after the city had been built because who with a normal mind comes up with the thought of building a city in such a desolate and inhospitable place? The further you got into Chiclayo the more attractive this city oasis became but it was still a dusty and bleak city. Well, it is only to change for a bus to Trujillo.
Taxi drivers smelled money when I left the bus but I said polite that I would not need a taxi, at least not yet. I crossed the street and bought a ticket at the Empreda Emtrafesa. Lucky enough I asked whether the bus would leave from there because it did not. Again Chiclayo thought it was more efficient and less time consuming to leave from the other side of the city instead of here, near Transporte Chiclayo. Pff, I really have to get used to crossing cities every time for buses instead of just asking the driver to take me to THE terminal.
So after a disgusting lunch with about the smallest possible bistec (5 by 3 cm at most!) and an even more disgusting juice (I suspect either tamarinda or some malt) but for a reasonable 4 soles I took a taxi for 2 soles to the terminal of my new bus company at the other side of the city centre.
The bus was good again and the 3 hour trip to Trujillo cost 11 soles, a good price for a luxury bus with video and not working airconditioning. The desert did not change much although here and there were sone irrigated oasis where some farmers enjoyed growing crops in the dust. Unfortunately they were far and between and the rest was just barren land with lots of sand and desert plants. Dry dry and dusty! Just after dark we arrived in Trujillo in some obscure street that was not very well lit and not nearly as clean as Piura had been that morning. The street to the centre was very dark too and I was wondering what my chances would be of getting robbed between here and the city centre, four blocks away?
Once I had crossed Avenida Espana, a ring road around the 50 blocks or so that make up the old city centre thigs became cleaner and more colourful again. Hotel San Martin was my first choice and my guidebook was right about the bargaining here as they have 100 rooms and are never full. The price came down from 48 Soles to 30 soles after I looked very depressed at their price list which really helps. The room however was not worth 30 Soles for me and I left, walking again the dark, but not so dark, streets of Trujillo in search of a better place. I found a good obscure hostal for 20 soles which had a nice bed, hot showers, towels, soap and even TV. How nice. The only disadvantage was the fact that it was the last room and that it was behind the reception, so it was not noise free but I would move to another room the following day anyway.
On my second day in Peru I managed to say already that I have found the best chicken restaurant in Peru and even on the continent. Maybe it was because I was so hungry or because of the shitty lunch in Chiclayo and all the not very exciting food in Ecuador, but this chicken restaurant near Hotel Casino was superb! They only have chicken but they excel in grilling them. Half a chicken with french fries, also superb and an even more excellent salad and a fresh orange juice, made of the nicest oranges in the country cost 15 soles, less than 4 euros. Yes, tomorrow again! Again around midnight I fell asleep after another long day.
The reason why I wanted to come to Trujillo was to see the ancient ruins of Chan Chan, a Chimu capital and the 1500 year old Moche pyramids Las Huacas del Sol y de la Luna. The Chimu inhabited the area from 1000 until 1470 and Chan Chan housed about 60.000 people.
Before I headed off to the archeological sites I spent about two hours in a bank only to hear that they would only accept 35 of my 100 American dollars because the others were to dirty, crumbles or written on. The fact that I had gotten them from a bank in Ecuador did not impress them at all. To top it off they charged 12 dollars for cashing Traveler Cheques. I asked them if they were normal here at this bank and the friendly woman said yes that that was normal in Peru. Crumbled, half eaten and very worn soles are very acceptable but dollars with one wrinkle are toilet paper. Well, I could have known that actually as it is normal in some other countries as well. I guess Europeans are the only ones who accept all legal tender, no matter what the quality. Well, money is money after all, but not in Peru.
Well, if they do not want my money, then I will not spend it here! Incredible to see those East European lines at the bank by the way and the only pleasant thing about it was that they had nice movies to wait until the 87 people that were in front of me were served. Instead of employing more people they have seating for about 100 people and show movies. Interesting logic again.
Having wasted so much time at the bank it was time for lunch already. Lunch was simple, tasty and cheap, just as I like to have it. Doesn´t have to be 5 star and it should not cost 3 star haha. Time to find a minibus to Chan Chan. That was not a problem although they were designed for people with leg amputation and not for normal sized westerners. The trip took about 10 minutes during which the assistant managed to shout the destination about 1200 times attracting exactly 2 passengers! Well, it is a job at least.
I bought the ticket at the Museum of Chan Chan but not after I had asked for who the special priced tickets were (half price), knowing of course that they were for locals and foreigners are ripped off twice. Indeed that was the case and I started the usual discussion about discrimation, values, treating guests nicely and asked her name telling here that it would be given to my Ministry of Internal Affairs so that if her family would ever make it to my country that they would have to pay twice too. She was shocked! So I paid the price and went into the museum which was very small but had some interesting pottery on display. Most of them looked like replicas to be honest but I might be wrong. Mmm, if this is going to be the standard of the museums at such site then I will be disappointed really.
The city of Chan Chan was built in 1300 and was about two kilometers from the museum. The weather was fine so I told the 20 taxis that were waiting and telling me that they were taxis (really?) that I would walk. Interesting walk. I felt like walking through a nucleair testing zone again. Dusty and sandy. Strange place. Between the rocks and sand dunes old sand coloured crumbled walls appeared everywhere and they were the ancient walls of Chan Chan, the Chimu Capital. Not much was left and at times it was difficult to make a distinction between natural sanddunes or the ruins. The area contained about 10.000 houses and nine Royal Compounds.
One of these compounds, Tschudi has been partly restored and is open for visitors. This was an really interesting site and had a few excellent explanations and scale models in both Spanish and English. The compound was huge with several plazas and the whole thing was surrounded by massive mud walls of several meters high. Some of the walls had impressive friezes and decorations but some of them were a bit too much restored and did not look very original anymore, but it is difficult to find a balance between conserving and leaving things authentic. There were not many tourists and I could take nice photos of the place. Impressive sight and indeed worth a stop over along the long coastal road north of Lima.
After I had seen the site I walked back to the main road and took a minivan back to Mansiche, about halfway Chan Chan and Trujillo. Behind the church of Mansiche was La Huaca Esmeralda. This temple was built by the Chimu around 1300 as well. It was not very big but had to levels that could be climbed and here and there the eroded walls had some designs left of fishing nets, seabirds and fish, the main decoration images used on the temples.
I walked back along the Mansiche road towards Trujillo in order to take a minibus to La Esperanza from the junction. I jumped in one of the minvans that said La Esperanza and thought I would see the site indicated along the road. Difficult to see the road though when you are tall and the minivan is so small that you have to sit in hernia position to see something. We seemed to reach La Esperanza but there was no sign of Huaca Arco Iris. The van man asked where I wanted to go and told me that we had driven past Huaca Arco Iris already. No problem, he would rop me off on the way back and so I got a free excursion for another 15 minutes ending in some very obscure dusty industrial site in the middle of the desert that seemed to be the end of the line. I had missed the site as I was looking for signs on the main road. In normal countries you would see signs indicating such important historic sites. Peru is not a normal country as I was learning quickly these days.
Huaca Arco Iris is one of the best conserved Chimu temples as it was covered with sand until 1963 when it was discovered. The 800 square meters temple has two levels and is about 8 meters high. The mud walls are covered with rainbow designs, most of which have been restored. The views from the top are nice but the suburbs of this desert town is about as ugly as it gets and looked like a town I would imagine to be one in south Marrocco or so. Poor, simple unfinished buildings and paint has to be invented yet here.
I had been just in time and when I was finished the site closed. The sun was gone too as it was obscured by the strange haze that seems to hang around this coastal desert most of the time. Very blurred and dusty hazy skies with a little sun. Quite depressing really. The minibus back was quite crowded but only took 10 minutes or so. Time for an excellent dinner in my favourite restaurant again. Nice ...
| Entry 204 of 247
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