After kicking ass in the moto-taxi, we took a comfortable and uneventful overnight bus through the desert to Trujillo. The disputed second largest city of Peru (competes with Arequipa), Trujillo was founded by the original conquistadors in 1534.
Most of us have probably heard of the Inca’s and their battles against the Spanish conquistadors, but what you may not realize is that the Inca’s were conquerors themselves. Like the Aztecs of Mexico, the Inca’s fought and conquered other nearby civilizations expanding their empire throughout the Andes. Two major civilizations, the Moche’s and the Chimu’s built incredible cities and temple structures, which exist only in ruins today.
Our highly recommended tour guide, Clara, took us to the Moche pyramids in her original, very beat up VW beetle, complete with Jesus stick shifter. Thinking it was a joke, we climbed into the car with the other guy on our tour, Marc. Between stalling out at almost every intersection and the exhaust flowing into the car from the tears in the upholstery, we somehow made our way to the pyramids. As Clara told Marc, “no one will steal my car.” Clearly. Needless to say for the first time in all of Central and South America we parked a car with the doors unlocked and the windows down.
The largest man-made structure in the western hemisphere until the arrival of gold hungry conquistadors, the Moche pyramid Huaca del Sol (Temple of the Sun) and its twin, the Huaca de la Luna were remodeled time and time again over 6 centuries. A series of pyramids inside pyramids, like a russian doll, the exterior layer of the Huaca de la Luna is richly decorated in animal and war motifs, including one of chained prisoners being taken to sacrifice. A holy site for sacrifice and prayer, the temple was renovated and expanded for reach successive high priest, although only 7 layers remain today archaeologists believe there were almost double that number before the arrival of the conquistadors. Running around the Huaca site were the ugliest dogs we’ve ever seen- Hairless Peruvian Dogs- which in fact were not completely hairless, they had a Mohawk on top. Stylish.
Climbing back into the death trap, Clara told me to put on my seat belt. With nothing to clip it into, I slung it across my chest and gripped the dashboard as we took off down the road. The ruins of the Chimu’s imperial city, Chan Chan, reminded us of ancient Egypt, or at least what we think they’ll be like. Rising out of the dry, sandy desert, Chan Chan is a series of 9 royal compounds surrounded by an 18 foot adobe wall. A labyrinth of passageways leading to enormous ceremonial courts and wells with reeds growing from them, the ruins are the last stronghold of the Chimu people who fell to the Incas after an 11 year siege. Decorated in geometric clay and mud moldings, many depicting birds and fish, much of the city has been destroyed by weather and el nino floods. Little original decoration remains. From what remains archaeologists have been able to recreate the moldings in some areas giving us a good idea of what the complex would have looked like. While Incas conquered other civilizations they often integrated some of their customs. For example, the Chimu built huge platform burial mounds, functioning as monuments, to their kings. Fortunately Clara assured me that unlike in Ecuador, the kings wives were not buried alive when he died. They instead had the choice to be buried or to live, not that Danny is a king or anything, but you can guess which civilization I’d want to be a part of.
With our stomachs already in knots after riding in the death trap all day, we went in serach of dinner. Usually lunch is so big that we eat just some street food for dinner, but in Trujillo all we could find was a barbeque of chicken’s feet or Anticuchos de corazon (beef heart skewers). Vowing to eat like locals, we shared a cow’s heart skewer which I’ll admit was…delicious. No, it did not taste like chicken, but it did taste like beef and it was yummy, especially with the picante sauce! Unfortunately we were still on edge about being robbed so we didn’t walk around with the camera so there is no documentation of the skewer. Sorry!