Sunday, February 28, 2010

Some ole stuff

As Pete reported on our last blog post, we have logged MANY hours on many different buses throughout this journey! And most times, when we have the option, we take the night bus - it saves on money (one less night in a hostel!), and it is kind of nice to just wake up in the morning in a brand spankin' new location. We have gotten so used to opting for the night bus that we usually don't even consider the daytime option.

But as our last two overnighters were less than satisfactory (sleep wise), we instead boarded the 12:30pm bus for our nine hour journey north from Lima to Trujillo. And we are really glad we did - we had forgotten how much we actually miss out on when we sleep as the bus rolls along. We always tend to think of bus-time as "wasted", but it is not a waste when we get spoiled by the beautiful scenery that unrolls before us, or when we can bare witness to the eye-opening environments in which the locals live.

The long journey out of Lima took us through many contrasting neigbourhoods - all of them being very different from the cushy area in which we had just left. Many streets would showcase the extreme poverty of shanty towns, then the next block would have a North American style complex with big box stores and several fast food joints. People would walk up and down the busy streets, squeezing between the cars when stopped to try and sell water, food, or pool toys! We were even treated to some amazing break dancing when stopped at a light.

Then once out of the city, we passed through more very poor villages (more than half of this country lives below the poverty line), dotted along the Pan-American highway that runs almost entirely along the coast to Trujillo. We passed miles and miles of beautiful untouched beaches - driving on a road that often split sand dunes, and having sand blow right across the highway in front of us (reminiscent of snow! But, not!)

Finally, our views were obscured as dark hit and we drove on for a few more hours until we got to Trujillo - one of the largest cities in the north of Peru. We checked into our room just in time to see our friend Susan O'Connor receive her Olympic silver medal (yay!) as well as watch the last exciting few minutes of the Canadian men's hockey game over Slovakia. A great end to a good day!

On Saturday we woke up to the news of the devastating terramoto in Chile, astounded at pictures and videos showing places we had been just a few months ago. After checking in with our Chilean friends to ensure they were okay (thank goodness they are!), and sending word home that we were safe, we rearranged our plans for the day. Originally, we had debated some beach time in nearby Huanchaco, but chose to stay inland and at higher ground. We met up with our new UK friends from Lima and decided to check out some of the ruins in the area.

Most people come to Peru and envisage seeing ruins from the most recognized, major Indian tribe - the Inca's. Unbeknowest to most (and to us, before our visit) are the astounding number of ruins scattered throughout the country, from a huge number of different tribes that inhabited Peru prior to the Inca's. Northern Peru is especially rich in archaeological sites, and we were able to visit two notable ones near Trujillo.

The Huaca de la Luna is a grand temple of the Moche tribe, discovered by accident less than 20 years ago, and is still undergoing extensive excavation work. Inside, excavators have found incredibly well-preserved paintings from this tribe who flourished from 200 to 900 AD. Most prevalent in the paintings is a God nicknamed "The Decapitator" for the many human sacrifices that were made in his honour:

Looks like a friendly fellow

From the "incredibly old" temple, we went to see a "pretty old" city ("incredibly old" and "pretty old" are the correct scientific terms, right?). Chan Chan is the largest pre-Columbian city in South America - home to the ChimĂș tribe, who grew out of remnants of the Moche tribe until they were finally conquered by the Inca's in the late fifteenth century. It is a massive complex of twenty square kilometers, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We did not find it nearly as impressive as the Huaca de la Luna, but there were still some interesting structures to marvel at:

After these two visits (with more to come in the next couple of days), we realized that a person could easily spend many weeks ambling across Peru (and all of South America!) exploring all of these ancient ruins. Understanding the number of tribes and their contributions to the history and culture of this continent could be an entirely all-encompassing exercise. So, what do you do when the realization hits that you are only scratching the surface, and that to really explore and appreciate all of the rich history of these regions it would take weeks, months, even years? Well, you say screw it, and walk like an Egyptian (or in this case, a ChimĂș?!)

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