The Many Layers of Peru, Part II
It’s funny how one person can change your perception of a place. One person really can make a difference. For us that person was Dilser. He helped us fall in love with Peru.
We had just left Truillo’s square and caught a cab to Chan Chan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the largest city of the pre-Colombian era in South America. It was once the capital of the Chimu from 900 to 1470 AD.
We met Dilser, who works as a guide, and explained that we had only one day in Trujillo. Our flight to Lima was leaving in the morning, and we told him that we wanted to visit the Temple of the Sun and Moon and the Museo of Cao which was up the coast.
He offered us a great price to see all three sites. His English, but more importantly his driving were both very good. He has been a licensed guide for eight years and is also an amateur archeologist. He worked on a few of the sites that we visited and met his wife while working on an excavation.
It was wonderful to have a guide that could tell us about the history, architecture and his own personal story. After spending over 10 hours together we made a good friend and we were able to understand Peru and it’s people much better.
Dilser also told us that each archeological site in Peru is guarded by the ancient hairless dogs of Peru that were considered sacred by the native civilizations.
Only a small portion of Chan Chan is open and restored. The site is so large that it goes on for miles on both sides of the road. The Chimu were great engineers. The canal system and walls they built still stand, 3,000 years later.
After visiting Chan Chan we explored the Temple of the Moon and Temple of the Sun Museum and archeological sites.
We were mesmerized. The museum was world class and it was wonderful to have a personal guide.
The Moche ruled from the first to the eighth century in the northern desert of Peru and were master potters. There descendants today are still known as the finest potters in Peru. We unfortunately ran out of time as Dilser was going to take us to their village.
As we walked up to the archeological site we could see pottery and bone fragments everywhere. Dilser quickly pointed out that we were walking on the dead. For him this was nothing. He is only 29 but he grew up digging in the area for artifacts with his family on Sunday afternoons. He told us stories of his childhood and how when he was small he played in the tunnels the Spanish dug in the temples to look for gold and artifacts.
He and his friends often dared one another to go into the tunnels. It was a sign of bravery. He and his friends routinely played with the arms and legs that they found and would occasionally take the skulls to scare the girls. He explained that they just didn’t know any better.
Dilser explained to us the rituals of the dead which are still celebrated today. It is common to spend the night at the cemetery and celebrate with the dead with food, drink and stories. By doing so the ancestors spirits remain alive.
All of the sites we that visited were temples to the dead. The walls were intricately carved and painted. We could still see the vibrant colors of the temple walls. Each layer of the temple was built upon the prior level. When one level was complete it would be filled in with handmade bricks. Each brick was individually marked by the brick maker before being placed in the temple. A new level was built and filled in each century.
Discovered within the temple burial chambers were pottery, elaborate clothing, and jewelry. Everything that was needed for the afterlife.
After a tour of Chan Chan and the Temples of the Sun and Moon we were on our way up the coast. We drove through beach towns and miles of gorgeous pacific ocean beaches, sugar cane and asparagus fields and unfortunately more garbage.
I finally got the courage to ask about the litter (I know let it go). Dilser wasn’t bothered by it. He explained that people get tired of waiting for the garbage pickup because it starts to smell, so they just dump it on the street. He explained that the garbage truck only comes three times a week. Ol and I were dumbfounded. We had to laugh when we explained that in the rest of the world the garbage truck comes only once a week!
He also explained to us about the walls that we noticed since entering Peru. As far as you can see, there are all types of brick, mud and stone walls. Dilser explained Peru’s property laws which are even crazier than the garbage pickup. He explained that invaders can settle on property and claim the land after five years. The gist of the story is, come to Peru and build a wall and the property is yours. It looks like there are plenty of places to stake a claim. Crazy!
I didn’t really know what to expect when we went to Museo Cao at El Brujo. This area is considered one of the few cradles of ancient civilization.
I certainly wasn’t expecting a multi million dollar modern world class museum with a temple overlooking the pacific ocean. However, I was expecting a fierce Moche Priestess. The first Priestess ever discovered in 2006 and celebrated in all of her glory. Another Moche priestess has also recently been discovered. It was previously believed only men held high rank in these ancient civilizations.
The museum built to The Lady of Cao is fitting for her status. The film showing the painstaking removal and preservation of her elaborate burial garments and the unwrapping of her mummy is very well done. So is the film that shows the use of 3-D printing to recreate her face and body.
On July 23, 2017 after 10 months officials finally unveiled her beautiful face. The contents of her completely untouched tomb, including The Lady of Cao, jewelry, garments, pottery, tools and weapons are all on display. A few pieces were on loan to a museum in France.
After the museum we toured her temple. It had the most ornate carvings of any of the temples we viewed. It also had the most spectacular view. The sun was setting and all we could see was the endless uninterrupted Pacific coast with its sea birds, wide beach and crashing waves. On the back side of the temple, we could see endless fields of sugar cane.
It was discovered that the entire temple, village and plazas were built on a platform. Another feat of engineering. The area has yet to be excavated. As we watched the sun make its final descent into the ocean we thought of the magnificent site The Lady of Cao must have made in her gold attire and headpiece standing atop her temple.
After a long day, Dilser took us the one hour back to Trujillo and dropped us off at a wonderful seafood restaurant. After hearing about his other tours of Northern Peru we regretted our hasty decision to leave so early. Peru is a country literally with many layers, and as we learned lots to be discovered.
We told Dilser that we would help list his tour business on AirBnB and Trip Advisor. For his contact information, just email us. He promised us that his tours to the Highlands area and Jungle are even more amazing. I believe him!