Chan Chan, Changitty Chan Chimú!

Templo Del Sol @ Chan Chan, Huanchaco

Arrived in Chiclayo after a very long overnight bus through dry desert landscape. Turns out Northern Peru ain’t pretty! After the classic South America style directions we walked 10 blocks in the wrong direction. We were given a further three sets of totally different directions but somehow managed to find the bus company that would take us through to to Trujillo. When you first arrive into a new country you don’t have maps as you don’t yet have a new sim and usually (unless you are super prepared/willing to lose money on the border exchange rates) you also don’t have cash in th right currency so the first day is always a huge ball ache. The bus was leaving in 5 minutes but we hadn’t eaten in a day and needed food desperately as it was another good few hours until we reached our final destination. We ran across to the supermarket and after a fight with the fruit and veg weighing machine and a long queue with the usual inefficient supermarket staff I ran back to the bus station to check us in so we didn’t miss our bus! Jess finally made it looking a bit puffed and stressed but we had food and were heading in the right direction so all gravy!

We arrived a few hours later in Trujillo, exhausted and in dire need of a shower and some sleep but it wasn’t over just yet. We needed to get to the beach town of Huanchaco to meet Ad and Rach. We couldn’t be bothered with the faff of trying to find a public bus to take us there given how accurate South American directions can be, so we just got a taxi for the 20 minute journey. We arrived to some friendly faces and a hostel that somehow smelt of wet dog but there were disappointingly no dogs. We had a little walk around and ate a local menu Del día for dinner. we hadn’t seen Ad and Rach for at least a week so we had a lot to catch up on.

Dive @ Huanchaco Beach

The next day, Adam went surfing and we sat around on the very grotty beach watching him do surprisingly well for his very first lesson. He stood up immediately and really seemed to get the hang of the basics really quickly. I thought he would probably be quite good at it as he is pretty athletic but it just would have been funnier if he was rubbish. Later that day Kiwi Ad and Bec arrived and we all had lunch together. The Galapagos gang all back together again!

Cabalitos de Totora @ Huanchaco Beach

We headed into Trujillo on the bus to try to post our ridiculous box from our crazy shopping day in Otavalo market, a present for our American friends we had met in Belize, a painting in a poster tube and 20 postcards that we had been carrying since the start of Ecuador six weeks previous. The six of us headed into the post office which marked the beginning of the biggest administrative nightmare I have ever experienced and I’ve lived in France! Welcome to the Peruvian postal system.

It was truly unbelievable. We needed three passport photo copies to send each individual thing, even the postcards because they didn’t sell stamps!! No stamps! At the Post Office! After obtaining 500 copies of Jess’ passport over several different tries as they chose to withhold important information and only give us one piece of new information every time we reached the front of the queue again. We proceeded to write the addresses directly on the boxes. Turns out, you absolutely have to write it on white paper first and then stick it on, which of course they didn’t have so we had to go and buy (again a few pieces at a time as we kept apparently getting it wrong and having to queue up again). We sellotaped all of the boxes shut for a second time as they made us open them on the first time to double check the contents (and they didn’t even look inside!). We queued up for what we thought was our final time and they told us the addresses were the wrong way around. The Sender address had to be the most prominent and the Receiver had to be the smallest on the back (in what world does that make sense?!). We then had to change the language and rewrite them because we had written Receiver in English before the Spanish which meant they couldn’t possibly understand! Forget what the British Post people could read! Jess even had to put finger prints on four different pages on every single package. We had to re-do the labels three times, re-seal the boxes twice, buy bits of plain paper three times, borrow scissors and more packing tape (one roll we brought just didn’t cut it) off two different people and re-do the packing form more than four times because the angry woman at the desk kept telling us new and different bits of information every time we went up. We finally sent the big box but gave up on sending the smaller box to the US, the poster tube and the postcards as on one of our final queue ups, the lovely post lady decided to tell us we couldn’t post oil paintings out of Peru despite telling her at the beginning it was an oil painting. We kind of just lost the plot at that point and gave up. At least the biggest thing would be gone. The two Adams and Bec had been long gone but Rachael stuck with us, possibly for the pure enjoyment of how absolutely ludicrous the situation was or maybe for the moral support, either way the three of us were still there a whopping two and a half hours later! Afterwards, we managed to change some money and finally get some Peruvian cash and then headed for the most well earned celebratory drink in a bar with the others. Having not seen a glimpse of the city and instead spending all of our time in the fucking post office, we gave up on sightseeing as it was now dark!

Fish @ Chan Chan, Huanchaco

We jumped into two taxis and had a race to the mall where we did the most inefficient grocery shop ever (travelling as a group of six can be difficult!). We managed to sneakily buy a big birthday cake and candles for Ad as it had been his birthday a couple of days before. Jess and I even managed to get the bakery worker to ice on a message! We took a collectivo back to Huanchaco and as we all chopped, Adam cooked us up his own birthday dinner of our interpretation of Lomo Saltado. After dinner we surprised him with the cake and played cards and drank lots. It was a pretty good night.

Surfer Pro Adam @ Huanchaco Beach

The next day we were heading to finally get a whisper of culture and learn about ancient people of Chan Chan. Chan Chan is a pre-Colombian city and was originally inhabited by the ancient Chimú civilization before it fell to the Incas. The Chimú established themselves on the Peruvian coast around 1400AD and the words Chan Chan means “Sun Sun”, named after the sunny climate the north coast has. After looping around the town of Huanchaco twice on the public bus we were finally off down the dry desert road to the huge, vast adobe complex. We declined the con artist taxis driver offers to take us around everywhere in a day for a lot of money with no guide and made our way down the 1km dusty road to the ruins. We walked alongside a group of teenage school children who spent a lot of the walk laughing at us, the reason was still yet to be determined but kids are arseholes and maybe they just don’t see good looking tourists like us very often, maybe.

Rachael had been desperate to pat one of the many hairless dogs that are all over Peru but they never seem that friendly, this dog that she went to pat was no different. See their first and only encounter below.

Rach’s New Friend @ Chan Chan, Huanchaco

We were taken around the complex by a very informative guide who spoke slow enough Spanish for all six of us to understand. The citadel includes Tschudi Palace, temples, plazas and cemeteries. Some important males such as the Kings of Chan Chan, when they died were buried with all of their concubines. That meant that if your male “partner” dies, whom you already share with many other women including probably his actual original wife, not only are you murdered, you are buried with him so that he gets to have enough sex and female company in his afterlife. How sweet. Apparently, after doing a bit of reading afterwards when one of the Kings of Chan Chan died their wife (often actually his sister) was poisoned and a ritual was performed where they cut out her heart as a sacrifice. The other 90 or so “wives” were just simply poisoned without ritual and buried all together. Again, very romantic. Apparently, although our tour guide didn’t tell us this, I read it later- these weren’t the only human sacrifices in Chan Chan. Young children and animals were often sacrificed to the moon deity, which was believed to make them into gods themselves.

The palace of that King was then turned into a mausoleum and so the next King had to build a whole new palace. This was really visible at the Templo Del Sol that we visited later in the day. Over the centuries, nine of these royal palaces or ‘ciudadelas’ have been built, resulting in the vastness of the complex of Chan Chan.

“Condors” @ Chan Chan, Huanchaco

The original adobe city wall that at points was 10m tall was still standing, it just had a capping on it for protection against erosion. The whole place was truly amazing and the engravings in the adobe walls and small structures were really impressive.

Once we were finished on our tour we walked back along the dusty road down to the main road and back towards Huanchaco to the Museo de Sitio Chan Chan. As you would expect, this place was full of stone artefacts and ceramics. Personally, there is only so much information you can read about ancient cultures and civilisations and we have been to so many museums, we didn’t stay too long. We got the bus back into Huanchaco and ate a menu Del día which came with chicken feet in the soup! Mmmmm, that is possibly something I will never want to taste. I’ve eaten a lot of weird and wonderful things on my travels all over the world but chicken feet can remain not on my taster list.

It was getting a late but we decided to race over to to the other side of town in competing taxis to another part of the huge ruins- Templo Del Sol. We arrived just in time to get the very last tour of the day. This guide spoke a mile a minute and after a very long day the four of us with less advanced Spanish relied quite a bit on Rach and Ad’s translations. the place was pretty incredible, you could even see colours left in the rock from petroglyphs (see first photo). Back home for another family dinner after a really impressive and informative day!

Partially Excavated Ruins @ Chan Chan, Huanchaco

On our last day in Huanchaco before our night bus the two Adam’s went surfing and Bec relaxed and read a book while Jess, Rach and I stayed home and played salon. Rachael cut about four inches off each of our hair and did a pretty good job of it! Considering she was using some hair sisccors I bought off a bloke in the street for 50p the week before, it did not turn out bad at all!

That night we got a night bus to Huaraz to check out the Cordillera Blanca. Rach, Ad, Kiwi Ad and Bec chose luxury seats downstairs meanwhile Jess and I rode cattle class up top to save a few bob. The bus was actually really nice and even our cheaper seats were the best we had had yet on the whole trip! We were ready to get our walking boots on and back up to some decent altitude and do some serious hiking!

Apparently Not Squirrels @ Chan Chan, Huanchaco

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