Trujillo, Chan Chan and the glorious Pyramid of the Moon

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May 6th 2013
Published: May 8th 2013
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6th May ’13 Chiclayo to Trujillo

Yet another bus journey with yet another bus company, this time it was Empressta VIP and we were both finger printed and videoed for this one! Nice comfy bus but unlike Cruz del Sur we didn’t get to play bingo – I forgot to mention this, totally mad, after lunch we were each given a one game card, the hostess called the numbers in rapid Spanish and by the time we had figured out what the first number was she was onto the 10th so we gave up! The winner however got a prize – no idea what but it may have been a free trip and then had to sing a Thank you song! Eek how embarrassing, kind of glad my Spanish is rubbish.

The bus only took 3 ½ hours – it was 30 minutes early!!! A real first for us. We walked to our hostel stopping on the way to buy our bus tickets for our last journey, to Lima. Howard managed to persuade the lass on the counter to check for the promotional prices for us, which she definitely wasn’t going to just offer us, as he had spotted them on the internet and in the end saved us £20 so well done him!

As we arrived on a Sunday lots of the shops and restaurants were shut which meant it was really quiet with not much traffic which was great, already though you can tell that this is a much cleaner, calmer and nicer little city.

Our hostel – the Colonial Hotel is just what is says, a really large old colonial house, with courtyard gardens and a fabulous roof top terrace. As we checked in we were nabbed by the girl from the tour company which seems to be connected to the hotel. We had indicated on our email that we wanted to do a couple of their tours and she was going to sign us up and get the money before we could change our minds! We ended up being slightly conned over the price but hey ho…

Wandering around the city streets we came to the Plaza de Armes, with a large cathedral, a church, colonial buildings and a very elaborate statue in the centre. A ‘Tourist Greeter’ came up to us and gave us a useful map of the city and
8 Hotel Colonial (2)8 Hotel Colonial (2)8 Hotel Colonial (2)

Our room is behind the sea horse!
explained how easy it was to get to the archaeological sites!! Well it might be easy if you speak Spanish but I reckon the tour was probably easier for us.

We visited the market and did a bit of haggling (actually the concept doesn’t seem to exist in Peru they just say there price and you take it or leave it, they don’t seem that bothered which) as we are at the end of the trip I can actually get a few souvenirs now.

Ate at a chicken place which was the cheapest thing we could find, the portions were huge and two little Chinese ladies came over to examine our food before ordering theirs! Then it was back to the rooftop and relax.

The staff here seem to spend their whole time cleaning, it is really weird, but by midnight they were still cleaning and fixing something in the room next to ours and it became just plain annoying!

7/5/13 Trujillo – Pyramid of the Moon and Chan Chan Tour

Woke up very early due to people talking outside and the noise echoing around the courtyard so I put the fan on and it drowned out everything. Eventually it was up and ready for the trip. There was another older English couple from London on the minibus and about 8 spanish speakers – including 4 elderly ladies with various degrees of mobility problems, which meant we had to sit at the back of the bus. However on the positive side the group was split for the site visits and us 4 Brits got the official guide and the others got the bus driver!

We drove through the outskirts of the city where the original Moche water channels are still used to irrigate the land and grow crops.

First up was the Huasas de Moche – a museum containing all the amazing original pottery from the Pyramid sites. The pottery depicted the faces of the Moche people at the time and was lovely detailed work. There were also the clubs used in the ritual fighting before the human sacrifices took place which was very interesting.

Then we went on to the Huaca de La Luna – the Pyramid of the Moon. The pyramid was only relatively recently discovered and excavation of it began in 1998 and it is thought that this pyramid was only used for ritual ceremonial purposes.

It was amazing! The entrance faced the sacred mountain behind the pyramid, the Mountain God was the deity of the Moche civilization and his face is depicted on the friezes. The Pyramid of the Moon was built of mud bricks in layers. Every 100 years the existing layer was filled in with thousands of mud bricks and a new bigger temple was built on top, in this way an inverted pyramid was created within the outer pyramid shell. This is also why the lower levels are so well preserved. The walls were also built with slight gaps in places to allow for movement during earthquakes. The pyramid is still being excavated and it took years to clear and preserve what we could see, not surprising really!

The families in the city paid taxes to the temple in the form of mud bricks, each with their own unique identifying mark so the priest could tell who had paid up!

There are 5 levels making up the pyramid, however the 5th level was eroded and mainly worn away. Levels 4 and 3 are excavated and the friezes around the walls were fantastic with really vibrant colours.

There was a small private courtyard with a group of rocks which resembled the mountain in front of them and this was the area which was used for human sacrifices. The person to be sacrificed was chosen by ritual fighting, the two strongest and tallest warriors would compete against each other and the one who lost their headdress first lost. He would then be stripped naked and led off with a rope around his neck. He would be kept in a special chamber for two weeks and given the juice of the San Pedro Cactus (similar to mescaline) to drink for the whole time. This ensured his body would be cleansed and also he would be completely out of it by the time he was to be sacrificed.

The priest would take the person up onto the rocks and then slit their throat and the blood would be caught in a ceremonial cup. This all took place in privacy and some sacrificees would also have their arms and legs chopped off! The cup of blood would then be shown to the commoners waiting in the outer courtyard. The blood was an offering to appease the Mountain God, with one man being sacrificed every 25 years, this tied in with the cycle of the El Nino (heavy rains and floods) at that time. However 140 skeletons were found here!

The outer wall of the 5th level alongside the outer courtyard (for the commoners) is still intact and has stunning frescoes and a highly decorated entrance gate which is known as the Mural of the Myths, wow.

The Huaca de Sol or Pyramid of the Sun is directly opposite the Pyramid of the Moon and was built at the same time, it was originally much larger but only about 1/3 remains after those bloody Spaniards diverted the course of the Moche River in an attempt to destroy it.

Archaeologists are still working on it so it is closed to the public but it is thought that it was originally an administrative complex, they have only found lines rather than freizes decorating the walls so far.

In between the two pyramids was a huge city of about 20,000 people all of whom were of the higher classes – nobility, priests, warriors and craftsmen. Again this was only recently discovered as it was completely buried in the soil.

This whole site was amazing and for my info this is where I bought two little tiles.

Then it was lunch in one of the usual tourist trap restaurants but we had a great time chatting with the other English couple who are spending a month travelling around Peru.

The afternoon visits were all about the Chimu period which followed on from the Moche era. After the Moche Mountain God culture fell from grace the Chimu descendants moved from the mountain areas to the coast and worship changed to the Moon God. The Chimu also believed that man originally came from the sea and that in the afterlife they would return there.

Our first stop was at the Huaca Arco Iris – the Dragon Pyramid. This site was only used by the commoners, it was only on one level but had some nice stone carving on some of the walls. We also saw two Peruvian Hairless Dogs – they look really weird, apparently they have a high body temperature and so are often used to keep people warm!

Then we drove out across the desert wastelands – or that’s how they appeared, and found the road actually was running right through the middle of the huge Chan Chan City. This city was built about 1300 AD and used to have 10,000 structures and 30,000 people lived in it. It was the largest mud brick built city in the world and the largest Pre-Columbian city in the Americas.

Once again work was only recently started on this area and it was added to the World Heritage List in 1986. The city is now mainly low mud mounds as when the bloody Spanish arrived they considered the ceremonies held here to be idolatory and changed the course of the Moche River to destroy the area.

There were ten palaces in the city and only one, Tschudi is excavated and can be visited. Originally the walls were 12 metres high and within is a labyrinth of alleyways, storage rooms and three courtyards.

The palace was never lived in but was a mausoleum for one king. His mummified body was buried here along with his wife and 600 concubines!!! All of whom were sacrificed (using poison) and buried with him in groups of 13 to a grave.

The King’s mummy was exhumed once a year and taken to the very large outer courtyard (the only place commoners could enter) and placed on the platform. People would travel from all over Peru to present offerings, pray, dance and take part in rituals honouring the dead King. The Spanish considered this idolatory and burnt all the mummies!!

Similar rituals still take place today in Peru and Mexico – the Day of the Ancestors and the Day of the Dead, so those Spaniards didn’t succeed despite all their atrocities.

The 2nd smaller courtyard with its platform for the mummy was used by the Nobility and Priests and the 3rd smallest courtyard and platform was for the private use of the royal family only.

Storage rooms surrounded the courtyards for all the offerings and all the walls were decorated with freizes of waves, fish and sea life and pelicans ran around the base of the walls showing the direction that people should walk in in each area. Stone walls were also cut into fishing net designs which also served as ventilation.

There was also a large reservoir in which the Moon was reflected and here ceremonies to the Moon God would be held.

This one vast palace complex made up only 2% of the entire city!

Although not as visually impressive, as most of it is destroyed, you had to marvel at the sheer scale of the place!

Lastly we finished off with a quick trip to Huanchaco a small fishing village famous for its totora reed fishing boats. We had a walk along the pier and a bit of a chuckle at the two big fat westerners trying to sail said boats, had a quick look at the boats lined up along the sea wall and then it was back to Trujillo.

A great day out!

Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 30


3 Pyramid of the Moon (14)3 Pyramid of the Moon (14)
3 Pyramid of the Moon (14)

Face of the Mountain God with waves round his head

9th May 2013
3 Pyramid of the Moon (27) Outer wall of 5th level

Fabulous pic, I love this! xx
9th May 2013
4 Huaca Arco Iris - Dragon Pyramid (2)

This looks incredible and as you say if they've only uncovered 2% of it I can't begin to imagine the scale of it all!

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