Huaca del Sol - note cars in foreground for scale
Pisco Sour Day officially falls on the first Saturday in February in Peru. Rather than going out drinking, though, we took the night bus to Trujillo. This represented a big change: rather than booking everything weeks in advance, and spending up to a month in one place, we started a new phase of travel, only reserving the next hotel, and only for a few nights at a time. This meant that we spread out our planning, rather than doing it in chunks, and gave us more flexibility to move on when we were done with a place, rather than having to stick to a schedule.
Trujillo, third-largest city in Peru, was named after the home town of notorious shitbag Francisco Pizarro. We initially thought it might be worth staying for four nights, but we only booked three to start with, and were quite happy to move on after that. The colonial centre of town is remarkably well preserved, but the main attraction is the archaeology.
The Moche people ruled the north coast of Peru from here around 100-700 CE. Outside Trujillo, they left what now look like two massive hills of mud. The Huaca del Sol was the largest pre-Columbian structure in Peru, but was looted and partially destroyed by the Spanish. Now, as you can see from the photo above, it is suffering badly from erosion when it (occasionally) rains.
The Huaca de la Luna is better preserved, and has been excavated on and off for the last hundred years. It is actually five iterations of the same building, built over each other like Russian dolls. This pattern of reconstructing buildings on top of each other is seen elsewhere in Peru, including at Sipan and Huaca Pucllana: I suppose it's a lot easier to build a massive temple that way than by starting from scratch. Here, it means that a lot of what were once external murals have been preserved by the outer layers. Some interesting anti-seismic techniques were used when filling up the old buildings: rather than using rubble or laying complete courses of brick, large stacks of brick were laid next to each other, presumably to allow motion during earthquakes.
The Moche civilisation died out some time in the eighth century, probably falling apart after a series of severe El Niño years meant that there wasn’t enough spare labour to spend on building enormous temples for priests who couldn't stop it raining.
Restored wall and details of murals, Huaca de la Luna
The Chimú culture arose around a hundred years after the decline of the Moche. The city of Chan Chan was first constructed 850 CE, and is now the largest adobe city in the Americas at around 20 square kilometres. Each of ten Chimú kings built a walled ciudela to live in and rule from, abandoning the old quarters. The city fell into disuse after the Chimú were conquered by the Incas in 1470. This was only fifty years before the arrival of the Spanish, who thoroughly pillaged the place. Part of the site has been restored, but much of it is just washing away every time it rains.
Walls at Chan Chan (restored and unrestored)
There appears to be very little left to show how ordinary Moche or Chimú lived - or Inca, for that matter. Almost everything displayed in the museums was found in elite graves, and many of the non-elite remains documented were human sacrifices. I don’t know whether this is because archaeologists have been concentrating on high-status sites, or that ordinary people aren’t exciting enough to put in museums, or even to mention much of the time. The millions of adobe bricks that were used to build the Huaca de la Luna have what seem to be makers’ marks on them, hypothesised to be evidence that families or groups paid some kind of tax by making bricks.
Details of Huaca de la Luna: murals of Mochica chief deity Ai aipaec and anti-seismic brick stacking
Logistics: Cruz del Sur overnight bus S/90 each in the VIP section. Good reclining seats with personal video screens, but a pretty bumpy journey.
We went to Chan Chan and the Huacas on a full-day tour by Colonial Tours for S/175 each, booked by turning up to their office. If you take this, don't eat lunch at the restaurant that they stop off at: we had a miserable and overpriced meal there. It was a good way of getting to see everything quickly, but we often had the sense that we were being herded around - literally, in the case of the museum at the Huacas, where we were given half an hour and then shooed back onto the bus.
Getting a bus ticket onwards to Chiclayo was a nightmare: the Lonely Planet had the wrong address for where we could buy tickets, and we didn't realise that we needed to bring passports, so we spent a whole afternoon wandering around town. The travel agent on the Plaza de Armas does sell tickets, though.
Food: Las Mollejitas serves (only) chicken gizzards fried in butter. Cheap, and well worth queueing for.