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Trujillo and Huanca del Sol y Luna

Written on: Tuesday October 16th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Trujillo, La Libertad, Peru

Author: Julie 


We arrived in Trujillo, tired and exhausted after our 10 very long hours of bus riding. We had managed to get the last 4 tickets available on the bus and it was full with riders from Tumbes north of Mancora. Kevin and I squeezed into our seats, made difficult by the two passengers in front of us who had already fall asleep with their seats completely reclined back. Every time we board a bus there?s always a new lesson to learn, this time being to ask if there is a toilet when buying a ticket. We were surprised to find out that there was none even though we had a 10 hour ride and we each had drank a bottle of water while waiting for the bus to arrive at the terminal. Doesn?t anyone ever have to go to the bathroom in this country? By the time we arrived in Piura, 3 hours later, I was hopping from one foot to another. I came out of the bathroom to see the bus start to drive away and a woman waving to me to run. Luckily, the bus was just moving further up the road to make room for cars and other buses behind it. Phew!! T hen a few minutes later, the bus reversed into a large parking lot and we all had to get off. They wanted us to change buses since this one didn?t have enough room for everyone that was booked? and this one had a chemical toilet!! We drove through the city of Chiclayo, known for its tomb of the King of Sipan. I wanted to stop here but we?re running out of time to get to Cusco before the start of our Inca Trail climb in 2 weeks. Supposedly, the tomb and the museum is not be missed. It?s one of the few intact tombs of a king that has been found in Peru. The king was found in full golden regalia as well the tombs of his concubines, some warriors, and a few priests.  

We arrived in Trujillo after the sun had set. We hailed a taxi with Slade and Kristen and headed for Hostal Colonial, near the grand plaza. The book said it was 20$ a night but they were asking for 25$. The effect of the Lonely Planet guidebook. Once a hotel gets a good review in it, more people come to stay and the owners raise the prices. Oh well, even though it was a little bit more expensive than we wanted, we were too tired to go find somewhere new. The hotel is located in an old Spanish villa, with labyrinthine halls, beautiful old wood floorboards, high ceilings, and the cold drafts that always seem to be found in these places. We froze sleeping that night as the blankets we had weren?t sufficient but our room is cozy and they have hot water. 

The next morning, we booked a tour with the agency next door to visit the Temples of Huacas del Luna y Sol. We departed for our tour with 7 other people and our tour guide. The site is located approximately 10 minutes outside of the city towards the East. Our first stop was a pottery workshop where the artisans still make pottery the same way their Moche ancestors did almost 2000 years ago. It was interesting how accurate the details were in the pottery when comparing an actual photograph of someone?s face and the pottery statue of that same face. As we were listening to the tour, out came trotting two very ugly dogs. They were Peruvian Hairless dogs, an almost extinct breed, which the locals are trying to bring back. These dogs are indigenous to this area and can be found in paintings and wall friezes in the temples. I petted them and was quite surprised to feel how warm their skin was and how soft. I was expecting them to feel cold and dry. Unlike other dog breeds, these dogs are hairless to be cool in the desert sun and warm in the cold nights with an internal temperature of 40C. 

Next we drove through a little barrio to the temple. Our guide informed us during the trip that it hasn?t rained here since 1998, during the last El Nino phenomenon. The rains caused massive flooding and deaths in the city. The street we were driving on had just been rebuilt, with large water dikes on each side and all the houses had been moved back off the road. This was also because the amount of visitors visiting the temples increases every year and they need to accommodate the growing number of cars and minivans coming through every day. 

Our first sight of the temple complex was of the Sun Temple looming over us. It was terraced and looked like a pyramid with its top cut off. Unfortunately, they had only started to excavate it and we would not be visiting it. We next saw the Moon Temple near the foot of Cerro Blanco. We couldn?t see much of its details since it was mostly covered in metal roofing. We paid our S./11 entrance fee and followed the guide in. The Huacas del Sol and Luna Archaeological project began in 1991 and has been tackled by a multi-disciplinary team of including archaeologists, conservators, architects, engineers, anthropologists, biologists, artists, technicians and assistants. Most of the workers are from the surrounding area and are mostly descendants of the Moche people who built these temples in between 1st century and 8th century AD. The Temple of the Moon site is divided in 3 sections: The Ceremonial Patio, the Great Altar, and the Ceremonial Plaza. We first saw the Ceremonial Patio, with walls decorated with reliefs, mostly intact because of the preservation effect the sand and dryness of the area had provided. Most of the temple had been buried under tons of sand before excavation had begun. While removing the sand, archaeologists made a significant discovery: there are 5 temples in this location. The Moche periodically reconfigured their ceremonial architecture, burying earlier constructions under layers of Adobe brick and superimposing new structures over them. This building practice is what gave these temples a pyramid look as each new temple was built over the previous one with the new temple being wider and higher. Interestingly, each new temple echoed the architectural design and wall reliefs of its predecessor. Most of the wall friezes depicted either their Moon god Ai Apaec or a repeating pattern of fish and birds in relation to the sea not more than 15 kilometres away. 

The main building material for the Moche was mud, formed into Adobe bricks, or as mortar, or used as plaster to finish walls, floors, and roofs. The bricks were formed in either cane or wood moulds, which allow the mass production and standardize brick size. Many of the bricks had distinctive designed sealed into them, researchers think it was to identify which group, village, or city had contributed to the building of the temple. It is supposed that the bricks were a form of tithe paid by the surrounding communities to the king. Also employed in the construction of the temples were wooden posts, lintels, beams, as well as bamboo, reeds, and woven mats for roofing.  

Next we saw the discovered Tomb of the Officiant. He was probably a mid-level official in the priest hierarchy. This class enjoyed wide-ranging power in the Moche society. As if to underscore this privileged position, members of the Priest class were usually buried in tombs, placed in the construction fill of a monuments most sacred buildings. In this case, he was buried in one of the small rooms to the side of the Ceremonial Patio. He was discovered in a cane coffin, alongside was placed ceramic pottery such as a container for lime mixed with coca leaves. It is possible that he was involved in coca ceremonies at the temple. 

We worked our way through the temple, seeing intricate wall designs with their original paint colors. Up a flight of stairs and out we were, on top of the temple. We had a clear view down the valley to the Temple of the Sun. In between, we could see the ruins of the city of Moche that had been built there. The supporting walls were still clearly visible. In ancient times, it would have contained public buildings, palaces and residences of the elite, workshops, as well as storerooms and housing for the general public. All the buildings were laid out following the cardinal directions, defined by large and small streets, with the various sectors and quarters clearly zoned. Also discovered was a system of canals which brought clean, fresh water from the mountains to the city. 

 We followed our guide to the next section of the temple: the Great Altar. In spite of its small size, this structure was important and played the principal role in the ceremonial activities of the Moche priests, including sacrifices. During El Nino rains, priests would perform sacrifices to the Mountain God to stop the flooding. Many young warriors were sacrificed with the idea that their strong, warrior souls would appease the god and the rains would stop. Even though the temple is located in a desert and we would initially think that rains would be seen as a sign of a pleased god, they only brought flooding and destruction. It was these very same cyclical rains (every 50 years) which caused the Moche to abandon the Temples of the Moon and Sun and move further south nearer to the ocean to a location where flooding does not occur.  

Our last stop was the Ceremonial Plaza, the primary setting for the ceremonies at Huaca de la Luna. Based on the surrounding thick adobe walls and a single, controlled access, it is surmised that access to this ritual space was restricted and limited to certain parts of the population. The plaza was approached by ramps, with the Great Ramp giving access to the summit of Huaca de la Luna. On the Great Ramp?s front wall is portrayed a large snake. Its body increases in size as it works its way up the ramp, with its head at the top. In the Moche culture, snakes represented the link between water and the rivers. The front of the Ceremonial Plaza is built with seven terraces intricately designed with relifefs.  The first had a procession of warriors, the second had dancers, the third spiders, the fourth a marine god, the fifth is a God of the Moon, the sixth is the undulating serpent up the Great Ramp, and seventh is the God of the Mountains. It was stunning to see these terraces with most of their carvings and bright colors still intact. 

Our tour ended and we were returned dropped off near the main plaza. None of us had thought to bring a city map, and although knowing our hotel was near, we still managed to get lost. We spent a better part of the afternoon walking around the old colonial city, admiring its well preserved historical buildings, all painted in vibrant colors as well as the handsome main plaza. To this point, Kevin and I think it?s the nicest one we?ve seen. We finally flagged down a taxi with the intention of getting a ride back to our hotel to find out that it was 2 blocks away. The driver and I both had a laugh when I heard we were so close. That evening, we ate at restaurant recommended in our guidebook: Restaurant Romano which had been in business for 50 years. Kevin and I were starved and each ordered the Executive meal. There was so much food! We started with an avocado salad that was slices of a full avocado, then we had a cream of asparagus soup that was big enough to be a meal in itself, then I had a huge plate of spaghetti and Kevin had a huge plate of chicken, salad, and fries, and then came a dessert of Crème Brule. All of that plus a beer for S./11 each! We were so stuffed our tummies hurt. Kristen and Slade were smart enough to order a Caesar salad and a plate of pasta to share between the two of them. 

As we walked back to our hotel (we brought a map this time), we walked down Pizzaro Street, which is closed to car traffic every night. We walked by casino after casino so we finally decided to go in. It was lots of fun and we lost a total of 10$. There were only slot machines and 1 Soles gave you the equivalent of 100 credits. You are certainly not there to play for big money! We finally returned to our room, happy, fed, and smelling like cigarette smoke.  

Exchange: S./3.00 = 1 CAD