Peru is one of the top travel destinations in South America, and with good reason, too. It has more ancient archaeology and culture, more extreme adventure, and more colonial history, than virtually anywhere else on the continent, and perhaps anywhere else in the world. Peru was my first stop in South America. Amazing country.
Yesterday, I explored some of the museums and ruins north of Chiclayo, in the Lambayeque area. This afternoon, I headed east, to the ruins of Sipán themselves — the site where the enormous treasure of El Señor de Sipán was uncovered. Long and much-delayed combi ride there and back — and the ruined pyramids are about as ruined and as unimpressive as their counterparts, that I saw yesterday at Túcume — but the tomb itself is a sight worth seeing, and the little museum next to the ruins is interesting as well.
After finishing up at the Brüning Museum, Kate and I continued on to the ruins of Túcume, which are also close to Chiclayo, about ½ an hour further up the road from Lambayeque (as the combi goes). Interesting Moche ruins, although they really are the most ruined ruins I've seen so far in Peru: they're supposed to be pyramids, but really, they just look like big mounds of dirt. Anyway, it's a nice walk to them, from the town of Túcume; and the scenery from the lookout is very pleasant there.
Along with my friend Kate, I caught a combi from Chiclayo to the nearby town of Lambayeque today, and had a look inside the famous Brüning museum. Named after the turn-of-the-20th-century photographer and artefacts collector, Hans Heinrich Brüning (who lived in the area for many years), the museum is filled with beautiful relics from the Pre-Inca civilisations that dwelt in the Chiclayo area — many of which are pure gold — as well as photos from the area 100 years ago. Nice place to look around, and not overly touristed either.
I've met a lot of interesting people on my trip, but Kate would have to be the most unique soul I've come across so far. She's been in South America for over a year — she lived in Cusco for 6 months, and she's just broken up with a local Ecuadorian boyfriend that she had for a long time — and she plans to go back to Cusco, and to live there indefinitely. She's a "healer" — you know, into traditional rituals, herbal medicine, shamanism, and all that tree-huggin' hippie stuff — and she wants to pursue healing as a full-time career move. Met her randomly in Chiclayo today, and had a great time hanging out with her and going sight-seeing with her.
Fairly basic little guest-house, close to the centre of town in Chiclayo. This place used to be called "Hostal Lido" — that's what it's listed as in my out-of-date LP — but it recently changed both its name and its owners. It bills itself as a "backpacker's hostel", but it's not a hostel (no dorms, only single / double private rooms — don't think they have any real hostels in Chiclayo), and it doesn't have any communal hang-out area for backpackers. Anyway, I think that for cheap and convenient accommodation, it's about the best that Chiclayo has to offer. The lady-in-charge these days is very friendly, as well.
I love croissants. I really do. I believe that they're god's gift to the world of pastry — via the French. And they're not so easy to find, either, down here in Peru. That's why when I saw a pasteleria here in Huaraz a few days ago, that was selling croissants, I eagerly bought some. And they were delicious. Yesterday, I returned to this treasure-trove supplier of wheat-filled goodness, only to discover that they were out of croissants. But I must be more memorable than I realise (what with my hairy beard and all, these days): because all that I did was walk past the croissant shop this evening, and the girls working inside called out: "¡Amigo — hoy dia, tenemos croissantes!" (lit: "Hey mate — today we have croissants!").
Went shopping around this morning, for a ticket on a night bus north to Trujillo. Got to the terminal of a company called Linea at 9:45am, and was given some hilarious news. Their 9pm bus to Trujillo was booked out for tonight: but they had 5 reserved seats that hadn't yet been paid for; and if nobody came and paid for them by 10am, they'd give them away first-come first-serve. So I took the advice of the guy at the desk, and waited for 15 minutes. By 10am, two reserved seats had been claimed, but the other three were up for grabs. I grabbed one of them, fast.
Got back to Huaraz this evening, from my 5-day Santa Cruz-Llanganuco hike, to discover that Jo's Place is full. I'd asked them to reserve me a bad for tonight, when I left on Wednesday: but they said that they couldn't make any guarantees, as they were already booked in advance for 28 de Julio (Peru Independence Day) weekend. Anyway, I begged the very-hospitable Mrs. Jo to find me somewhere — anywhere! — to crash for the night; and she let me sleep in the cantina (the breakfast kitchen / dining room). I didn't care where I slept tonight; I just cared that I slept. Which I did. Soundly.
My 5-day hike through the Cordillera Blanca — Peru's highest and most spectacular mountain range, north of Huaraz — has been a tonne of fun, and a unique experience. It's the first hike that I've done (on this trip) purely for the natural scenery, rather than for the ruins, or for the animals. And it's the first hike that I've done solo, without a group or a guide, and without anyone to help me along the way. In my opinion, you can't say that you've backpacked through South America, until you've done something like this, and lived to tell the tale.
When I realised that I'd gone the wrong way this morning — to the Pisco high camp, instead of to the famous Laguna 69 — I thought that I wouldn't be able to make it to the laguna today. But as it turned out, I was able to have my cake and eat it too: I made it to Laguna 69; and boy, was it worth it. Quite a stunning place indeed.