Peru Journal: Last day – Lima/Huaca Pucllana

July 6, 2008

We returned by plane to Lima where we were to spend the day, then board a flight to the U.S. that night. We were given a “day room” at a hotel in the Miraflores district, where we were able to keep our luggage and rest.

Today was an interesting but frustrating day. Jayme, Dale and I spent the morning at some local tourist markets – lots of mass-produced stuff at rip-off prices. Being our last day, I was very anxious to do something interesting.

Around lunch time we ran into Val and Sharon and decided to take a cab to a local restaurant that was near some ruins located in the middle of Lima. We decided to cram all 5 of us into the cab, against the driver’s wishes! He took us to the periphery of the ruins – no one was quite sure where the entrance was, and we decided to try to find a restaurant nearby, which we did.

I looked for my bag containing my wallet in order to pay for our lunch, but realized I didn’t have it with me! I must have left it at the hotel, although I could swear I had it when we left. Oh well, with my ADD brain, it was very possible I was mistaken. I worried, though, about leaving it at the hotel, exposed to getting stolen. Dale said not to worry – our room was locked up and no one would go in there. No maid service was necessary, because we hadn’t spent the night.

We walked to the site of the ruins, walking all the way around the outer wall before we finally found the entrance! I had very few coins to my name at that point (I’d been trying to use up all my Peruvian money) and had to borrow from one of the others to pay the entrance fee.

These ruins, known as Huaca Pucllana, belonged to the people known as the “Lima Culture” and remains were also found belonging to the Wari Culture, (500-900 AD) which influenced the Lima Culture in its final century.

The Lima Culture flourished along the Peruvian Central Coast during the years 200-700 AD. The Huaca Pucllana site, located in the Miraflores district in urban Lima, was built as an administrative and ceremonial center. The central pyramid, made of adobe and clay is constructed from seven platforms. It is surrounded by a plaza and a large structured wall which divides the complex into two sections, one ceremonial and one administrative.

On our guided tour, our guide explained each of the dioramas which depicted life in the Lima Culture.

On our guided tour, our guide explained each of the dioramas which depicted life in the Lima Culture.

10561058This diorama shows how the thousands of bricks used in construction were made.

The pyramid was built to express the power of the elite priests to control the natural water resources of the area, including control of the valleys of  Chancay, Chillón, Rímac and Lurín, as well as their religious domination.

The administrative sector and the urban zone were located towards the east of the surrounding wall and were probably used for public meetings, to discuss control and improvement of production. A number of small buildings, including storage rooms completed this part.

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In the ceremonial sector, including the pyramid, on the western side whose enclosure is over 500 meters in length, 100 in width and 22 in height, the priests conducted religious ceremonies honoring the gods and ancestors. Here deep pits were found in which offerings of fish and other marine life were made to appease the gods.

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Urban Lima in the distance gives a perspective of the expanse of this archaeological site.

Urban Lima in the distance gives a perspective of the expanse of this archaeological site.

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This hairless dog is apparently a regular visitor to the site!

This hairless dog is apparently a sort of mascot of the site!

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Archaeologists found many artifacts that shed light on the Lima Culture’s economy. These included textiles, decorated ceramics, bones, stone tools and remains of alpacas, guinea pigs, ducks, fish and other molluscs, corn, pumpkins, beans and fruits like cherimoya, lúcuma, pacae, guayaba. Labor included fishing, working on plantations, gathering and hunting, manufacturing of handicrafts, textiles, basketry and tools. They also constructed and maintained irrigation canals. Textiles were simple, made from alpaca or vicuna wool, and pottery included ceremonial jars decorated with snakes and fish, in black, red and white.

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1079Burial sites were also found in the pyramid, most notable of which contained remains belonging to the Wari Culture (500 AD-900 AD). Among them were the remains of the “Señor de los Unkus” (The Lord of the Unkus), which belonged to the first tomb within the ceremonial center to have been discovered completely intact. In this tomb there are three burial shrouds containing the remains of three adults and a sacrificed child.

Wari graves were subsequently destroyed by later cultures, and by the time the Incas arrived in the region, this site was already considered an “old sacred village.”

However, in October of 2010, archaeologists announced the finding of an undisturbed grave, containing 4 mummies from the Wari Culture, including an elite woman and three children.

Another interesting feature is a series of cave-like holes carved out of a section of the pyramid wall, apparently destined to be tombs of Chinese immigrants, which were also found in other sites along the coast. Those at Huaca Pucllana were presumably never used, as they appear unfinished and no remains have been found in them.

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1078Excavation was begun on the site in the middle of the 20th century,  when the top of the pyramid was exposed.   In 1991, it became a historical and cultural park, which now includes a museum , a park with native flora and fauna, a handicraft gallery, a tourist restaurant and of course, a store.

Interesting window facade of a nearby bookstore

Interesting window facade of a nearby bookstore

Upon returning to our hotel, I searched the room for my wallet, but couldn’t find it. I asked at the reception desk but nothing had been turned in (I thought maybe I’d left it in the lobby). It soon became clear that the bag containing my wallet had fallen onto the floor of the taxi and I didn’t notice because 5 of us were crammed in the back, sitting on each other’s laps.  Since it was never returned to me or to OAT, whose Lima address was included in an ID in the bag, I have to assume the annoyed taxi driver found it and kept the contents, which included quite a bit of cash. I had already exchanged my soles for U.S. $200 to give to our guide, Boris, which is what everyone else was giving him also. I had no choice but to go to an ATM and withdraw another $200 to give him. Fortunately, however, my passport was not in that bag.

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1083We spent the late afternoon at Lima’s modern mall, from which there was a splendid view of the ocean. This was our farewell to Peru. Later that night, we were on a bus to the airport and by early the next morning, we were back on U.S. soil.

This concludes my Peru Journal! I hope those who have been patient with me and followed it over the last year have found it interesting and enjoyable!

Peru Journal: Sillustani, a farm, and the city of Puno

July 5, 2008

We were up early once again, for a final discovery-packed day of our “Extension” trip to southern Peru. On the agenda for today were the ruins of Sillustani and site-seeing in the city of Puno. We came down for a wonderful breakfast, as usual, at the hotel, and were on our way by 8:00 a.m.

I haven’t talked much about the breakfasts we’ve had in Peru. All the hotels we stayed at had wonderful meals for us. There was always some type of grain, like oatmeal, yogurt, bread, cheese, and the “usual” fare catering to Americans – eggs, bacon, etc. I generally steered clear of that in order to partake and savor Peruvian food. (When in Peru, do what the Peruvians do…OK, I was a tourist so I was hardly having a “typical” Peruvian day, but whatever I could try or see, whatever I could learn, I was eager for).

We stopped at an overlook of the city and environs on our way to Sillustani. It was an amusement park, of sorts – there was a giant puma and a giant snake’s mouth that you can stand inside of. Apparently there was a giant condor there somewhere, also – but I never saw it. The snake, puma and condor are the three sacred animals of the Inca religion, representing the sky (condor), the earth (puma) and the underworld (snake).

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Another “attraction” was standing behind one of those life-sized pictures or statues of people with an oval cut out for people to put their faces in and have their pictures taken. Which was exactly what we did – cheesy!!

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Puno is not a particularly beautiful city, but the view from above of the city on the hillsides overlooking Lake Titicaca, stretching out toward the horizon, was quite lovely. On the far side of the lake is Bolivia.

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The ride to Sillustani took about a half hour, and along the way we saw many farms dotting the landscape, and crops planted alongside a lagoon.

Traditional farm complex with thatched roofs

Traditional farm complex with thatched roofs


Modern aluminum-roofed farm buildings alongside a lagoon.

Modern aluminum-roofed farm buildings alongside a lagoon.


crops planted at the water's edge

crops planted at the water’s edge

The Sillustani site is located on altiplano (high altitude plains). It is a burial site constructed by the Kolla (or Colla) people, an Aymara speaking culture pre-dating the Incas, around the eighth century A.D. It is dominated by funeral towers, called chullpas, which were used to bury family groups, primarily the ruling class. The Kolla practiced ancestor worship, and visited these chullpas to honor their dead for hundreds of years.

The towers have different styles, indicating different time periods. Some show evidence of the Inca architectural style, which could mean that either these people adopted Inca techniques, or that the conquering Inca culture reworked some of them.   983

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More chullpas in the distance

More chullpas in the distance

Grave robbers sacked these chullpas long ago, and there are no bodies left at the site. However, archaeologists say that the people would have been buried in fetal position.   Although the bodies were not mummified intentionally, due to the dry climate created in the closed tomb, the bodies survived for centuries.

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An animal has been carved or embossed on this stone - it looks like a small rodent of some type.

An animal has been carved or embossed on this stone – it looks like a small rodent of some type.

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On the right side of this broken stone, near the bottom, is a carving of a snake.

On the right side of this broken stone, near the bottom, is a carving of a snake.


A different style chullpa. A local resident takes a rest nearby.

A different style chullpa. A local resident takes a rest nearby.

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These above ground funeral towers exist all over the altiplano, but Sillustani is the largest site and the structures relatively well preserved. Some of the stones have carvings on them, although it is unknown who carved them or why.

A spiritual “aura” is said to exist here and there is a custom of standing within a semicircle of small stones and sprinkling coca leaves on the ground, in order to feel this aura. I’ve never been able to feel anything at vortexes or other such sites.

A semi circle of stones surround a spiritual spot. There are two or three of these on the site.

A semi circle of stones surround a spiritual spot. There are two or three of these on the site.


Our guide, Edith explains the tradition about the spiritual aura experienced here. These are the coca leaves she spread on the ground.

Our guide, Edith explains the tradition about the spiritual aura experienced here. These are the coca leaves she spread on the ground.


Val tries to feel the aura.

Val tries to feel the aura.


Jayme in the "aura" spot.

Jayme in the “aura” spot.

Sillustani looks over the Umaya Lagoon, apparently an “offshoot” of Lake Titicaca. It has a unique beauty with its contrast to the stark, rather barren landscape surrounding it.

Jayme and Dale next to Umaya Lagoon

Jayme and Dale next to Umaya Lagoon


Great place to pose for a group shot!

Great place to pose for a group shot!

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Another rock carving

Another rock carving

On the way back to Puno, we visited a local farm, where we met a farm family and heard about the economy of the farm. They grow potatoes and other staples, and raise llamas, alpacas and guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are commonly eaten here: many host families will serve guinea pig to guests (ours didn’t) and it is usually on the menu at restaurants. I never did try it so I can’t say anything about the taste!

Exterior of the farm complex. This is a traditional farm.

Exterior of the farm complex. This is a traditional farm.


Llama on the farm

Llama on the farm

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On top of the archway are two bulls, placed there for good luck. This is typical on traditional farms.

On top of the archway are two bulls, placed there for good luck. This is typical on traditional farms.


Farm woman with alpacas

Farm woman with alpacas


Here she poses with a baby llama, or possibly a vicuna!

Here she poses with a baby llama, or possibly a vicuna!


I don't know what the significance is of rocks piled on top of the arch. Possibly good luck, like the bulls?

I don’t know what the significance is of rocks piled on top of the arch. Possibly good luck, like the bulls?


Thatched farm building

Thatched farm building


Food set out for us - mostly potatoes & grains.

Food set out for us – mostly potatoes & grains.


Edith is showing where the family's kitchen is - they cook and do most other activities outside. Inside is mainly just for sleeping.

Edith is showing where the family’s kitchen is – they cook and do most other activities outside. Inside is mainly just for sleeping.


Lots of carbs!

Lots of carbs!


Archway with view of exterior of residence. (In the distance is the pen where guinea pigs are kept).

Archway with view of exterior of residence. (In the distance is the pen where guinea pigs are kept).


Guinea pig pen! Although kept as pets, most likely they'll be a future meal!

Guinea pig pen! Although kept as pets, most likely they’ll be a future meal!


Weaving and spinning

Weaving and spinning

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Back in Puno, we visited the Carlos Dryer Museum, which has many archaeological artifacts of regional pre-Columbian civilizations. The main attraction was the Archaeological Sillustani section containing 500 pieces of gold artifacts from that site, as well as a replica of the Funeral Tower (Lizard Chullpa). We were not allowed to take pictures, so I have no photos of this exhibit. I downloaded pictures from Google of things I remember seeing.

The signs say Cafe/Bar & Cultural center with exhibits and expositions. This might be an entrance to the museum.

The signs say Cafe/Bar & Cultural center with exhibits and expositions. This might be an entrance to the museum.


Carlos Dreyer Museum

Carlos Dreyer Museum (downloaded from Google)


Ancient coins (image downloaded from Google)

Ancient coins (image downloaded from Google)


A ceramic, two-headed jar, from the Nasca culture

A ceramic, two-headed jar, from the Nasca culture

puno museum-gold necklalce

 Afterward we toured the center of the city, including Plaza de Armas (this is what Peruvians call their main square – every town has a Plaza de Armas).

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Puno Cathedral

Puno Cathedral

In the plaza, there is a monument to the “Heroes del Cenepa” . I took the picture but didn’t know what it was about. Since then, I looked it up.

The plaque says: La 1a Division de la Infanteria, A la memoria de los hijos de la patria. HEROES DEL CENEPA.

The plaque says: La 1a Division de la Infanteria, A la memoria de los hijos de la patria. HEROES DEL CENEPA.

According to Wikipedia and other sites, the “Guerra del Cenepa” (sometimes called Guerra del Alto Cenepa) was a conflict between Peru and Ecuador, basically a border dispute that had been fought over and unresolved since the times of Simon Bolivar. It took place between January and February 1995 (I don’t remember ever even hearing about this!). The outcome, brokered by Argentina, Brazil, Chile and the USA, and ratified in Brasilia on May 8, 1998, was mostly in Peru’s favor: it gained the piece of land in the mountainous rainforest that had been  disputed, and Ecuador gained access to a small section of it called Tiwinza where 12 of Ecuadorian soldiers are buried. This disputed territory is the Cenepa Drainage Basin, which lies along the eastern border of the Cordillera del Condor and borders on the Cenepa and Marañon Rivers.

From there, we went to a farmer’s market. To get there, we were transported in bicycle taxis – actually tricycles! – being riden by “drivers” behind our seats. It was called, quite aptly, “Pioneros, King of the Pedals Caravan”!

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We're ready to go!

We’re ready to go!


Puno market

Puno market


potatoes

potatoes

As we were walking down a street near the market to return to our bus, we saw a police band serenading some workers on a construction site!

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That evening was our “farewell dinner” in the hotel dining room. The next morning we would be getting on a plane and returning to Lima. We’d have the day in Lima, then we would take our flight that night back to the USA. So this dinner had a tinge of sadness among the people of our group, bonded by this amazing trip. We’d seen so much, and yet so little…guess I’ll have to come back to Peru again sometime!

Our tireless guide and protector, Boris Cardenas!

Our tireless guide and protector, Boris Cardenas!

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Peru 2008: Discoveries in Urubamba and the train ride to Aguas Calientes

June 28, 2008

We checked out of our hotel this morning, after separating what we would need for an overnight in Aguas Calientes, the town that serves the tourist industry of Machu Picchu. Most of our luggage would be loaded on a bus and driven to Cusco by Victor, where it would be left waiting for us at our hotel there.

I was feeling extremely tired today, after having had to get up several times to go to the bathroom. I think I was dehydrated: a combination of not wearing a hat and drinking too much alcohol (the sugar and alcohol cause your body to lose water, not retain it), and perhaps the unusual food we’d had for dinner, although I doubt that was much of a factor. Maybe just the hectic pace of the day had caused me to get overly fatigued and thus unable to combat some of the other assaults on my body!

Being in somewhat of a bad mood, however, I also blamed (and maybe legitimately so) the fact that I’d had to sit in the back of the bus yesterday. It’s always bumpier in the back of the bus. I started thinking about the people who always sat in the front. I remembered reading that we were supposed to rotate seats on a regular basis, but human nature finds comfort in arranging oneself in a particular place and sticking to it. I made sure I didn’t linger over breakfast in order to find a seat in the front of the bus this time.

Before taking the train to Machu Picchu, we were going to have a few “discoveries” as Boris always calls them (an OAT term, I think) in Urubamba. We’d been to the town before, of course, to visit the school, Pablo Seminario’s studio and the home-hosted dinner, but we had not really seen the town. The bus dropped us off at the central square, Plaza de Armas, where we saw a large crowd of people gathered.

I climbed the steps up to the Cathedral to get a better view of the square. Someone was talking through a loudspeaker to the crowd of local citizens on bicycles, some dressed in native, colorful ponchos and hats, and others in modern clothes. Most were men and boys, but there were also some young women among them. I guessed they were having a bike race, but it was really a rally.

  Posted signs made the purpose of it clear:

“There are those who cross the forest and only see wood for the fire.”

“Friend, use your bike so you don’t contaminate the environment.”

It was a conservation awareness rally! I wondered if these people were going to clean up the trash along the way, which our rafting guide had mentioned the day before – I had noticed a lot of plastic bags and other trash caught in bushes and tree branches and he said that local citizens were going to clean up the trash this weekend, as they do periodically. Today was Saturday!

Behind the gathered bicyclists were waiting police for crowd control, as well as a line of “taxis cholos” – carriages mounted on 3-wheeled bicycles.

However, we were going to take a different alternate method of transportation, perhaps a bit ironically considering the purpose of the bike rally: we walked into another street where a line of motorcycle taxis waited for us. Similar to the “cholo” taxis, they have carriage bodies mounted on motorcycles; only the latter are open with a bench for two to sit on. The driver sits in front on the motorcycle seats. This was the first time I had ever ridden on even the semblance of a motorcycle!

We were paired up and Jayme and I ended up sitting together. Off we roared through the streets of Urubamba; unlike Ollantaytambo, these streets were paved and less picturesque.

We were dropped off in front of a small semi-enclosed plaza. There was a small group of people gathered at the far end near some arches, listening to a man standing in the middle. Probably some kind of workers’ meeting, I deduced.

We crossed a small bridge over a wide aqueduct and down another street to the entrance of a cemetery.

I recalled other Latin American cemeteries I’d visited – fascinating, and definitely different for Americans who are used to cemeteries with the dead buried underneath expanses of green lawn. I imagined Peruvian cemeteries would be similar to those elsewhere in Latin America – people buried in large cement mausoleums, with a picture of the deceased attached to the headstone (as in Brazil) and offerings of flowers and a variety of objects placed on or around the grave, as in Cuba.

However, this was a little different. People are buried above ground in cement mausoleums, but they generally do not display pictures of the deceased. Most interesting are the decorations and offerings at the graves.

Often at American cemeteries, I have seen a few graves with flower pots, some with wilted flowers, but here almost every grave has a vase of fresh flowers. People here seem to be diligent in their visits to their dead loved ones. Another innovation here are what I dubbed “apartment buildings for the deceased” – large concrete blocks containing eight or more vaults, each niche filled with flowers, decorations, or other offerings to the dead. Some are bare, either because no one has purchased that spot yet, the family of the deceased has not yet had the name and dates of their loved one painted or engraved on yet, or cannot afford to do anything with it.

However, the above ground graves are all from families of middle and upper class families. The poorest members of society who cannot afford to purchase a space in a mausoleum are buried in a separate section of the cemetery, UNDERGROUND, with crosses or small tombstones to mark their graves. These are not as pretty as our cemetery – the graves are delineated as mounds and are covered mainly with the sandy, rocky soil common to this region. However, these dead have dedicated loved ones, too, many of the graves decorated with vases or other colorful tokens. There are also flowering bushes and cacti planted among the graves.

(A week later I would make a connection of this burial custom when we visited the funerary ruins of Sillustani, near Lake Titicaca. The royalty were buried in funerary towers, commoners just above ground level, and the servants of the buried lords underground. The higher up you were buried, the higher your socio-economic status).

We walked up and down the aisles, looking at different tombs. Particularly poignant was someone who had recently brought their loved one, named “Trinidad”, a large bouquet of hearts decorated with red ribbons and stars encased in a plastic bag, and a pink basket with a monogrammed handkerchief  folded over a round wicker rim. Rose bushes were planted in front of the grave, which was set inside a block of four vaults. A lover who died too soon? A tragedy on someone’s wedding day? Or a beloved daughter who died in her youth? I imagined writing a sad story about this and took a picture to remember it. Respectfully, of course.

Boris pointed out the most fascinating grave of all. He was telling us that some people decorate the niche of the deceased’s vault with objects that have to do with their life or profession.

“Can you guess what this person did for a living?” he asked us, pointing to a niche that contained an elaborate arrangement of objects.

The back of the niche was painted blue with the deceased’s name written in a semi-circle across the top “Hon. Hquiles…Trujillo”. Underneath were painted a brown Christian cross and a card hand of 4 Aces. Underneath were placed a miniature table, stools, a plate of food, a plastic bottle of pink Kola Real, a miniature clay cooking stove with two clay pots on top, one filled with dirt (probably meant to represent soup or potatoes) and – here’s the giveaway – a miniature frog game! These objects were all reflected in the mirrors placed on the side walls and floor of the niche.

Someone exclaimed, “Oh – a tavern owner!”

“That’s right,” Boris confirmed.

Soon after that, we left the cemetery and walked to our bus, which began our journey to the train station. Along the way, we had another discovery: an ancient Inca bridge whose foundations are still in place. The stone supporting pillars of one section stand in the middle of the river and next to it is a complete section of the bridge, with supports holding two sections of suspension rods and wooden slats across it. On the other side of the bridge are elaborate terraces with steps up the side to a wall extending some distance above the river.

Inca terraces & bridge foundation

Inca terraces & bridge foundation

Bridge with Inca foundations

Bridge with Inca foundations

We got out to take a few pictures, then were on our way again. We were all given train tickets and told we had to sit in the seat assigned to us.

On the train, I was seated next to George, which was OK with me, but once we got going, he got up and moved around a lot, taking pictures out the window. During the one and a half hour train ride, there was some beautiful scenery to be seen, including snow-capped mountains as we ascended one range and descended into a valley beyond it. Raw00444 Raw00448 Raw00455 Raw00427 ??????????????????????????????

Machu Picchu is actually lower than most of the Sacred Valley sites we’d been visiting. Ollantaytambo is 9,100 feet (2,800 meters) above sea level, while Machu Picchu is only at about 8,500 feet.

On the train we were also served a “snack” which turned out to be quite substantial: a roll with butter, a small sandwich and a passion fruit pastry. The box it came in had a decorative dried flower held on by a round golden sticker, which I peeled off and stuck on the page of the small agenda I always carry with me, under today’s date.

Next: Machu Picchu Day 1