Thursday, September 08, 2016

South America (Peru) - Day 139 - 141: Trujillo

We didn't realise that there was a Línea bus office in town; Google had pointed us to a random part of a street which looked entirely unlike any sort of bus stop, but we took it on trust. Bit of a mistake - after a casual breakfast at California Café, we sauntered over to the location to find zero buses and ten minutes left until departure. A somewhat frantic search led us to the office five minutes walk further down the road, but thankfully we got our tickets and boarded without issue. The leather seats were the most comfortable we'd had on our trip to date, and the journey allowed us to watch a few shows and do a bit of reading with an hour break for a lunch at a Chinese fast food place in a mall. We arrived at Residencial Munay Wasi late afternoon, and were greeted effusively by a lovely lady named Carmella who immediately gave us more information about Trujillo than we'd ever use in our two and a half days in the city. The Easter period scuppered any plans we had to do laundry, leaving us no option but to hand wash our essentials in a throwback to our days in Thailand before we discovered cheap launderettes.

We set off to the university once it got dark to see the largest mural in South America adorning its surrounding walls. It was supposed to be beautifully lit up at night, but it seems that the administration had decided not to replace the lightbulbs embedded in the pavement, so all we saw of the potentially magnificent mural were shapes in different shades of orange. We decided to give up and head to dinner, specifically a steak place called Coco Torete. Here, a very patient waiter tried to help us choose a suitable cut of meat from a Spanish menu, and despite me almost ordering entrails by mistake, we ended up with a perfectly cooked piece of baby beef and a bottle of Argentinean malbec. After walking it off around the main plaza and watching an inordinately popular street performer do an odd drag act, we ended up with cocktails at club Insomnia before the bizarre music sent us home just after midnight.

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We'd accepted Carmella's offer of a tour for the following day, so after a relaxed breakfast in the hostel we were picked up and driven to Huaca de la Luna where we met our guide Napoleon. It turned out that there were no other English-speaking tourists, so we'd have him as our private guide for the entire day! The temple of the moon was almost 2000 years old and had been home to the Moche culture for over 800 years. When archaeologists excavated, they found wall decorations complete with their original colours which were stunning to look at given their age. The temple was a pyramid which had been built upon over multiple generations, and the changes in the artwork could clearly be seen as the people adopted different cultures into their designs. Napo (as he preferred to be called) was a mine of knowledge, having been teaching and guiding for over forty years. He also had a series of canine friends, apparently one at each location, who eagerly awaited his arrival. I suspect this is mainly because he fed them a load of meat sandwiches, but I may be mistaken.

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Huaca de la Luna is an adobe building set over multiple floors, and has numerous walls and murals which have somehow survived the ages with their paint intact. Some of the carvings are crazy, especially given the sheer height of the building. One mural in particular covers a staggering 200 feet, and represents animals, sacrifices, war and much more. Unlike its neighbouring Huaca del Sol (Temple of the Sun), you can walk around the Temple of the Moon unimpeded, and there are plenty of information boards dotted about.

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We stopped for lunch at El Sombrero, which couldn't have been more tourist-oriented even if it had worn a funny hat, belted out traditional music, and screamed "CHEAP CHEAP FOR YOU!" as you wandered past. Actually two of those things did happen - but they consisted simply of traditional dance from guys that were wearing far more clothing than could have been comfortable in the heat.

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We chewed on some slightly ropey ceviche which was woefully light on portion size despite the waiter's previous assurances, before moving on to Arco Iris, a big square adobe building that was previously a religious or administration centre. It was covered in dragon reliefs, but wasn't particularly interesting in itself - not least because it was tiny, and we covered the whole site in about ten minutes.

Chan Chan is Trujillo's jewel, a vast archaeological Chimú site with huge open-plan areas for government and royalty, which include burial chambers and intricate friezes. That said, I actually preferred Huaca de la Luna overall. It felt like it had a bit more character, although there is no denying the skill of the carvings at Chan Chan which make the site look like an alien landscape at times.

Our final stop with Napo was to the nearby seaside at Huanchaco where we pottered around the open air market, munched on some local wafery dessert thing, and enjoyed a magnificent sky before returning back to the hostel. We picked up some food from a nearby supermarket and enjoyed a rare homemade meal with wine.

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Early next morning we took a trip into Trujillo centre to track down some headphones for both me and Gilly (mine were completely dead, hers were on the way out), and also peek into a couple of the free museums dotted about. One exhibit on stereographs was fascinating: a photographer had taken photos from the turn of the century onwards and made them 3D, Also, wearing 3D glasses make you look cool as everyone knows.

I took us on a jaunt to a restaurant named Squalo's which turned out to be a little fancier than we were expecting. Still, it was pretty much empty and our travellers garb didn't seem to draw too much attention, so we ate some ceviche that made up for the previous day's disappointment, and knocked back what would probably be our last Peruvian pisco sour. Ever.

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From there we got a taxi to Casa Hacienda Palo Marino, where there was a show featuring the Peruvian Paso horses, a beast famous for its ability to "dance". We were two of about six people who turned up to see the four caballeros and a female dancer strut their stuff for the best part of forty minutes. It was more superior horse control than dressage, but I think that can be put down as a good thing because dressage is, well, weird. We got to feed the mares afterwards too, and one took a definite shine to Gilly.

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For the rest of the afternoon we decided to revisit the mural we were unable to see on our first night in Trujillo. I can confirm categorically that it is absolutely worth visiting. Some of the murals, which are all made out of individual mosaic pieces, are simply astonishing, I took dozens of photos, but the murals covered history, nature, film, politics and more - you could spend half a day walking up and down the road alongside the university and still miss things. Trujillo probably isn't high on a traveller's map aside from being a base to move into Ecuador, but I'm glad we took the time to spend a couple of days here. Peruvian people are creative as well as lovely, and it was nice to be reminded of this as we left the country.

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Finishing off our time in Peru with a meal at Casona Deza Café was a great idea. The pizza was wonderful and - even better - it was just around the corner. We were getting another night bus from Trujillo to Guayaquil in Ecuador. One more country down!

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