This last week in Peru has been pretty interesting. I would have liked to spend a little more time but need to flee by this weekend when the nation goes on 4th of July-like holidays. Here are the highlights:
Sometimes called the Switzerland of Peru, most of the snow-capped cordillera blanca mountains are 6,000 meters high, almost three times higher than the tallest mountains in Europe. I took a bus to nearby Pastoruri glacier and the views were spectacular. And it snowed like crazy---it was the sticky kind and I looked like the abominable snowman after the hour hike to the glacier's edge. The coolest thing on the trip was carbonated water, yes, carbonated water, naturally carbonated beneath the earth with real natural bisodium whatever-it-is, coming up all soft and fizzy. I tried a little and it tasted just like from the bottle, with a strong iron flavor. Here's a picture.
I went to a hot spring bath nearby and made some friends, two Peruvians and a Swiss girl. We went for cake and met up again my second day for more cake, that was fun! One of the Peruvian women used to date a Japanese man so she had me call Japan and ask about him in Japanese to his mom. Turns out he is now married and the mom said please don't call anymore. This was not fun to translate.
Trujillo is supposed to be a charming colonial city, but I thought it was loud and noisy and as stressful as Lima. I visited because the city is surrounded by 2,000 year old ancient ruins, two of which I remember reading about in National Geographic.
The El Brujo site was just unearthed recently, and only opened to the public last year. Peru has a serious problem with people digging around looking for buried treasure, the interesting thing being that they actually find it! They sell it to the highest illegal bidder, and the country loses important keys in its history. There are so many ancient sites that the government cannot possibly fund enough security and archeological projects to keep up with the grave robbers. When they find out the grave robbers have found something important, they kick them off the site by force hoping to save what is left. Any dirt mound could be an ancient pyramid, there is so much buried treasure in this area it's overwhelming.
The word grave-robber sounds like such an evil, horrible person, but I was talking to a nice older man on the bus who told me that everyone used to go out digging on holidays, it was a normal thing to do.
Chiclayo became famous for a recent archeological find, the Señor de Sipán. This was a massive tomb of rulers and warriors of the Moche people who were around the first few centuries A.D. They were accompanied by human (women, children, guardians) and animal sacrifices (llamas, dogs), and tons, TONS of gold, silver and bronze. I took a local bus to the site and got to see a real grave in the process of being unearthed. The security guard let me peek in, you could see some bones and lots of tarnished green copper. Unfortunately they wouldn't let me take pictures. The site where they are just beginning to find all this stuff looks like three normal dirt hills. These used to be pyramids---it bogs the mind to think of all the history that is still buried underneath all that earth!