We really wanted to go and sea some of the beaches in Peru we had heard were amazing, so we investigated heading north. Unfortunately as we did more research we discovered you basically have to go all the way to the border with Ecuador to find anything really nice. Or perhaps our standards are high coming from Australia.
We settled on Huanchaco, a coastal village near the city of Trujillo and about 8 hours north of Lima. The bus ride there was so boring it was almost fascinating. There was nothing but hill after hill of sand and rock. No change in colour or landscape for 8 hours. And yet somehow people managed to survive (we assume) in the little communities scattered along the way.
We stayed in a hotel across the road from the beach which was nice for people watching from our balcony. Since we had arrived before dark we popped over the road and had a look at the famous Caballitos de totora boats, which have been used by the local fishermen for centuries. They are made from reeds with a big long curved point at the front, though we noticed they use a polystyrene or plastic bottle centre for buoyancy these days.
The next day we just wandered town. We walked along the beachfront to the northern end of town, then up the hill to the church and back down to the southern end of town, making sure to walk as slowly as possible so we could fill up the day. We stopped for coffee in a promising café called chocolate, though their chocolate brownie was average as was the hot chocolate.
Going for a swim was out of the question. The beach was dirty, and though our hotel had a pool (partly why we booked it), they had emptied it for cleaning. We walked along the jetty (after paying our entrance fee) and watched some of the locals fishing for their dinner with hand reels.
For the following day we arranged a tour to a few of the Pre-Incan sites nearby. After we had a quick look around Moche Pyramids Museum, we visited the Temple of the Moon. This temple is really impressive, towering over the ancient city below it, most of which is still under excavation.
It contained walls of beautifully decorated and colourful murals, all with cultural significance depicting things like snakes, pumas and people. There was evidence that this temple had been renovated several times like the one we saw in Lima, with several layers having been found in the main plaza area.
On the other side of the city at the foot of this temple is the Sun Temple, though this is only in early stages of excavation and can't be visited. So, we made our way back to Trujillo where we were dropped in the square with time for lunch before the afternoon part of the tour.
The first stop in the afternoon was Huaca del Arco Iris. It was an impressive structure though it seemed that the vast majority was reconstructed. The murals on the walls depicted a man and a woman, representing duality. Also rainbows, condors, pumas, snakes and possibly dragons?!? A ramp leading to the top platform gave us a view over what were perhaps storage rooms for offerings.
Then we moved on to Chan Chan, the main reason for us doing the tour. Chan Chan is a huge archaeological site which includes 11 palaces, of which we would only see one. Inside the enormous walls of this palace lies public areas such as a huge courtyard, and areas where gifts were taken for the King. There are storage areas, residential areas for the King and his family and of course tombs where the King and other important people were buried. It is believed that a new palace would be built each time there was a new King.
The palace was huge and we only saw about half of it, but it was evident here also that so much of it was reconstructed. The entire perimeter of a courtyard has a pattern of a squirrel like animal, and when we asked how much of this was original we were told only a handful from hundreds of squirrels were original.
While the reconstruction helped to see what this palace would have looked like, we couldn't help feeling like it undermined the original constructors. The remaining palaces on the site are still being excavated with plans to open them to tourists also. We only hope they leave some of the others how they find them.
The tour dropped us back in Huanchaco in time to watch some of the local surfers as the sun set while eating some local doughnuts smothered in honey. In the morning we set off back to Lima.