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Published: October 22nd 2017
Pachacamac next to "invaders"
We were told that squatters are a problem for land owners in Peru. If you don't protect your land, "invaders" will come and build on it. We were taken with the evidence that yet another civilization was building on the layers of past cities underneath. The ruins under conservational protection are in the foreground.
Geo: -12.0432, -77.0282
We decided to get a tour guide for our final day. We wanted to see some of the city's major cultural sites and, for $160US we were able to hire a car and guide from Lima Cabs for the bulk of the day. Originally, Mike had wanted to make arrangements to try and go fishing for a day since this is a coastal city, but we were surprised to find very few recreational or sport fishing opportunities available here. I think the fish are here, but the travel industry hasn't expanded to fill this niche yet.
Our guide, Fernando, picked us up at 9 and we headed south along the coast toward Pachacamac, some Incan and pre-Incan ruins that are currently being excavated, restored and conserved. The visit to the site started with a funny hiccup. Although Fernando had been at the site only 10 days ago, in the interim they had closed and completely gutted the museum that used to support the site. They are building a new one, but in the interim, visitors are out of luck. A few things jumped out at us about this site. First, Peru is pretty lenient with squatters rights so there is
We saw several bone fragments just lying near the path at Pachacamac. Our guide said that until recently you could visit and just take whatever you wanted. Nudge a pile of sand with your foot and you were likely to find bones, fabric, pottery, tools, seashells... almost anything that the past residents left behind.
a large population living in an area immediately adjacent to these ruins. This means, in all probability, that they have built on top of sites that were built on top of other sites that were built on top of other sites going back about 4,000 years. The cycle continues.
The second thing that we found fascinating is that it is a huge site and excavation and conservation have really barely begun, even though they have been working on it for many years. It's a sandy, desert area and you can see human bones, shards of pottery and pieces of mummy shroud just lying by the side of the paths you walk. As Fernando said, you can push at the sand with your toe and uncover something easily. I've never experienced anything like that before. They estimate that tens of thousands of people were buried in a fairly small area, thus the bones all over the place. When the Spanish came through, they were only interested in gold and left everything else.
The third bit of incongruity that struck me was the fact that the ruins were next to a makeshift slum on one side and a polo pitch on the
This bit of ruin has a shack built overtop to help protect the exterior painting from the elements. Until recently, the ruins were essentially "protected" by the sand that buried them. The paint is made of a powder from some of the red and yellow rocks in the area. The park has recreated the mural on the shack. The motifs are largely of sea creatures. Archeologists estimate more than 25,000 bodies are buried in the land between the shack and the photographer.
other. Seriously. Impoverished desert slum, prehistoric ruins and manicured grass with thoroughbred ponies all within a 45 minute walk of one another. Tack on another 15 minutes and you could get to the ocean as well.
After we were done walking around the ruins, we braved traffic to head into the main part of the old city center. Lima has between 9-10 million people and the city is divided into 43 districts. So far we had only spent significant time in 3: the ones most suitable to gringo tourists. This trip gave us the opportunity to see some of the rest of the sprawling capitol. There is one part of the city that is literally walled off from the section next to it to keep the riff-raff out. It's so striking to drive by and see it from the Pan American Highway-- slum and then suddenly upper middle class and apparently they will not meet any time soon. I asked Fernando how the squatter's housing does during earthquakes because it all looked alarmingly slapdash to me. He said that many of the people living in those areas have experience working construction so that they do a pretty good job with the
This area is still in the relatively early days of conservation and I'm sure the budget is pretty limited, given the other more pressing problems facing the governments. Bits and pieces from the burial ground work their way to the surface all the time. Walking by you can easily see hand woven cotton cloth, hanks of hair and even bones lying in the open.
buildings. I can only hope that he is right.
Traffic was pretty bad today so we didn't get to spend as much time downtown as we would have liked. We looked briefly around the Plaza Mayor and took a very quick tour through the monastery of San Francisco. That was a fascinating mashup of Spanish and Moorish architecture, Peruvian art influenced by Flemmish painters and Catholic iconography. Add to all that the fact that each room had collapsed 2-4 times over the past several hundred years during one earthquake or another. Underneath San Francisco is a large set of catacombs that houses the remains of more than 25,000 former poor locals. Regardless of whether or not you could pay, you could be laid to rest in a mass grave with your former neighbors. It is not very different at all from what we saw at Pachacamac, bones and all.
We had a few last-minute things we wanted to get done in Lima before we left. First was a trip to the grocery store for gifts and food souvenirs. We bought 2L of Pisco and some flavor powders so we can try our hand at making Pisco Sours at home. We are told
Pachacamac is bordered by squatter slums on one side and a manicured polo pitch with thoroughbred horses on another.
that the Pisco in the US isn't as good. I also bought some bitters, corn snacks and chicha morada candies (purple sweet corn). They are like Jolly Ranchers, but purple. I should have looked for more pink salt, but forgot. I also considered bringing back some quinoa, but decided against it because of the weight.
We hopped across the street from our hotel and got sandwiches and apple crisp from a casual dining place called The Sofa Cafe. It was cute and funky and the apple crisp was awesome. I sort of wished we had tried it out earlier. We also bought a couple things at the alpaca and gift store next door. All inventory was 30% off. We certainly should have gone there sooner.
As our last tourist event in Peru we went to Parque de la Reserva which is a large urban park that has a number of water fountains that they light up in the evenings. Some are just for watching, others are filled with kids dancing around and shrieking. It's a lot of fun-- plenty of local families out for an evening of splashing and eating ice cream or cotton candy. Every hour or so at night they
This worker is "painting" some mud along the edges of some of the original red paint to try and protect if from the elements.
also put on a laser light show at the central fountain. A thin wall of water acts as a kind of screen for the projection of images and they play music to go along with it. It was a fun, fond farewell.
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