We journeyed today to the Temple of the Sun and the Moon. These two temples sit in a low valley that is sandy desert on one side of the Moche river and lush, green and fertile on the other.  The larger temple of the sun currently looks like a small mountain as it is buried in dried mud. The temple of the moon which is being slowly excavated over the years and is now protected from the desert winds that roll in from the south is built so that it backs on to the most charmingly shaped white triangular mountain called Cerro Blanco.

This perfectly triangular mountain has black seams of possibly basalt (just one of the many questions our guide hated us asking haha). Between the two temples was the urban settlement and this was fed by complex canals and irrigation. The treasures on display in the recently built museum are from both the temple of the moon and the urban settlement.

This museum was also built to the current formula: Inca style design, though again not their culture, a living village of craft shops all dead like the Moche culture, a now permanently closed coffee shop, architecture of various styles from the museum to the not-living village to the ticket office, dodgy toilets and a rather neglected garden.

The inside too had its problems sadly. The museum shop was selling Christmas decorations, dead cockroaches were trapped and hanging in the ventilation fans above which screamed haunting melodies over and over and none of the visual media was working. Also once again, no cameras were allowed, to protect the artefacts. Yet the museum design had strips of skylights along the ceilings that allowed the overhead equatorial sunshine into the gallery to do its worst damage. Moan over sorry. I do hate to be negative but come on Perú. Write to the Minister of Culture and demand better preservation of your culture. It upsets me so it ought to make you really cross.

Many of the artefacts are wonderful. One piece in particular I would have loved to have shared with you was in the display of ceramic prisoners. I’m still not sure that I believe the current thinking that two warriors fought each other and the loser was stripped naked, drugged to the eyeballs and also given anticoagulants so that when his throat was slit he would bleed properly into the cup so they could drink the blood. Firstly you don’t train warriors and then waste that resource by killing them. You need warriors to protect your temples and your society. Also who wants to drink the blood of a loser? Surely the winners blood would be better as they are stronger? Just saying. I’ve always speculated that if the warriors were going to have fights it’s more likely that they’d hunt and kill captives from other tribes. Much pottery depicts hunting,so perhaps prisoners were captured from other tribes and then turned loose and hunted down. Those caught were possibly sacrificed then you might drink the blood as it was power over other cultures. I understand modern day hunters still have various blood rituals when they kill big game so not too far a leap. Anyhow back to the piece I wanted to share with you. Olga and I both noticed a ceramic statue of a roped man who unlike the fine tattooed markings of others had Egyptian kohl eye make-up. Bingo we both thought. This also ties in with the story of the mummies found in Egypt wrapped in coca leaves. The theory is that coca travelled to Egypt across the Pacific and along the silk route because they believe the ancients couldn’t sail across the Atlantic. But it certainly suggests an Egyptian in South America. I’m just a guy looking for patterns, links and answers.

After the museum we head uphill to see the partly excavated Temple of the Moon. What an amazing site. Olga spotted a neatly carved double niche on the mountain at the top of a great long defensive wall. Our guide said it was a natural hole but it so wasn’t. It was too neat. It could have been a sentry point as it would have a clear view across the valley of anyone approaching. Olga said as the Moche were all about opposites Sun – Moon, Day – Night, Cerro Negro – Cerro Blanco, Masculine – Feminine and the temple of the moon was said to represent female power that the double niche was a clitoris. This really upset out guide.

When we later asked why all the references to erect penises were missing from the museum and temple our guide step about 30 feet away from us. But Olga wouldn’t let it drop. Hahaha. Their morality was not the modern Catholic morality that informs Perú now so we continued to press for more honest appraisals of the imagery seen. This incredible representation of the myths was described to us as if it were an innocent mural on a nursery wall. Olga saw depictions or drug culture she has seen on pottery from all over Perú but this was also too much for our guide. Just look at the pretty fish patterns – they’re nice no? The star flowers or suns depicted all over the mural are found on lots of pottery and represent slices of the San Pedro cactus or Wachuma the psychotropic drug used by the Moche. The figures with long ropes show the Ayahuasca – known as the Rope of the Dead – used in sacred ceremonies to connect the dead and the living with the spirits of nature. In Moche culture the dead walk among the living. The plant has a shape much like rope and so is likely to represent the hallucinations experienced during out of body experiences rather than fisherman. But don’t tell the guides, shhh.

Like in Cao each time a new layer was built the previous one was filled in and the temple grew taller and wider. The layers were decorated with the same storyboard as the Temple at Cao. Wonderful colours made from minerals seemed as bright today as they ever were.

The temples were made from adobe bricks. Adobe is the spanish word for mud bricks. Here the bricks found have over 100 different markings on them possibly to represent the different individuals or families who made them.

Both temples were built over by the Moche culture as their epoch diminished. Being regarded as an extremely religious site the Moche built mud up all around to swallow the temple whole and to stop others seeing it or robbing it. Sadly the Spanish did discover it and bust open a crack from the third to the fifth layer and stole all they could find from inside. Many tombs were also looted by others.

The temple of the sun still remains unopened. It’s sits like a large mud hill looking very like a tiny mountain however – these Huacas are distinguishable from actual mountains by a few give away features. This man was giving everyone the horn – demonstration

Pay attention – here come the science bit -centuries of rain has cut tiny channels in the mud creating hundreds of deep grooves that run down the sides. This is a much harder and slower process on mountain rock. Keep up there’s another few points to help identify these hidden temples.

Huacas often contain flat platforms high up or close to the top where ceremonies took place. Thirdly they have several holes where tomb robbers have tried to gain entry. Fourthly if you go up close you will see fragments of pottery strewn all around that has been washed down the disappearing walls. And lastly but most tellingly there are several unofficial restaurants located close by to cater for passing tourists. So now you can become a temple hunter like Indiana Jones or me and Olga.

The tiny Museo de Túcume we visited yesterday that won an award a couple of years ago allowed photos but did have no water in the toilets, a river fountain with no water that could be a trip hazard and a closed café and shop. This one is a series of three rooms for the different periods of the site’s history. You can however take photos here though the poor lighting made this quite hard. Inside the second room we were treated to miniature metal objects made as offering to the gods.

Spoons, knifes, tables and chairs and then in a second harder to see display case as the bulb was broken were musical instruments. Panpipes, flutes, trumpets and drums alongside tiny garments too.

Totally charming and might possibly hint at the Peruvian speciality of miniature scenes of shops and skeletons drinking or making music inside hinged boxes. These later began to also depict the nativity and other religious scenes.

I used to make nativity scenes inside match boxes aged about 4 or 5 I’m told by my mother. I do vaguely remember this but have no idea where I got the idea from. However I did also make a couple of miniature things for Olga when she first came to London including a mini pop-up Machu Picchu inside a silver cigarette case. Which she still treasures.

Then when Olga showed me the miniature shops I always wanted to buy some, which I now have but not for myself. I can’t give away all my possessions only to start collecting again. I bought these as Christmas gifts for others. We both loved this ceramic hippo but it is in fact a hairless Peruvian dog and we would have easily bought one in the shop, were it open.

In this area there is still a great belief in this region in the old shamanic traditions of the past. These are now blended with the rituals of modern catholic festivities. Here we see the costume of one of the little devils used in a parade of the virgin Mary. They are also used in folk festivals and parades. They tend to represent the Spanish Conquistadors and the locals resistance against them. The bad and the good, God and the devil. Duality again. These costumes are very Andean but are from Chiclayo where there is a huge witchcraft market. The Candelaria Festival in February is all about these amazing outfits.

Final destination Chan Chan. The coastal settlement of the Chimú people. This is so enormous that at its height it had a population of 100,000 people. This was the most moving and unexpectedly beautiful place of them all. I was almost moved to tears. The setting next to the sea. The vast high walls and the designs cut into the sand and mud bricks.

Giant open spaces with acoustics that allowed the sound of the sea to wash over the place. I heard a guide hear demonstrating the acoustic design. In all the other places I had to ask permission to test the acoustic capabilities of the ruins with my voice and clapping. It is also believed to be the place where the earliest telephone system was discovered in the form of two beakers and string. with the vast size of this place it wouldn’t be surprising. There are huge long sand coloured walled avenues that seemed to stretch for miles all around this place. It was a maze of roads, squares and small dwellings. So a phone would have been handy. But this is still very much in dispute. But fun if true.

There was also a huge pit area which as a child Olga was told was for growing crops free from the wind and sea air. This might be true but if it were then there ought to be many more such places if they were to feed such a large community.

Perhaps it was a private garden for the elite packed with fruit trees or perhaps it was a pit for violent spectacles. This is what I love about the early cultures, I can creatively speculated as to what exactly I believe went on as without guides, books and written proof everything is assumed.

Inside the palace area itself was breathtaking. The shapes were organic and reminded me in a very vague way of Gaudi and his art nouveau architecture in Barcelona. Not because it looked in directly similar but because it was so organic that it is the nearest reference point that sprung to mind.

A Peruvian hairless wild dog joined us and took a shine to one visitor she wanted to go home with.

I was left wondering why we have forgotten such wondrous curves and shapes in the little regular brick boxes we have been designing ever since the Chimu vanished. This place ought to be on the tourist map much more than it is. The entire complex is just so very very massive.

The only problem is the current bamboo roof designed to protect it from the harsh coastal air. There are so many poles that stand regimented inside at such regularity that they destroy the overall effect of the Chimu curvy organic shapes. A tented fabric roof like that of the Temple of Cao would better suit the site. I know people shout about the cost and funding but I would say invest wisely and tourist will come but you must spend more to achieve world class facilities. I’m especially shocked to see graffiti etched into this UNESCO site. How dare you!! If you can’t respect a place don’t visit it.

In Cao I read a list of the tattoos on the Lady of Cao’s body and was curious as to why she had rhomboids of her skin when most of her tattoos were divine creatures such as snakes, spiders, crabs and fish. I think here I might have found a possible answer. Here the building blocks under the sculpted sand are rhomboidal in their shape. Maybe she had these as a representation of building homes, cities and temples. She was believed to be a divine sorceress who was meant to balance all the elements of their world.

Back in Plaza Mayor in the city centre I was fascinated by the heavy wooden lattices that cover the many balcony rooms too you can see the influence of the Moorish Islamic architecture here. Also in the many geometric tiled interior floors inside buildings.

All around the Plaza Mayor in Trujillo are the most wonderfully colourful houses with what I can only describe as giant bird cage windows.

When did the cages develop? Were they to protect the properties from burglary in recent decades or were they always there to cage the properties so that windows could be left wide open to allow through-drafts? I’m certain that for the women centuries ago all the corsets and layers of fabrics must have led to much feinting and retiring to their rooms with the intense equatorial sun so a cool breeze would have been essential. In my blog from Machu Picchu Arturo belittled a sacred mountain to amuse me so now it’s my turn. Naughty me.

One Reply to “huaca way to finish my trip north”

  1. Sad about those museums. Love reading your articles with the pictures. You’re a great storyteller 🙂 xoxo

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