It felt a little strange after Lesley and Phil returned home, we felt a little lost and it took us a while to get back in our groove.
Once Keira was feeling better we got back on the road, eager to get moving again.
We headed north to Chiclayo to visit the Sipan ruins and the museum there. We resumed camping again staying in the parking lot of the museum. It was ideal as Keira had some kids to play with; we had toilet access and could once again cook for ourselves.
The Sipan ruins were as we remembered, very simple. The museum is the main attraction with the artifacts, amazing masks, pottery and mummies excavated from the tombs.
The drive to Chiclayo took us along the coast, with the still misty grey weather, desert landscape and trash littering the roads, the beaches and the ocean. To us it was very depressing and the garbage was a symbol of how much damage humans can do with our waste. We did see a garbage dump, however instead of making the landfill inland it was close to the main road. There were garbage piles alongside the road where people had obviously just dumped their load, not caring, or not wanting to pay to dump it or being unable to pay.
In our western world, we are very privileged, we have governments who set up programs to take care of our waste, we have other options to avoid using plastic and we have recycling programs. When a country is poor there are no such programs. When people are struggling to fulfill there basic daily needs for food and shelter there is no energy and no resources left to take care of extraneous problems.
We decided to head inland to the mountains again with the hope of catching up with our Dutch friends Els and Gerret.
We made stops at Cajamarca and Celendin, opting to stay in hostels, as Keira was still not 100%.
We stopped along the way to visit the ventanillas de otuzco, the burial sites used by the Incas. They were quite fascinating.
We also made a stop at a church near Pollac recommended to us by a Dutch expat we met. The church is a work of art, it walls ceilings and outdoor walls completely covered in mosaic tiled religious pictures and religious symbols. It was really amazing and quite bizarre to find it in such a small town.
The drive took us via mountains at an altitude of 3000 to 4000 meters before plunging us down to the temperate zone of Balsas where we stopped for lunch and bought 15 juicy mangoes for $3 USD. We then climbed again.
We visited a museum just outside Leimebamba, which housed 300 mummies that had been found in the nearby mountains. It was a fascinating display and again brought mixed feelings on viewing them. Keira was clear about her emotions stated several times, “they freak me out.”
We were delighted to see the women in this area in traditional dress but this time with broader rimmed cowboy style hats with a tall conical shaped headpiece. The people we encountered were very friendly and interested in our travels.
The third night we made a run to a campsite south of Chacapoyas where we had arranged to meet Els and Gerret. We arrived a day earlier surprising them. It was really great to see them and share travel stories again.
We had a rest day and then headed to Kuelap ruins the following day. We had heard great things about Kuelap and many views that it was better than Machu Picchu.
The ~30 km drive into Kuelap was via a very narrow dirt road that at times made the death road in Bolivia look like a Sunday drive. The road took us through many small villages where the locals stared at our vehicles and returned our waves somewhat timidly. Keira would hang out the window, shouting out “hola’ and waving. The old women would respond with “una hermosa bebe.” (A beautiful baby) We would witness a lot of head turning as Gerret and Els drove through and then the word “gringa” or “gringos”. (Woman foreigner or foreigners).
We camped once again in a car park at the ruins. Not bad as we had an amazing view over the valley and of the ruins themselves.
We were indeed blown away by the Kuelap ruins themselves and agreed with the opinions that we had previously heard; the ruins do rival Machu Picchu.
Kuelap was constructed between AD 900 and 1100. It was a pre-Inca citadel used by dignitaries and was thought to be an administrative center. People were brought in from the outer communities to work on the construction. It was once a thriving community with thatched roofed buildings and high walls containing the city.
Today it looks like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. The buildings and structures were in partial ruin with jungle vines and trees encroaching and threatening to engulf the remains. This adds to the mystery of the site and the feeling of its authenticity.
Unfortunately progress is going to take its toll on the site, as a cable car is going to be built for easy access from the parking lot to the site itself. We were really disturbed by this, as the mystery and the vista of the site will be destroyed.
Our next stop again took us through small villages on winding, narrow roads. This time it was to visit Karajia. This site has 4 statues positioned in a cave outcrop in a mountainside of a valley. It was a burial site with little else known about it. The statues were really cool to see.
Camping this time was in a grass area in the town itself. We quickly became the talk of the town. As Els and Mike prepared dinner they were surrounded by local women, men and children vying for position to watch their every move.
Keira had an amazing experience playing with the local children and their pigs. Gerret and I braved the masses for a while but then took refuge inside their vehicle.
The following day we said our goodbyes to the locals. Keira really enjoyed playing with the local children.
After a grocery restock in Chamayo, we searched for a campsite, finding an ideal location near the river and a small village surrounded by rice paddies and crops. We were now once again in a tropical region, and the warm weather was wonderful. A woman from the village sold us bananas and we chatted to locals from Chamayo who came to the river to swim. Keira played with some of the children and hung out by the river with their family.
Having not showered for about 5 days, Keira and Mike took to the river to wash. I settled for a bucket hair wash.
The next day we said goodbye to Peru and crossed the border into Ecuador. This took some time as our entry paperwork for the vehicle from when we entered Peru ~ 2 months was incorrect. We were relieved when the border guards sorted it out and we could be on our way.
Lasting impressions of Peru: ruins, pleasant people, varying landscapes, misty and grey coastline, desert and unfortunately garbage.
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA:
MOST VALUED POSSESION: cooking stove to cook our own meals
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike- seeing the ruins at Kuelap; Keira- playing with the kids at Karija and their pigs/riding the horse; Riss- Kuelap ruins
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Mike-cooking with a gang of locals watching; Keira- walking the long distances at the ruins when my legs were still weal- Mum and Dad carried me; Riss- going from hot to cold- our bodies had no time to adjust.
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike- mangoes, they were delicious, Keira- mangoes and drinking coconuts; Riss- mangoes and coconuts
BEST CAMPING SPOT: river spot near village and rice paddies
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.