Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Trujillo Huanchaco

Currency Soles $1 US = $2.83 Soles
Bus Mancora to Trujillo $30 Soles (10 hours)
Hostel Trujillo $45 Soles
Bus Trujillo to Haunchaco $1.60 Soles (30 minutes)
Hostel Haunchaco $15 Soles
Entrance Fee Chan Chan (covers 3 sites) - $11 Soles
Entrance into Temple of the Moon Site - $11 Soles

As mentioned in my last post I got screwed on my bus trip out of Mancora. On the upside I can cross off my bucket list; peeing on the side of the Panamerican Highway in Peru with a bus load of people waiting, thank god I thought I would never get to do that one, I can die happy now. I got into Trujillo at about 10am.

Trujillo does not have a central bus depot, every company has their own stations which is a pain in the ass when shopping for tickets as they are spread out all over the city. Luckily my station was pretty close to the center of town which is where the hostel I booked was. According to my map the hostel was not far away so I decided to walk it, again luck was on my side. I did not know it at the time but Trujillo is the 3rd largest city in Peru. The center of town is an oval shape with a street that runs all the way around it so it makes navigation pretty easy. My walk took about 20 minutes, would have been shorter if I had not gone in the wrong direction to begin with, figured it out within a couple of blocks so I'm getting better. I do actually like getting lost and do it on purpose a lot, just not when I am lugging around my big pack.

I had found the hostel Residencial Munaywasi on hosteltrail.com and it sounded good, old colonial home, 2 blocks from 1 of the main squares, family owned and operated. I had emailed them requesting a dorm room, I had not heard back so I wasn't sure if I had a reservation or not. Turns out I did but they don't have a dorm just private rooms with a TV that are $45 Soles a night. As I was only staying the 1 night I splurged. I did enjoy watching the Prestige on TV, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale great movie. The lady that runs the place is very nice, she made me a Pisco Sour; the national Peruvian drink, those things will knock you on your ass. I dropped my stuff and headed out to walk around for a while. That lasted all of 2 hours before I headed back and took a 4 hour siesta. Did I mention no sleep on the bus? Went out again when I woke up, nice place lots of squares, a big street market and tons of shops and restaurants.

The next day I was heading to Huanchaco which is a suburb of Trujillo, it is the beach end of town. My experience up to this point is that beach town never have super markets so while in Trujillo I hit the mega super market. The hostel I was heading to had a full kitchen and I was going to be there a few days so I wanted to have some supplies. The hostel I was at in Trujillo had a kitchen as well so I had a place to store them, worked out pretty well.
The big draw for the area is the pre-Inca ruins of Chan Chan, the largest pre-Colombian city in South America and the larges adobe city in the world (20 square miles), the pre-Inca ruins of the Muche people and the surf breaks off Haunchaco. They are suppose to be some of the best in the world, funny how every place says that, I guess it is a pretty vague statement.

Day 2 I caught the collectivo van out to Trujillo, the highway runs right through the middle of the Chan Chan ruins. A pretty impressive site even if they are very damaged, you can tell they were walls but the elements (rain, wind earthquakes) have taken their toll on them.

I had chosen the Nay Lamp Hostel as my new home. The reviews online were good, it had a kitchen and was across the street from the beach. A bed in a 6 bed dorm was $15 Soles a night. It is a really nice place, there are 2 sections the back has the kitchen, camping area with fire pit and some rooms. The front has rooms, restaurant and reception area. They also have a couple of large turtle mascots who will wander into your room if you leave the door open, they also seem to like the main bathroom of the restaurant. It is a great place, some really nice people who work there and non champagne backpackers. Although I did meet up with a couple who were also at the Loki during my time there.

As I suspected no super market in town, however there is one on the road back to Trujillo about a 20 minute bus ride away. They do have a pretty good markado with fresh vegetables, meats and some groceries. It is a typical tourist beach town, lots of restaurants, surf shops, street vendors and artisan shops. But it has a much better vibe than Mancora, everyone is not out to scam you, more laid back. Like Mancora every restaurant serves Cebichi (seafood cooked in lime juice), all the backpackers eat the stuff by the truckload and they all say it is great. I however do not do adventures in food so I have no first hand opinion. I like my food dead, not looking the way it did when it was alive and well done not "cooked" in lime juice. As close as I get to living on the edge is empanadas which I do really like a lot and they are very cheap. The town also has several fine establishments that serve torte de chocolate (chocolate cake) and apple pie so I was pretty happy with the food selections available.

As well as being a surf town Huanchaco is a fishing town and has been since the days of the Inca. The local fisherman use nets and small reed boats that are too small for them to put their feet in so they dangle them over the sides. You can find the boats on the shore when not in use and the fishermen sitting around mending their nets, all very small village feeling which is very nice, you can tell they are not there for the tourists they are working folks.

Chan Chan is a must see while in this area, it is located between Trujillo & Haunchaco so either place is a good base. It is about a 1km walk to the main ruins, there are taxi's that you can take if you are feeling really lazy and a few people offering to sell maps etc. Don't pay for a guide, only official guides are allowed to take you through the site. The entry fee to get in is 11 Soles (covers entrance to 2 other sites and the museum) the price includes a guide (you can't go through without one), tipping the guide is not included. My guide had worked there since 1963, he worked with the archeologists in helping to uncover the site, then in restoration and now as a guide. He also spoke 3 languages, a pretty amazing guy. Chan Chan has been pretty hard hit by nature, it's amazing that it has lasted as long as it has, I am pretty sure adobe is not meant to last that long. The city covered 20km in it's prime, unfortunately now there is a lot of it that just looks like hills of sand, you can see some brick in it but most of it is lost now.

The city was built by the Chimu around 850AD, they were conquered by the Incas in 1470AD. The entire city had a 50-60 foot wall around it made of bricks with a layer of smooth finish over the top. In the section that tourists can visit the walls have carvings on them, animals, fish etc.. The site runs along the Pacific Ocean which had the tallest walls to protect the town from the winds. It is an incredible place, what they have managed to recover and restore is beautiful and they are still working on the site so there is stuff still to discover. They have found evidence of human sacrifices and the elite of the society were buried with their toys and in some cases their wives and servants. The site was looted by the colonials so may of the artifacts and traces of what the people may have been like, how they lived and how their society operated are lost. There is much speculation by the intellectual types and a variety of theories based on what has been found so far.

As mentioned the ticket for Chan Chan also covers the museum which I did go and see, it is a short 5 minute walk down the road. It was okay but nothing fantastic. One of the other ruins is in a suburb, kind of weird, right behind a park, also okay but very small. I have been running into these Inca dogs while I have been here, no fur and kind of ugly, they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, some of them have a little tuft of hair on the top of their heads. The guy that ran this place had 4 adult ones and 4 puppies. The puppies are not as ugly as the grownups but still only a face a mother could love. You do have to be very careful about comments, the folks that own them think they are beautiful and they get offended if they hear you call them ugly.. Guilty, had to do some fast back-peddling in bad Spanish. I did not make it to the other site included in the ticket, it is way off the beaten path. I was just being lazy so I have no information to share on that one and none of the other travelers had gone either so might be worth the trip.

I did go to another site, temple of the sun and temple of the moon (Huaca del Sol & Huaca del Luna), these are dated at 100BC - 650AD they preceded the folks that made Chan Chan, these were the Muche. The Huaca del Sol has not been excavated and you cannot go into it, seems there is not enough funding and it was mostly destroyed, the Spanish diverted a river to wash it away to try to get the gold out. At 135 feet above the plain it is the tallest adobe structure in the Americas. The Huaca del Luna has been partially excavated but they don't have plans to do much more, they are afraid that they may weaken the supports and damage the ruins. Both temples were looted long ago, the Spanish got there first and then modern day robbers have taken over.

I took the bus here with a Swiss hostel mate, a longer journey than I had thought it would be. Despite reminding our bus wrangler (the guy that yells at you to get on and off the bus and takes your money) he forgot to let us know when our stop for the connecting bus was so we went by it and had to backtrack. On the upside he felt really bad and gave us our money back. So back we went and then had to wait for a collectivo up to the site. Funny how you can ask 4 different people what van to catch and you get 4 different answers. Sucks because they don't really stop the wrangler just yells their destination as it is going by so you have to be quick and understand really garbled Spanish. Finally got it, $1.90 Soles and a 1/2 hour ride and we are there.

The entrance fee is $11 Soles and once again the guide is included, you can't go without one. You get to watch a 20 minute DVD on the excavation of the site, it is done by a company called Backus they also own the beer company and a bottled water company, kind of like a town in a Dean Koontz novel, makes you wonder what else they own.

This is a much smaller site than Chan Chan but I liked it better. The Muche liked color, most of their paintings are in color and it has held up over the years. The Luna Temple was the religious and sacrificial temple. Seems the Moche would organize fights between men and the loser got sacrificed by being strangled. There's a match you hope you win. The valley between the temples is were the folks lived and worked, some of it is still visible but not much. None of the artwork that has been uncovered in Luna has been restored, what you see is how they found it and it is amazing, definitely go and see this if you are in the area it is well worth the trip and like Chan Chan a portion of your entrance fee goes towards funding the excavation and preservation.

Back to the hostel for my last night, fire in the pit, some beers and some really cool people. Brit girl and Swiss guy who I did some of the tours with. NY rasta surfer dude, Bellingham surfer dude, Brando from Boston and the 5 traveling girls, Brit guys and Danish couple and Ecuador climbing guy. Was a pleasure sharing time with you. Happy travels.

On that note another plug for the website, www.losttrekkers.com a free people search. If you are looking for people you met on your travels place a free ad to find them.