Day 8 |
Oct 20, 2010

Salaverry, Peru

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: S 08º13’42”, W 078º59’01”
Weather: Overcast and cool
Air Temperature: 20ºC
Pressure: 1013 hPa
Wind: A fresh breeze blowing from the west

This morning I got up as we were docking at Salaverry – a small town in a desert setting that serves as a port for the city of Trujillo. The Peruvian coastal desert provides a stark contrast with our last port of call, Guayaquil. At 9 am, once we cleared into Peru and were done with the usual formalities, we boarded two very comfortable double-decker coaches to head for today’s great destination: the Valley of Chicama, 20 miles north of Trujillo.

There we visited the archaeological complex of El Brujo (The Sorcerer), which dates back to the Moche culture. This fascinating culture (100 BC-650 AD) pre-dates the Inca Empire and managed to survive and flourish in this desert environment.

The National University of Trujillo and the National Institute of Culture began a joint "dig" here in 1990. They discovered the "Huaca Cao Viejo", a pyramid reaching up to 150 feet in height with walls decorated with friezes and coloured reliefs that depict complex scenes, characters, and geometric designs. It is a stepped pyramid with a central court that was probably used primarily for religious ceremonies.

This pyramid is undoubtedly the most impressive Moche site in the Chicama Valley and its current name (El Brujo) is due to the common practice of shamans of the north coast (who are also called “brujos” or “curanderos”) to hold some of their healing ceremonies at prominent hills or pre-hispanic ruins, which they consider to be places of power. Interestingly, the site is located very close to the seashore, and it is believed that ancient maritime rituals were carried out here, although excavation is ongoing and may reveal additional uses for the El Brujo area.

We had a chance to see the wonderful and new Cao Museum, which opened its doors only a year and a half ago and is a truly wonderful little museum. Among many interesting artefacts, pottery, textiles, gold pieces and ritual objects, it holds a 1.500-year-old, well preserved mummy, found on the site. This young woman was discovered deep inside a mud-brick pyramid in 2006. The incredible mix of ornamental and military artefacts found has experts speculating about this woman’s identity and her role in the Moche society.
I was very impressed with the quality of the displays, interpretative panels and information in the Cao Museum. There is also a small souvenir shop.

We then visited Hacienda Paijan, a privately owned horse-breeding hacienda, where we enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared with elements of typical Peruvian cuisine. During our meal, we witnessed a performance featuring the Peruvian paso horse – with some award-winning purebred horses – followed by a Marinera dance show. It was a great opportunity to immerse ourselves in genuine Peruvian culture and customs through food, dance, costume, music.

Once we had finished our Hacienda visit, we got back on the bus to head over to Trujillo, a town founded by Spanish conquerors in the sixteen century. After a 15-minute walk around the Plaza de Armas, surrounded by beautiful colonial buildings, we headed back to Salaverry to join the Prince Albert II and sailed towards Callao.

At 7 pm, our Venetian Society Representative, Jarda Versloot, hosted the Venetian Society Cocktail Party followed by a gala dinner.

As the day ended I thought of how glad I was to have had the chance to see and experience such wonderful things today.