Huanchaco is nestled below sandstone bluffs along the Pacific. It is a tourist getaway beach town for residents of Trujillo. And as far as we were concerned, perfect weather. Dry climate and high light fog during the day with clearing in the afternoons for spectacular sunsets with the temperatures in the upper 70’s.
Our home for several days was the Huanchaco Gardens – a motel with a backyard with room for about 4-5 vans and/or campers. While we were there we met a Swiss couple in a van and an Israeli couple driving this huge tank of a RV. The Israelis have been on the road for four years and have driven through southern Africa, Australian and New Zealand and if I understood correctly, overland from the Middle East to Coast by Japan.
This campsite was quiet, secured by a high wall and only one block away from the Malecón (Oceanside sidewalk) that had numerous restaurants, bars, tourist schlock souvenir shops and a fishing pier.
During the first afternoon stroll, we discovered a tour company run by Armando who, as it turns out, we hired for three days to drive us around. He was prompt, courteous, reliable and a safe driver – just a really nice laid-back guy.
The first day he chauffeured us to the Chan Chan archeological site. Before this trip, we thought the Incas were THE ancient culture of note in Peru. We were wrong.
The Mochi people developed the Chan Chan Archeological site and were active from 100-800 AC. (The Incas didn’t show up until the 1300’s and thanks to the Spanish invasion only lasted about 200 years.)
First thing about Chan Chan is that it is Huge. At this stage the archeologists have only excavated one of nine palace complexes and that palace covers approximately 20 acres. The entire complex is approximately 20 square miles right on the outskirts of Trujillo. It is estimated that Chan Chan’s population numbered around 40,000 people. They had an extensive irrigation and terracing system. The dry arid conditions here on the Coast preserved much of the site although sand blew in and covered it for centuries so as you drive by, you just see sandy hillocks that are actually adobe settlements.
Another day Armando took us to the south side of Trujillo to the Huacas de la Luna and del Sol. (Huacas means temples.) If at all possible, the Luna Temple was even grander than Chan Chan. Each succeeding ruling king simply built a new shell around the previous temple and kept building up and out. The Luna temple had 5 building shells and pavilions surrounding the original temple.
And the onsite museum was outstanding. Beautiful edifice placed in an interesting setting near the base of the Luna temple with fabulous pottery and artifacts on display. And all signs in Spanish and English. It was one of the best museums Dave and I have EVER been in. The Curator told us that at this stage they are not doing more excavation; but rather preservation of the frescos and murals they have already uncovered.
Editor's Note: The artifacts were wonderful, but photos were prohibited.
Another day Armando drove us into the historic center of Trujillo, dropped us off at the Plaza de las Armas and came back for us three hours later. As it turned out, the Plaza is being renovated and was completely surrounded by fencing. But the Colonial-era mansions surrounding the Plaza have been maintained and are in beautiful shape. We spent our time wandering the streets and looking at the architecture and people watching.
Another day, Dave and I spent the day “house cleaning;” rather camper and truck cleaning. Dave washed and cleaned outside and I did the camper inside. It’s amazing how much dirt accumulates and how much time it takes to clean a rectangular box that is 6′ x 18′ long.
While we were at Huacas de la Luna, we met a Peruvian from Lima that told us about the Archeological sites up by Chiclayo and how wonderful those were and that we should not miss them. So on Thursday September 7th, we decided to backtrack to the north and see those sites.
This part of Peru along the Coast is arid, rocky and dotted with huge sand dunes. Only along the river valleys from the Andes are there green agricultural farming areas.
We first went to the town of Lambayeque to the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum. The Señor of Sipán’s tomb was discovered in the 1980’s completely intact. The Peruvians have built a special museum to house its findings. The Museum itself is spectacular.
You are not allowed to take in any bags, cameras or cellphones. You climb a ramp up to the top floor as if it was a pyramid and then work your way down through the levels as if you were excavating the site. Again signage is in Spanish and English and lays out the chronological order of the various Peruvian historical cultures. Again the displays and artifacts were top notch. Another absolutely fascinating museum.
We found a small residential plaza around the Museum’s corner and boondocked there for the night. It was quiet after the peoples’ dogs were let in for the night.
The next morning we walked across town to Lambayeque’s Plaza de las Armas and visited another culture’s museum – Museo Archeological National Bruning. This culture’s site was explored by Bruning during the early 1900’s. And although this museum’s signage was only in Spanish, the displays and artifacts were once again, top notch.
We drove back south towards Trujillo on Friday September 8th, but first stopped at the town of Chocope and drove 12 kms. towards the ocean through vast fields of sugar cane as far as you can see. Our goal was the Archeological site and Museum of the Cao Brujo.
The intact find of this woman’s tomb in the 2000’s turned Peruvian archeology thinking upside down. This woman’s mummified body was so well preserved that one can see the numerous tattoos covering her body. Also with all the wealth discovered in her tomb, it now has been established that she was a woman ruler of note around 300 AD.
The site and museum is situated in a moonscape setting within sight of the Pacific and once again, the Peruvians have created a museum architecturally worthy of the find.
Laid out well with informative signage in Spanish and English. The frescos in the site are stunning and actually well-preserved in all their anatomically correct detail including the genitalia of the male prisoners of war.
After leaving the site, glad we backtracked to visit these three sites, we found a quiet pullout in the middle of the sugar cane fields and boondocked.
We spent Saturday 9th, driving south again, bypassing Trujillo through vast stretches of desert sand dunes and turned inland at Puerto Santa to head back up into the Andes to the Cordillera Blanca region.