off the gringo trail
09.08.2014 - 24.08.2014 23 °C
From the coast of Ecuador we started our journey into Peru. We decided to take a night bus from Guayaquil straight to Mancora, Peru, thinking it would be a smoother border crossing since the officers would just want to push us through. Well we were wrong. Since it was the middle of the night when we arrived at the border there were only three officers working and hundreds of people trying to cross. It was a nightmare. Two hours later we finally had our exit and entrance stamps and we were back on the hot, loud bus that stopped every 20 minutes. Needless to say we did not get any sleep. And our hostel in Mancora was at the top of a hill with very steep steps, which was a challenge at 6:30 am having just gotten off a 15 hour bus-ride. But it was so worth it! Our hostel had an amazing view of the town and the ocean. Each bungalow had its own private sitting area with sun chairs and hammocks – it was wonderful.
Thomas really wanted to surf some more but since I was still a little scared of surfing after the whole sting ray incident I decided to instead go snorkeling with the sea turtles! It was such an amazing experience. When I first entered the water and one of these big beautiful creatures swam up from under me I squealed so loud that the people still on the boat could hear it through my snorkel. I was just awe-stuck with how big and amazing they were (1.5 m long and 1 m wide on average)! We got to swim with them for over an hour. My favorite one was the smallest one who had a barnacle living right on the top of his nose. It was the cutest thing.
Our time in Mancora was super chill – just beach, sleep, sun, walking around, eating delicious ceviche and Thomas working on his medical school application. It was a nice time to organize our next couple of months.
After Mancora, we went to a city called Chiclayo, but it was really just a stop-over for us. We spent just one night there and then we headed to our true destination of Chachapoyas. Chachapoyas is in the Amazonas province of Peru. Again we arrived at 6:30 am but our hostel was so nice and they already had our room ready for us so we were able to have a little nap.
We didn’t do much on our first day but the day after we went to see the Chachapoyas ruins of Kuelap. Our drive out to the ruins took about 2 hours along these super windy roads cut out of the sides of these mountains. The site is really not that far from the town, however, you have to snake your way along to get through the pass. Kuelap, meaning ‘hill fortress’, is actually older and larger than Machu Picchu, but is virtually untouched in comparison. Inside the walls of Kuelap there are remains of 420 circular homes on the first level with the second level being only for the leaders and most important people. It took the Chachapoyans about 1000 years to build their fortress with 20m high walls. It was really cool to explore the ruins. On the way back from the trip we stopped to eat and Thomas decided to try cuy (guinea pig) – a delicacy in Peru.
The next day we went to see the Gotca waterfall, which is one of the tallest in the world, measuring over 700m high. We took another bus to a different town and then hiked the 2.5 hours to the waterfall. The hike was really hot and we sweat more than our body weight but it was so beautiful! We were able to catch glimpses of the waterfall as we climbed, which was really exciting. The waterfall didn’t have a lot of water since it isn’t the rainy season but I think that made it more beautiful. Since the water falls from so high by the time it reaches the bottom it has turned to mist. And since there was so little water, when the wind blew a different direction, the stream of fog-looking water would sway with it. It was the highest waterfall either of us had ever seen and we couldn’t even see it all from the bottom because it is so big and split into two sections. Both Kuelap and the Gotca waterfall were amazing experiences and the thing we liked most about them was that not a lot of people have gone or will go to see them.
From Chachapoyas we went to a town farther south called Trujillo. We only spent a few days here as well, in order to check out some more archaeological sites. There is a lot of history on the coast of Peru and it would be impossible to see all the different ruins but the two that most interested us in the area were Chan Chan and Huacas del Sol and Huacas de la Luna.
HUACAS: The Moche people controlled this area of the coast from about 100 AC to 800 AC. They had two temples: the temple of the sun and the temple of the moon with a town of 20,000 inhabitants called the nucleus in-between the two temples. The religious leaders lived in the temple of the moon and the administrators lived in the temple of the sun. The people of the town were divided into their trades; the warriors, the pottery makers, the weapon makers, the textile makes, etc. Pottery was a huge part of their culture and it is thought that the pottery makers were of the highest standing amongst the townsmen and women. Unfortunately we weren’t able to take any pictures in the museum so we can’t show you the pottery, or ornaments. When the El Niño hit the coast of Peru around 600 AC, resources became scarce and the people no longer had faith that their religious leaders were true faces of the gods as they could no longer control the elements. At this time there was a shift in power, and the temple of the sun (administrators) took more control. Things were no longer being made for religious ceremonies but for trade and for sheer function. Eventually the moche people faded out and the Chimu people came in.
CHAN CHAN: The Chimu people created their empire just north of the Huacas along the coast. It took 400 years to build, but the city of Chan Chan was a grand feat, with adobe walls over 10 meters high, housing tens of thousands of people and covering approximately 20 square kilometers. A lot of the city has now weathered away but they have managed to preserve the main square where the religious ceremonies took place and where the most important people lived. It was fun to just walk around the city, walls crumbling around you. There was a museum for Chan Chan as well but it wasn’t as developed as the Huacas museum.
One night when we were walking around searching for a place to eat, we heard load music and saw a big crowd by the main plaza (Plaza de Armas). There was a big folklore dance show in the middle of the street with a live band and people sitting in lawn chairs watching the show. It was really cool and we ended up watching it for an hour, despite how hungry we were - the costume and dance was just incredible. We were sad not to have our cameras on us but at the same time it allowed us to just stand and enjoy the show!
We took another night bus (saves spending money on a hostel) from Trujillo to Lima. Here we awaited the lovely Erika (Thomas’ mum) to do our 20 day Southern Peru adventure! We are so excited to have someone join us on our trip and share some experiences with! We will be doing a bit of a circuit, starting in Lima and ending in Cusco with Machu Picchu! We went to this water park the night before Erika came in to take in a water and light show. There were so many fountains are they were all really beautiful. Some of them you could even go under, through, or across them!
Our time here is going to finish off so quickly! I hope I have time to write another post before leaving South America (2.5 months!) but it’s going to be tight! But just know that we are being safe and having a great time!
We love and miss you all!
Meredith and Thomas