The wonderful Museo Farael Larco Herrera in Lima has an infamous display of pre-Colombian erotic pots, that explicitly illustrate the sexual lives of ancient Peruvian men, women, skeletons and animals in various combinations. Here’s one of them, to view the entire album, click on the link beneath the photo. It’s worth it :-).
Arequipa, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, provided our ‘aclimatisation stop’ on the way from Nazca to Chivay and then Puno. Nazca is at sea level, and both Puno and Chivay are over 3,500 metres – a trip straight up to that altitude is asking for altitude sickness.
Arequipa is unofficially Peru’s second city, and lies at 2,380 metres, in a valley surrounded by three volcanoes, and has a near perfect climate – it hardly ever rains and has perpetual blue skies. El Misti volcano, pictured just to the left of the cross in the photo above is 5,822m high, and is topped by snow year round. It occasionally erupts and will probably do so catastrophically sometime soon – or so the locals think! Worryingly, this doesn’t seem to stop them building settlements higher and higher up the lava flows. The other two volcanoes are Chachani (6,057m) and Pichu-Pichu (5,669m).
The city was ‘re-founded’ by the Spanish in 1540, but the area was previously occupied by Aymara Indians and later, the Incas.
Perhaps Arequipa’s most striking feature – apart from its blue skies and snow-capped volcanoes, is the pearly white volcanic material from which the majority of its buildings are constructed. Known as ‘Sillar’, it causes the whiteness of the buildings to contrast beautifully with the deep blue skies, sparkling in the crisp sunlight.
There are a couple of worthwhile things to do in Arequipa, apart from visit all the colonial plazas and churches (had enough yet?), my favourite being the Museo Santuarios Andinos, or the ‘Ice Mummies’ museum.
A few years ago on nearby Mount Ampato some archaeologists discovered a series of Inca ritual sacrifice victims. These sacrifices were of young children, mainly girls, and are thought to have been offerings to appease the volcano gods. The amazingly well preserved bodies, including that of the famous ‘Juanita’ are kept in the museum, with all the artifacts found buried with them. It provides ample food for the imagination and a fascinating insight into Inca life 500 years ago.
Secondly, if you can spare the rather steep entry price, visit the more than 400 year old Santa Catalina convent which is effectively a beautiful, isolated 2 hectare citadel within the city. It was where about 450 young nuns from privileged families lived in total seclusion. Although rumours abound of their antics for the first couple of hundred years (wild parties, orgies etc), all the partying was quickly stopped dead by the arrival of a famously strict and draconian head nun. Try and visit at sunset on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as we did, when you can wonder around the convent by candle light.
The Nazca lines are a series of mysterious 2000 year-old drawings cut into the the stony floor of the Nazca desert in Southern Peru. There are many hundreds of them, and they include animal figures, people, an astronaut and various geometric shapes and lines.
There are many theories as to their origin, some of which include: religious iconography, guidance for flying/tripping shamans, race tracks, irrigation channels, art for ancient hot air balloonists, and that they were part of a giant alien landing site – this theory is obviously supported by the presence of a 2000 year old astronaut figure.
Due to their size, they are best viewed from the air in a small plane – half hour flights go from Nazca airport and cost $55 include airport tax.
This short video was made on a slightly terrifying flight over Nazca. As it may be hard to see some of the figures in the video, you may want to have a look at the accompanying photos.
This podcast covers Northern Peru, starting at Chiclayo I head out on a tour to the 1500 year old Moche ruins at Sipan. Following this, I head three hours down the coast to the town of Trujillo, where I visit the Chimu city of Chan Chan, the largest Adobe (mud) city in the World and around 1300AD home to 60,000 people.
Just outside Trujillo, and near to Chan Chan are the Huacas (sacred places) of the sun and moon – Huaca de la Luna and Huaca del Sol. These structures are also Moche adobe pyramids from about 800AD, and Huaca del Sol is the largest single pre-Colombian structure in Peru – built from an estimated 140 million adobe bricks.
I finish the podcast in Huanchaco, 12km north of Trujillo. Huanchaco is a fishing town of about 12,000 inhabitants, that has now become well known thanks to three things – its reed fishing boats, its lovely beach and its fabulous surfing.
This short video shows some of the landscapes, beaches and archaeological sites of Northern Peru. The beginning of the video was filmed on the Piura – Chiclayo bus heading through the Sechura desert, before arriving in Trujillo and heading to the 1500 year old Huaca del Sol and Huaca de La Luna, two adobe temples built by the Moche and Chimu people around 500AD.
The Huaca del Sol (visible in the background during the landscape shot from high up) is the largest single pre-Colombian structure in Peru built from an estimated 140 million Adobe (mud) bricks.
Following this, I head to Pimentel beach, near Chiclayo, before heading three hours South to Huanchaco, a small fishing town and one of the best surfing destinations in Peru.
Thanks to Brian Eno and one of my favourite ever tracks – An Ascent – for providing the music. I know this infringes copyright, but to compensate, you can buy the MP3 here for $0.99.
Here’s a photo of a very bald but rather sweet Peruvian hairless dog looking a bit sleepy at Huaca Arco Iris temple, in Trujillo, Northern Peru.
This is an ancient breed. Although it is often perceived to be an Incan dog because it is known to have been kept during the Inca Empire, they were also kept as pets in pre-Inca cultures from the Peruvian coastal zone. Ceramic hairless dogs from the ChimÃº, Moche, and Vicus culture are well known. Depictions of Peruvian hairless dogs appear around 750 A.D. on Moche ceramic vessels and continue in later Andean ceramic traditions.