Travels with John Smith
Chapter 58 year 9 (2020)
Peru Part 1
Lima, Trujillo and Huanchaco
-The cliffs above the Pacific Ocean
-Larcomar shopping mall
-The Larco museum and erotic art
-1st class bus ride
-Steve and Nancy show us around
-Tacu Tacu my new fav food
-Chan Chan mud palace
-Trujillo’s kilometre long mosaic wall
-Temples of the sun and moon
-Deserted beach and discovering Inca Cola
-Thai restaurant in a ghost town
Travels with John Smith
Chapter 58, year 9 (2020)
Peru Part 1
Lima, Trujillo, Huanchaco
It’s lunchtime and we are eating a Ceviche in our hotel dining room. This one is marinated in lime juice and onions with a salad with large kernels of corn and boiled sweet potato on the side. Our Hotel is in the Miraflores district, which is meant to be one of the easiest places to stay as it is within walking distance to a lot of the places we want to see.
There is a boardwalk along the top of the cliffs looking out over the Pacific Ocean that Steve told us is a ‘must’ walk in Lima. We pass by buildings with fantastic graffiti on the sides and then get lost on our way there, despite looking at the GPS (I’m still not great at that), but we make it and it is worth it. The views are incredible from the top of the cliff, so we walk along, through green gardens, a lighthouse, walls with mosaic tiles and outdoor sitting areas with kissing statues. The waves crash on the beaches far down below, on the other side of a busy road.
There are a couple places where you can walk down a lot of stairs that leads to an overpass to get to the beach so we begin the long walk down the steps with the hot sun beating down on our neck and shoulders. We don’t have any beach gear with us so we sit on a bench eating an ice cream, watching the surfers. The stairs to go back up are few and far between and there are lots of cars down here on the road beside us so we make our way back up the way we came, to the more shaded walk alongside beautiful green gardens and apartments with a view.
We hear about a mall that is back towards our hotel that is along this path somewhere so we keep walking until we find it. Air conditioning and a washroom sound pretty good right now. Larcomar sits on top of the high cliffs facing the Pacific Ocean. The main shopping mall is partly outdoors so no air conditioning unless we go inside a restaurant or store but doing that would deprive us of the lovely view. There are plenty of places to choose from so we have a snack, check out some stores and hang out there for a while before walking back to the hotel. The whole time we are here, we see people parasailing from the top of a tall apartment building, down past the front of the cliff the mall is built into. Some of them swoop a little too close to the building so despite the fact that it looks like fun, we aren’t tempted to try it this time.
Today we are in the super cool, bohemian area called Barranco. There are lots of colonial mansions converted into restaurants, cafés and art galleries, etc. This historic place is the ‘in’ place for hipsters and artists. We walk down some steps beside two large heads painted on the the wall and we are now under a tunnel that is entirely painted with South American looking faces and a starry sky. There is a photo shoot happening right now. On the other side of it is an entire wall with a story told with painting.
There is gorgeous graffiti everywhere, on every wall, like the artists of this city could not contain themselves and we are in an outdoor art gallery. Below the mansions turned restaurants, there are long wide steps leading to the some of the city’s best beaches. There is a sign that says “Stories, poems, singing and tales were born under the majestic influence of this wonderful district. The pride and sentiment of the Barranco’s people is eternal for artists, poets, writers, and intellectuals who have taught us to dream and create”. Alongside this, there are black and white pictures of artists over a 100 year period of time.
We are in a taxi, driving through an area that doesn’t look that safe on our way to the Larco Museum. We heard about it from Steve as another ‘must’ see museum in Lima. We arrive in front of a lovely white 18th-century building with a tall, black wrought iron fence. There is a guard and then a long walkway up to the main entrance, past blooming red flowers and a luxurious green garden courtyard in the centre. There are 5,000 years of Peruvian pre-Columbian history in this place but it’s mostly famous for the exhibition on the bottom floor, where there is a gallery full of pre-Columbian erotic pottery. We breeze through the upper floor and head downstairs. This part of the museum is quite busy, with people giggling and chattering away. There are clay pots, cups and vessels of every sort with every imaginable erotic position and orientation. It is definitely worth a visit! There is a beautiful teahouse in the courtyard with more tropical flowers, green vegetation and every sort of cacti. Even though the menu is amazing, we are not really hungry so we get them to call us a cab and make our way to Miraflores.
We have noticed a lot of dogs on the streets that look like they have no hair at all, except for a tuft of it, like a punk rocker, in-between their ears. We find out they are called ‘Peruvian Hairless’ and they are an ancient breed of dogs that are often seen in pre-Incan art and pottery. They are now a symbol and part of Peru’s national heritage.
We are on a 1st class double decker bus on our way to Trujillo and Huanchaco to see our friends, Steve and Nancy. This time we got the hotel to book the tickets for us, so this one is like the 1st class buses we read about. The seats recline to 180 degrees, there are small screen TV’s with a supply of movies on them, we are served snacks and meals and we can use the washroom. We drive through dunes and mountains of sand, past small cities of one storey houses, that look like Luke Skywalker’s home town. Then we go through green valleys and ploughed fields, then alongside sandy beaches, the ocean and the sunset.
It’s close to midnight and we have arrived at the small bus depot, on a small, dark street in Trujillo. There are a couple of taxis waiting there but when we show them the address, they won’t take us. They say it is too late. We ask the woman behind the desk at the front of the depot to help us as we don’t know what to do. She says she can’t help us and after some badgering, a man standing nearby talks to one of the drivers and he tells us to get in.
We drive for about 20 to 30 minutes on an almost deserted road and arrive outside a tall wall, in front of the ocean. There is a tall wooden gate with buzzer outside. Someone opens a small window to get a look at us before they let us in, like we are coming into a private club. We walk into a courtyard, where there is a swimming pool and a room with a front desk. Our rooms are simple, with two single beds, a table and chairs and a large window looking out above the wall at the road and the ocean on the other side of it.
It is morning and we are sitting in a funky little cafe with Steve and Nancy. They came to our hotel to get us and began our introduction to Huanchaco, the beach village where they have been living for the past couple of years. We have some breakfast and walk around the town, past the beaches with a few families settling in for the day under their umbrellas. There are people taking pictures of the Guanay cormorants strutting around the sand and others setting up stands or laying down cloth to place the products they will be selling. Further down, there are no people at all, only empty beach chairs and the ice cream lady riding her bicycle with the small freezer in front, looking for customers.
We walk through the local market with people selling different kinds of nuts, coffee blends, chicken, purple corn, peppers, bags of small limes, ripe bananas, huge avocados, mangos, melons etc. There are street food stalls and the place is buzzing. Steve says this is where they get most of their groceries and its all pretty cheap. He says he rarely spends more than $5 for a couple days groceries for both him and Nancy. He says even eating out at what he calls, “Mom and Pop” places is $3 to $6 dollars with the menu of the day, if you are eating local food.
We go to see their apartment and meet some of their neighbours, most of whom are foreigners, though the building is owned by a local. They have a good sized apartment with a huge terrace wrapping around it. It is set up like a living room outside and is covered for the sun and or rain but the temperature stays a pretty constant 24 or 25 degrees Celcius most of the year so thats where they spend a lot of their time.
We go out for dinner to a slightly more upmarket fish restaurant and I have a local specialty dish, Tacu Tacu with seafood. It is a kind of rice and bean cake with fresh jumbo prawns, calamari, lime, chili and garlic and seafood sauce, etc. Oh my God! It is so good, I finish the entire thing. I fall asleep thinking about it.
John and I wake up early and go to the beach. It is almost empty so we have our choice of beach chairs. We take turns walking up and down the beach and just when I am wondering about going into the water, I see a large, flat, purple blob about the size of both my feet together laying in the sand near the shore. Not sure if it’s the kind of jellyfish that stings or not so I decide to stay out of the water.
The hot sun is beating down on us and we are walking through the remains of a city and palace that is called Chan Chan. It is apparently the largest mud city in the world and was the largest pre-Columbian city in South America. Chan Chan was built somewhere around 850 AD and had approximately 40 to 60,000 people living there.
We are in a section that has tall Adobe walls which was the actual palace and the main part of what remains. The rest of what what is here, surrounding this part are small cubby holes that were houses and burial areas.
Most of it has worn or blown away as the government couldn’t afford the upkeep but now they are trying to protect it, since it has become a World Heritage site. Our guide tells us about the ceremonies that took place here. He says when someone was chosen for a human sacrifice, it was considered an honour and they were given a drug to keep them calm before it was carried out in the big square.
We hear a South American flute as we walk around the sand coloured low walls, trying to guess what the small diamond shaped cubby holes in each dwelling would be used for. We see the musician, leaning over a high wall. Below the wall is another Peruvian hairless dog sleeping in the shade. It all adds to this experience.
We are looking out at the sunset from our hotel window and there are many surfers still out riding the waves under the last rays of sunshine. This is apparently a real surf hangout and Steve told us he took some lessons as there are waves for every level here. I think it’s too late for us.
John and I do a side trip back to Trujillo for a couple days. We walk towards Plaza de Armas, which is the spacious, main square lined with colonial mansions and a Cathedral. We grab a taxi from there to go to the Mosaic mural otherwise known as ‘El Mosaico’ at the University.
The wall was imagined and created by one artist, Rafaek Hastings, along with a few helpers along the way. It is a kilometre long, 30 million pieces of mosaic and goes around 3 sides of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, which is one of the oldest universities in Peru. It was built from 1994 to 2008 and is a collection of stories and images that reflect Peruvian themes. We ask the taxi driver to drive us around slowly so I can film the entire masterpiece in it’s splendour. Steve told us about this place and it isn’t in the must see places in Trujillo on some of the tourist sites I’ve been on but it is definitely a must! Every part of it is stunning.
We are driving in the desert and we see them, 2 pyramids made from millions of adobe handmade bricks that are the remains of the city that lies between them. They are the Temples of the sun and moon. The city that was once here was the capital of the Moche culture who lived here for a few hundred years.
The Huaca de la Luna or the moon temple was more of a ceremonial or religious structure. Some of the altars were used for human sacrifice.
The Huaca del Sol or the Temple of the Sun has four main levels, each one built from different rulers so we started at the top and make our way down to a gigantic wall with ancient Moche designs faded but still intact in some places scaffolding in front of it.
We are back with Steve and Nancy, at a beach in a village called Al Charco that seems like the middle of nowhere, about 20 to 30 minutes by car away from Huanchaco. We got here in a taxi and we are now sitting in a ‘Mom and Pop’ restaurant directly in front of the beach. It is very quiet. There are only 2 or 3 other restaurants here and they are all dead and in this one there is only one other table with people at it.
We order what Steve and Nancy suggest and have a good conversation, looking out at the bright sunny day and the waves crashing against the shore. They don’t have a lot of choice for drinks but they do have Inca Cola, which is the South American yellow soda pop equivalent of Coke a cola. Inca Cola is pretty loaded with sugar but they do have a diet version of it so I order that. It is ice cold and very refreshing. It might be my new favourite drink.
We want to go back to Huanchaco so we try to get a taxi but there are none so we opt for a kind of taxi share which is really a mini-van/bus. There is a lonely parking lot with a hand made sign saying ‘Moto/Taxi’ behind the buildings where we wait for some time for it to come by. We decide to walk up to the main road as there doesn’t seem to be any other way to get back and we don’t want to miss this one.
It arrives and it is packed with locals already. John and I squeeze into the back and Steve and Nancy sit where they can find a spot in the 4 rows of seats and we have a hair raising ride back on the dusty, windy road.
It is 2 am and we are back on the 1st class bus, on our way back to Lima for a couple nights, then we will take a flight to Arequipa. The ride so far has been uneventful and in some ways easier as we are travelling through the night, so most people are asleep.
We spent the morning on the beach and went to a Thai restaurant with Steve and Nancy for lunch. It was in a village near to Huachaco that was like a ghost town. We took a taxi there and drove past buildings that looked like they were all closed for good and then in the middle of it all was a brightly painted Oasis, with the calming scents and trickling water associated with a Thai massage. The food was unbelievably good. The man who owned the restaurant was Peruvian but his wife and mother in law did the cooking and they were Thai. It was a brave thing to do, open a restaurant in a village that didn’t appear to have anything else as far as amenities go. We had a nice conversation with them and when it was time to call a taxi, he insisted he drive us back to Huanchaco. We really hope they are able to attract enough people by word of mouth to stay open!
We arrive back in Lima, at the same hotel we stayed in before, excited to discover more of Peru. The adventure continues for a couple more episodes, that will come out on Mondays from now on.