Northern Peru – The Coast

02nd September 2010

Clocking up bus miles, we headed 9 hours north to colonial Trujillo, named in honour of Francisco Pizarro´s birthplace in Spain when he founded the city in 1534. Trujillo is home to the Peruvian stepping horse and the most elegant dance, the Marinera. The central plaza was alive with people celebrating the Virgencita de la Puerta saving the city from a pirate attack in 1674. People dressed as gypsies and slaves danced in the streets, illustrating Trujillo´s colonial past.


Pre Inca, civilizations of the Mochicas and then Chimus inhabited the area. The area is dotted with what appears to be huge mounds of sand, but are in fact ancient adobe temples. The Mochicas (approx 0 – 800 AD) had a custom of burying old temples under new ones which helped in preservation, and archaeologists are still peeling away the layers.


Recently in the Huaca Cao Viejo (El Brujo), a tattooed mummy of a Mochica queen was unearthed. Here is a YouTube movie of the discovery. Other Mochica temples include Huaca del Sol (Sun Temple)made from 140 million adobe bricks, now resembling a giant pile of rubble is still to be excavated. The smaller Huaca de la Luna (Moon Temple) is nearby. Until recently it was covered by tons of sand, preserving the beautifully decorated 5 level facade.


Chan Chan, in an outer suburb of Trujillo, was the capital of the Chimu Empire (approx 800 – 1470AD), and the largest adobe city in the world, housing some 1000 thousand people. We visited one of nine palaces with reconstructed walls highly decorated with figures resembling fish, pelicans and sea otters as well as mythical scenes and geometric shapes.


Totora (reed) boats, caballitos, are still used for fishing at the nearby coastal village of Huanchaco.


Further north lies Chiclayo. In nearby Sipán, in 2 adobe pyramids, to date 16 graves have been discovered in Huaca Rajada. The first one belonged to the Mochicas most important ruler, the Lord of Sipán. His body was covered with layers of ornaments and surrounded by offerings in hundreds of ceramic pots in forms of his relatives and friends. Six other people were sacrificed lie with him. Fortunately it had not been discovered by grave robbers. Grave number 16, discovered 2 weeks ago (mid August 2010) was being unearthed when we visited. The Museo Tumbas de Sipán in Lambayeque contains the articles found in this and other tombs, giving an excellent insight into the sophisticated culture of the Mochicas. It is one of the world´s great museums.  No photos allowed (but look here)!


Main square and Cathedral in Trujillo

The Spanish built many churches in Trujillo

Decorated colonial house

Colonial balconies

Wrought iron window covers

Parade for the Virgencita de la Puerta

Peruvian stepping horse

The Marinera - the skirt represents waves

Surf´s up at coastal Huanchaco

Caballitos (reed boats)

These boats are called caballitos because they are riden like horses

Wall scene of prisoners at El Brujo

Another wall scene at El Brujo - original colours

Huaca del Sol

Inside wall at Huaca de la Luna (original)

Different levels on the front of Huaca de la Luna pyramid

Wall scene Huaca de la Luna

Spider man - Huaca de la Luna

Palace wall at Chan Chan featuring Sea Otters beneath the waves

The triangular design represents fish nets

Funeral mask

Sea creatures ...

... used on the walls ...

... and represented in pottery ...

... because fishing was their life

Exterior wall scene at Huaca Arco Iris (Rainbow)

Huaca Rajada pyramid

Tomb of the Lord of Sipán

Some of the pottery buried with the King

Ceremonial crown

Large earings ...

... found in the King´s Tomb