Monday 20th June 2016 –
Fucking finally, a bit of the yellow stuff. Been missing this for a while – since the start of January, really – the ability to wear shorts and flip flops 24/7, and probably still make it for a business meeting. My god it’s good to be back in the warmth again, and it should only get better from here – kind of. Let’s focus on the focus of my focus though – Huanchaco – hammock haven for beach bums.
I must confess, it is actually winter here, but such is my equatorial proximity and my being cerca sea level, there is decent weather. This bodes well for the future methinks, but also allowed a bit of lying about right now. Just a bit. Only a couple of days of really doing nothing, and then I was busy again. Like usual, right? To be fair, I did get my hair cut again. It was getting unruly once more – reckon I’m a pro at this hair cut abroad lark now.
Lounging around hadn’t actually been top of my list of things to do here, surprisingly – I’d originally arrived in Huanchaco on the thought that it’d be a nicer place to base myself for outings to the ruins around than the nearby city of Trujillo, and certainly part of the credit, or a lot, for that turnaround would have to go to my hostel – Casa Amelia – and everyone there. Sometimes you can be in a perfectly nice place, but it turns out to be deathly quiet, and I’m honestly not the party hostel sort. That wasn’t the case here though – everyone who came and went just seemed to be friends, really. We talked about surfing (even though I hadn’t done any), went out for food, and I even ate sushi for the first time! Apparently it was sacrilege that I hadn’t before, but I honestly haven’t had many opportunities. It was good, very good in fact, even if we did have to share four rolls between the seven of us. What kind of sushi place runs out of rice?
This mostly culminated in the production of some pancakes, with, erm, added flavour. The kind that you don’t publicise on the internet. Josh turned green after an initial fit of giggles, and didn’t speak for the rest of the night, practicing a 500 yard stare. Jacob just kept falling asleep. As a closer to conscious human being at the time, watching them was hilarious, even if trying to organise some food was a bit of a nightmare. It was touch and go whether they’d manage to find their way into Trujillo for the bus that night…
I did actually go and see some of the ruins – I have a feeling it was the day after that as well, so an altogether impressive feat. I headed off down the beach with Ash and Tim, on my way, when a local bus pulled up, and a Peruvian woman jumped off excitedly. She wanted a photo of us. Awkwardly, we all stared down the camera lens as if it were the barrel of a gun. She wasn’t satisfied though. Picture taken, she motioned Ash and Tim away for a solo shot, and when my diary got in the way of an arm around her it was quickly taken and handed to the now spectators. When she looks back at that photo, there’s going to be one scared arse white kid staring back.
For ease, and the fact that it was cheap, I went to the ruins with a tour. Cheating, I know, but to be fair the other tourists were Peruvians. That makes it ok, right? Plus it meant someone could tell me about them, providing my guide didn’t injure themself, or disappear into oblivion. The Peruvian tourist thing is something I have noticed though – it’s certainly something that didn’t go on in many of the others countries I’ve visited. Peruvians though, seem to have really jumped on the wealth of historical places and ruins in their country. I can only assume it’s usually the more well off from Lima, but it’s nice to see interest not just from foreigners, and in some places much more than foreigners.
After a significant amount of wasted time driving around Trujillo to pick everyone up (ridiculous, obviously), we drove to the outskirts, to the Huacas de Sol y Luna. Unlike most of the popular ruins in the south of Peru, these aren’t Inca but Moche, a civilisation far old, and much more long reigning – from about 100AD to 800AD – though they didn’t ever achieve the spread of influence the Incas did. Also, unlike the Incas, they liked to build pyramids.
We saw them both as we drove in, the Huaca del Sol most visible, as the biggest pre-Colombian structure in South America. It was the seat of politicians back in the day, and while certainly the less important of the structures, grew in influence as the Moches neared their end. En Nino had taken hold, and the priests’ inability to solve the issues of drought that had been delivered, served as an eviction notice. The Huaca de la Luna, seat of power and sacred to the Moche, was shrouded in the distance, and dwarfed by a humongous, strangely pyramidical hill. Coincidence? I think not.
Our first stop was the museum, which is actually totally worth a look. A lot of information there, and some of the most beautiful pre-Colombian pottery I have seen, far better than the Inca stuff. The Moches really knew how to paint a picture. Then we went to Huaca de la Luna. Sol is inaccessible – large parts have fallen in on themselves – but Luna has been excavated, and Moche idiosyncrasy means much has been protected. Over a 600 year period, before the temple was abandoned for a new model, it was rebuilt five times. Not separately though, and not in replacement. They built each on top of the replacement one, burying it underneath. So while much of the outside, particularly that facing the sea, is not much to look at, each level down reveals more pristine detail. By the time you’re down to the third, the colour preservation is remarkable.
The temple hasn’t been excavated beyond this, and apparently is unlikely to be. The adobe degrades quickly in the elements, and the whole site is covered in tarps to protect it. We did see one other section though. Around the back, with the original entrance, the pyramid hill has provided a degree of protection. The stepped facade is decorated with a different design on each level, presumably each with its own meaning. Apparently the whole temple would have been like that originally, in a show of power. Now that would have been a sight.
The Chimu were up next, in my timeline and theirs. More of a development of the Moche with the influence of outsiders than the bloodbath that would take place with the Inca takeover, the Chimu were proud creators of the world’s biggest adobe city. Now it covers a vast expanse between Trujillo and Huanchaco, but originally it would have spread through half of modern day Trujillo. We stopped by a small pyramid in the city, Huaca Esmerelda, before heading off to the heartlands.
Ten adobe palaces for ten Chimu kings lie there, and surely more like them have been flattened by the city, but access to one still provides a lot to see. Unlike the Moche, the Chimu didn’t have the same way with colours, and used naught but and orangey shade, now just the colour of adobe. Odd animal depictions and a strange thatching/criss cross appears to have been the order of the day, and it’s all remarkably uniform and pristine. Right up till the burial chamber that is. Apparently that got ransacked.
Next morning arrived, and with it a fresh opportunity for a new skill. Surfing. Jana, a surf novice like myself, and I agreed to get a lesson at the same time, so there could be no backing out, and so duly arrived at 10AM to the shop. “No, high tide is at two”. “Can we start before then, then?”. If high tide is at two, why only start at two? “No, high tide is at two”. I’m pretty sure he just wanted a rest from a heavy night out.
Two o’clock arrived and we came back again, this time to a lesson. Our first half hour was in the back room, awkwardly leaping up from our prone positions on the grounded board in front of two other tourists. They offered soothing words of encouragement amid torrents of laughter. We were all deemed worthy though, and were soon lugging some humongous surfboards to the beach. Apparently they’re easier to balance on, but they’re sure as shit not easier to carry – I reckoned they were about twice my height.
Our instructors were more facilitators – their prime role being, well, to prime us for a wave. Make sure we were facing the right direction, give us a push when the wave arrived, remind us to stand up, etc. I was pretty bad. Seemed to have a knack for falling off, and swallowing copious amounts of tasty seawater. It onluy got harder as well. Every time we got a wave we had to fight the damn things to get back again. Jana, on the other hand, was a natural. She attributed this to yoga, and to be fair, I couldn’t argue – another thing I’ve yet to try in this life (it seems less likely that I will). Thankfully, I improved, and was up on the board three times in a row at the end. That’s another thing for the CV – expert surfer.
In the evening, Huanchaco was having some sort of celebration. For what, we didn’t know, but it had led to the celebration of some hastily put together wooden structures, several foosball tables, a middle aged woman of pub singer quality (who the crowd revelled over), and the tantalising promise of fire. Admittedly, we were drawn over by Debbie’s desire to play foosball, but who doesn’t love watching a warbler work the stage? Her fans certainly loved the reduction in clothing – there are kids here, guys!
I managed to drag myself away long enough for two on two foosball, in which whoever was on Debbie’s team won. Then we found a basketball court with amazing floodlights. Since there were five of us it was never quite fair, just like the foosball really, and it took a while for the skills to come back, but we all ended up pretty knackered. Back at the party, the woman was gone, and we were going to too. All of a sudden, one of the wooden constructions set off with fireworks. Ah, so that’s what they’d meant. Not just any fireworks though – they built in scale as they climbed the tower, a ten minute culmination resulting in a blaze of Spanish (I couldn’t read it). Remember, this was set up over the course of the afternoon – in the UK, this would have had so many safety regulations it’d never have happened.
I was to leave the next afternoon, but I couldn’t pass up on a chance to bust out one last surf, on a smaller, more portable board than previous. 7AM, wetsuited up, the post dawn water fresh from the Antarctic it seemed. A paddle out to the breaks. One, two, three, followed by half a dozen more falls. I never did get up on that board again.