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Published: October 7th 2013
It was early afternoon when we arrived in the city of Chiclayo, the fourth largest in Peru. We figured one afternoon would be enough to take a look at the city center, and to find a tour to see the ancient sights the next day. We were right. Rather than nice and picturesque, the city seemed tiring with its dusty streets full of holes, constant honking concert and generally rundown feel. The main square had some nicer buildings, but that was pretty much it. I had been looking forward to the Witches' Market mentioned in our guidebook as the main point of interest in the city center. Of course I was expecting a decent sized market full of quirky stuff. Hah - it was just one corner of a huge general market. Or actually, even that is an overstatement. The grand Witches Market consisted of maximum of ten stalls altogether. The stuff on display was mostly herbs and coca leaves, but also some animal feet, which was just about the most interesting thing on sale there. We moved on pretty quickly to actually one of nicest cafés we have seen in Peru so far (cozy cafés seem scarce in this country),
and sat there reading until it was time to move on to dinner to the other side of the street.
We were just on time to catch a cheap menu. The starter was a tasty rice and cabbage soup. We weren't exactly sure what we had ordered for main course, but apparently it was fish, rice and pea soup. The pea soup tasting exactly like the traditional canned version in Finland was used as dressing for the rice. If you are short of money, here's a good tip for eating cheap: rice with pea soup! It wasn't bad, on the contrary, I would say.
Related to the food prices, I have to take back some of the first impressions of Peru from Lima. Firstly, three euros for a lunch menu is not particularly cheap anymore; now the normal price appears to be around 1,5 euros. Also the country seems much poorer seen from the window of a long distance bus, compared to the capital. We have mostly ridden buses through deserted land dotted with dusty shanty towns, which look like relatively uninviting environments to live in. People still seem nice, friendly and peaceful, though 😊
the second day in Chiclayo attending a guided tourist tour around the ancient sights nearby. We had paid extra to get an English speaking tour, but anyway ended up on a bilingual tour, meaning that the tour guide had to give every explanation in English and in Spanish. The tour took us to see two museums and the valley of pyramids. These were all related to pre-Inka cultures inhabiting the area roughly 1000-1500 years ago. The museums displayed extremely skilled and well preserved ceramics and jewelry. Looking at ceramic pots in vitrines probably sounds yawning, but it was in fact quite interesting. One funny detail that particularly stack in my mind was that some high ranking individuals had a golden plate hanging from their nose: the point being that when that plate covered their mouth, it altered their voice. This would lead the regular folk to believe they were divine - seems it didn’t take much to rise yourself into the divine rank during those days. Would be funny if the men and women of the church were using the same technique nowadays too!
I have to say that the pyramids in the valley as such aren't much to look at - at times it was even hard to tell if a pile was a pyramid or a natural rock. This is apparently because the particular Sicán culture constructing them was more sloppy than the Moche people when it came to building their pyramids, and thus they haven't been as well preserved even though they are younger. However, the contents of the excavated tombs are all the more impressive. It’s not that pots and golden plates are that interesting to look at in general, but to think how old and good quality they are, how well they are preserved and how they relate to the respective cultures makes it fascinating. This was the end of ancient sightseeing for a little while, since we are soon heading towards the North and Ecuador. We will still return to Peru, though, to see all the famous inka sights later in the fall.
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