Huanchaco, sunsets and history

No matter how much time we spend at the beach, we always have room for more. After the 3 months we lived in Mancora, we decided to get some more sun before heading inland. So we went south to Trujillo, where we spent a night. The place is really not worth a visit, there’s only the main square, and it is not that nice either.

From Trujillo we wanted to go to Huanchaco, a much nicer spot to use as base camp while visiting the area. You can either catch a combi (1,5 soles) or take a taxi (15 soles). Now the key with the combi is that there’s no space to put your big bags and that they barely stop for a second for you to get on board. The idea of traveling with our big bags and small bags on top of us, and seeing that all the combis where coming fully packed, this time we decided to catch a taxi.

Huanchaco is a very small city, famous for these little fishing boats called “caballitos de totora”, that where used by the pre-inca cultures Moche and Chimu, and they claim that they are still used today, although the only use we saw was to take tourists for a ride.

The first night we decided to stay at a place that offered a private room for 40 soles. It was a very nice room with a little balcony, a really nice treat at a great price. We don’t usually get these kind of rooms, but this time we felt like it, so we took it. It was placed in a nice little street that seemed very calm and quite. And it was like that until 20h. Then we were spectators of the little show that we later learnt happened every single night. Almost right under our balcony, some neighbors gathered around a couple of tables they put in the street, took a couple of pretty damn big sub-woofers and started playing some kind of regaeton, all accompanied with endless bottles of beer. As the first night they finished quite early, we decided to give it another chance, but that was the last one. We then moved to a camping, which turned out to be really great.

The beach in Huanchaco is quite nice, although a bit tricky to get into the water, as the bottom is full of little rocks and the waves break pretty hard. Contrary to what we’d heard, the water here was warm and nice, so I guess this, and not Mancora, is the last spot where you can enjoy warm water.

A nice perk about being here are the amazing sunsets we got every evening. I never get tired of watching this.

The area here is famous for the ruins of different pre-inca cultures. The first one we went to visit was Chan-Chan, from the Chimu culture. This is the largest mud-brick city in America, and the second one in the world. It’s a complex formed by 9 citadels, but only one, called Nik An, is available to visitors, as the other ones haven’t been cleaned by archaeologists yet.

To get to Chan Chan, you can take a combi to Trujillo (1,5 soles) and ask the driver to drop you in Chan Chan. They don’t stop exactly at the entrance, so you can either take a taxi or walk for about a kilometer or so.

As there’s almost no information on site about the history of the place, we decided to get a guide. We found another 4 people to make a group and we paid 8 soles per person instead of the initial 40 we were asked. If you go there, it’s really worth it to get a guide, and if it’s a good one like we had, it makes it a completely different experience, bringing the ruins back to life.

The place is amazing, and the original parts are incredibly well preserved. Apparently it was covered by sand and that’s what kept it safe.

The people that cleaned this site used a brush. A brush, damn it, I can’t believe the amount of patience you must have to clean all this with a brush. I mean, if you spend hours and hours, days and days, maybe months, brushing a spot and you find bones or part of a wall, OK, cool, but what if the spot you’ve been assigned, after cleaning and cleaning you find a rock, not a special rock that had a meaning to the ancient culture, just a simple freaking rock. I bet this guys commit suicide in large numbers. I mean, I couldn’t do it, I’d either kill myself or 20 others in an attack of craziness.

Coming back to the topic, the outside walls are now around 7 meters, but they reached 20 when the Chimus lived here. Watching the inside of walls that are more than 700 years old is a pretty cool experience.

The Chimus were peaceful people, that’s why any of the outside walls has a defense post. The citadel open to the public was the one where the governing class and the nobles lived. The Chimus performed human sacrifices, where the chosen ones were nobles, not to offend their gods.

There’s no evidence of writing by the Chimus, but there are many decorations in the walls of the citadel. These show their understanding of the water currents, the cycle of the moon and the elements air, water and earth, this last one represented by the squirrels, 3 of which are original. Yes, they are kind of weird squirrels indeed, I wouldn’t have guessed.

The Chimus were massacred by the Incas, who also looted the place. Afterwards the beautiful Spanish conquistadors came around and also looted the place, so it’s pretty impressive that it still remains standing.

The Chan Chan museum is pretty crappy and incredibly small. Very few pieces are available.

The other ruins we visited are called Las Huacas del Sol y la Luna. These are part of the Moche culture, which preceded the Chimus. Only the Huaca de la Luna is open to visitors. This one was the one used for their cult, whereas the Huaca del Sol was the one for the governing elite.

Human sacrifices were also part of the Moche culture, offered to their god named Cutthroat, charming right? The lucky guy was the loser in the fight between two warriors. He was then chained naked and taken to the purification ritual, where basically he was given plenty of drugs. Then they cut his throat and his blood was offered to their god.

The Moches rebuilt this palace many times, and they always built the new one on top of the old one. It is believed they always followed the same construction pattern, so there are to be 4 different palaces on top of each other, if I remember correctly. You can observe the original paintings that are still very well preserved. The drawing represents their god, he looks as charming as his name sounds.

For this Huaca, the university of Trujillo provides with free tour guides, tips aside, so you have to wait until a group is formed, as you are not allowed in without a guide. Our guide was very nice and again, it made a huge difference to hear the story while watching the site.

The office to buy your tickets is 500 meter away from the entrance to the Huaca, and the ticket doesn’t include the entrance to the museum. Now if the museum in Chan Chan was really crappy and incredibly small, with almost no explanations whatsoever, the museum of the Huaca del Sol y la Luna is really nice, totally worth the price.

We went to see one last ruins, called Huaca Arcoiris, but this one was very small and placed in the middle of a neighborhood in Trujillo, so we had to ask around to realize where this was. The drawings are not really well preserved and there’s no information available nor a guide, so we didn’t enjoy this one that much.

The last evening in Huanchaco we went for a walk to the church there’s on top of a little hill, which works as a nice viewing point of the city.

Huanchaco is also known for being a great surfing spot, but as we are not that much into surfing, we skipped that. Overall it’s a great place to spend some days and visit the ruins around, which are really impressive and don’t get that much attention as it all seems to be about Machu Picchu.

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