All the buses north of Lima were overnighters so we ended up on an 8 hour overnight bus to Trujillo from where we skipped straight through to Huanchaco, a beach town 12km from Trujillo on the Pacific Coast. It’s famous for totora (reed) fishing boats called little horses, which fishermen surf back to the beach with their catch. We loved being by the sea and even though it’s winter the days would start off overcast but warm and by lunchtime there would be blue skies and it would be hot.
We sorted ourselves out pretty quickly then decided to take a trip to Chan Chan which was accordingly to LP is ‘the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas and the largest adobe city in the world.’ It contained 10,000 structures, including 9 royal compounds, one of which is what you visit (the rest of the city is pretty much ruins in the desert which stretch for a long way but are bloody hard to photograph from the ground). We could only imagine the huge scale of these buildings made of sand from what was left, although the remains themselves are interesting. We got mobbed by a bunch of 9 year old girls on a school trip once they knew we spoke English but apart from the screeching and inpromptu English lesson given with Emma’s teaching skills, the place was really quiet.
The next day we spent our time hopping in and out of combis and micros to the other archaeological sights of the region which was lots of fun. We were offered several taxis from Trujillo where we sussed out the bus north before heading out of town but knew we could do it cheaper and have more fun doing it our way. Firstly we took a combi ride to Las Huacas del Sol y de la Luna – Moche temples 10km SE of Trujillo which were in fact pyramids. Huaca del Sol is Peru’s largest pre-Columbian structure which originally had several levels but now it looks like a giant deformed sand castle – must have been amazing in its time though.
We then hopped to La Huaca Arco Iris (Rainbow Temple) one of the best preserved Chimu temples as it was covered in sand until the 1960’s. It’s located in a suburb of Trujillo and hardly feels outside of the city as its surrounded by houses, shops, main road and so on. Its location is fascinating as are the rainbow designs that covered it (not all of which are visible yet). We have now officially gone to the top of our first pyramid which was pretty amazing as you could imagine the view they had when it was the only thing there.
The Temple is accompanied by a small family of Peruvian hairless dogs which sit by the gate. They have no hair because their body temperature is higher than that of normal dogs (traditionally they have been used as body warmers for people with arthritis). The big ones were really cute and it felt a bit like stroking a pig (without the coarse pig hairs) and the pups were particularly cute as they seem to be born with some hair then lose it meaning they have some funny, cute hairstyles. Emma decided she wants one although we doubt NZ will let them in.
The following day was spent on the beach in Huanchaco looking across the Pacific in our beach gear towards NZ (ish). Some low-key swimming was had, fun playing in the surf and trying to get the colour of our feet to match our legs (which are much more white than our arms). We had a great day in typical summer weather and finished it by joining a game of beach volleyball as the sunset.
- Northern Peru is so much cheaper than the more touristy Southern Peru
- In Southern Peru kids dress up in traditional clothes, stick a baby alpaca/llama/sheep on a lead and ask you to take their photo for money, in Northern Peru kids ask to have their photo taken with you (we don’t charge!)
- Even adults randomly will say “hello” as you walk past them
- Its not necessary to own a car in Peru as pubic transport is so cheap and frequent and everyone drives like they’re on speed, so you’re better off in a bigger vehicle anyway.
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