Diary/Photo Journal

Week of
February 22, 2004

We made it over to the Pacific coast to a little camping area in Punta Sal.  We just licked our wounds and made some of the necessary repairs to Cindy.  Now, she has a bit of a pirate look with a patch over her upper eye.  Very nice beaches in northern Peru and surprisingly, Peru's coastline is bordered by extensive deserts.  When I used to think of South America, I thought of the Amazon and that tropical/jungle appearance; however, Peru is starting to alter that way of thinking.

Cindy with her
pirate look

The beach of
Punta Sal

Two nights of
spectacular sunsets

We drove further south and landed in Piura for an overnight stay.  Piura was founded in 1532 by Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador credited with conquering the Incas.  It is Peru's oldest colonial city and its cathedral dates from 1588.  Sadly, in 1912 a significant earthquake destroyed many of the original colonial buildings and not much remains of historic interest.

Northern Peru
coastal landscape
Piura's cathedral built in 1588

Piura was the first
city created by Pizarro

Again, heading south through the barren desert terrain, we could not resist investigating a vast, yet little known ruin site called Tucume (Too-coo-may).  There are over 200 hectares of crumbling walls, plazas and pyramids as well as an onsite museum.  We walked through the ongoing excavations and surveyed the ancient city (700AD) from atop the central hill.

Tucume layout and views over the unexcavated
plaza, pyramids and communal homes.

You know you are in trouble when you
hike up a steep desert hill and are
greeted by this bird!

A sample of the great
reliefs they are finding
in Tucume.

And you wonder why
we get turned around!

We stayed the night in Chiclayo (Chee-clay-o) wherein we restocked Cindy with food and replaced some of the stolen items.  There is not much to elaborate about Chiclayo except to be careful when you buy some hielo (ice).  Usually, we have received a cozy little bag that will fit snugly into our cooler; however, you never know quite what you are going to get.    

Our path through Chiclayo
mucho taxis
Be careful what you wish for!

We were heading toward Trujillo, but we got sidetracked by (guess what?), yet another ruin site.  Sipan (Sigh-pan 700 AD) was only recently discovered (1987) by a local drunk that passed out and fell into one of the collapsed tombs (according to our tour guides, Anna and Maria).  This inebriated Peruvian awakened on top of gold body armor, gold necklaces and gold, silver and ceramic statues, cups and pots.  As he was hauling off his treasure, he was spotted by a local resident who in turn, fortunately, reported him to the authorities.  The trespasser was caught and he admitted that the stash was hidden in his home.  When the authorities went to his home to recover the stolen artifacts, the trespasser's son and friends ran with the goods and when they realized they would not be able to escape, dumped the treasure in the nearby river.  Many of the items have never been found (makes you want to explore that river, doesn't it?).

About our unique guides.  When we arrived at Sipan, we were inundated with little people, trying to lure us over to the souvenir stands or pestering us to be our guides.  "What can these 5-8 year olds possibly know about this site?" we found ourselves asking each other.  Well, we were able to shoo them away and we visited the informative museum and the fantastic tombs.  As we were climbing atop what was one of the (dirt) pyramids, we were greeted by Anna and Maria, two of the little people that wanted to be our guides.  Seeing as they cannot enter the ruin site, they have created a narrow path up the side of the pyramid (that originates from outside of the protected area).  Thus, enabling them to sneak into the area without detection and still solicit our business. 

Maria started animatedly speaking of the history of Sipan and the founding peoples and humorously explained the story of the discovery of the ruins themselves.  We intently listened to this varied and fascinating history lesson and after 15 minutes, we realized that this 8 year old either has a vivid story-telling capability or that she really knows her stuff.  We preferred to believe the latter and tipped each "historianita" two Soles (about $.60US).

1) Excavating a tomb
2) Important person buried
with his sacrificed warriors,
a llama, and if you look closely
at the skeleton along the base,
you will see the skeleton of a
dog superimposed on the body.
3) Very important person and his
sacrificial entourage of men, a
woman, a llama and two guards
(see in wall and on ledge).
4) A man and a woman and two

1) Our guides Anna and Maria
2) Another tomb
3) You can never
have enough pots in the afterlife
4) Typical bridge
5) Locals make their own mud and straw bricks
6) Typical home where they just built the street up and over the threshold

Since we were going to pass yet another famous surf spot, we decided to take a detour (uh, shortcut?) and head back to the coast.  Chicama (Cheh-ca-ma) is purported to have the "longest left" in the world and after seeing these waves peel left and go on and on and on, I am ready to believe that boast.  Unfortunately, Gerson was not able to finish the repair to his board in time to ride waves that he rode 20 (yes, 20) years ago when he first came here.  Because the vandalism caused such deep gouges in the board, Gerson has had to layer the repair and wait until each layer dries, thus preventing him from enjoying this epic wave.

Our shortcut (?)
Our guide through a city with
no signs giving direction
Gerson watching the
surf and that lonnnnnng
(1 mile) left break

After Chicama, we headed over to Trujillo, where there are several Moche and Chimu Indian ruin sites that Gerson could not pass up.  Trujillo was founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro and it maintains much of its colonial charm.  We spent more time in and around the ruins than the city itself, but our time walking around the main plaza and the nearby streets was very enjoyable.

View of the
main plaza

Typical Peruvian
intersection - how
many lanes are there?

Main plaza with Gerson being a
target for the shoe-shine boys, even
though he has canvas shoes on.

See the Sleeping Indian mountain in
the background


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