Friday, 25 December 2015

Like An Inca - Neil Young


Having just completed an 8 days stay on the Galapagos Islands with my dear friend (and then Boss on the Buchan Alpha Oil Rig), Mike Hughes, on Friday 28 February 2003 we flew from Baltra back to Guayaquil in Ecuador. The flight had been programmed for the previous day but for reason, best known to themselves, the Airport Authority had taken into their heads to re-surface the tarmac that day. This had cause a mass altercation at the Tame Airline Office in Puerto Ayora (the capital of Santa Cruz Island)  of which we were not about to become part. The 2 young ladies trying their hardest to sort the ticketing situation seemed to be getting a seriously hard time so, realising the wait was going to be a long one we popped over the road to make a purchase! Our turn soon came and with a politeness they had not previously experienced that day we bid the ladies a jaunty good morning, placed a small box of chocolates in front of each of them, problem solved and back to a 'bonus day' bird watching! The following day at the Airport the melee had increased as the news was received that there were to be 2 flights back to the mainland, one scheduled to leave shortly and the other very much later, there was a clamber. Just then, the very same 2 ladies emerged from the office, walked towards us and taking us by the hand led us through the throng and without the usual formalities showed us to our (upgraded) First Class seats on the aircraft.  

Next, we needed to get transport to the border town of Machala, to cross into Peru, but hadn't bargained on Attila the Fast and Dangerous to be driving the bus! These were journeys we had become used to on previous trips with a crate of live chickens across our knees and a few piglets scurrying about the bus we thought we were glad to see the border post. However, it looked as if we were being dropped right outside the door, but no, having secured our visa we were then driven 'back' 5 Km to get our exit stamp and clear customs. It was a taxi drive back to where there was yet another stampede to cross the border, with the added degree of difficulty provided by the throng of salesmen and money changers.
 Bagsy the Gullible at the Border

Eventually, we gave in to their persistence and changed 100$US for Sol before grabbing another taxi to take us to the coach station at Tumbes. The Swallow, named after the town, is a near 'endemic' so that was a good start but booking 2 onward single tickets to Trujillo (arguably the second largest city in Peru) you didn’t need to be fluent in Spanish to understand the reaction of the Booking Clerk as we handed him our newly purchased Sol Notes in payment. Rubbing each between his thumb and forefinger, then tasting it before holding it obliquely to the light, he announced at each one FALSO, FALSO, FALSO! Another advantage of being a Seasoned Traveler!!!! At least 50% of the notes were counterfeit but after all it was only £30 each in sterling and we were able to pay the fare in US anyway. This leg of the journey was some 600 Km (15 hours) and almost exclusively along the arid coastal strip, so it was going to be late before we arrived. On the up-side coach was luxurious, clean, comfortable and air-conditioned along with an adequate number of stops for food and water on the way. and there was enough of interest to see. Once out of the town the number of fish processing factories seemed never ending and this is where we saw our first Band-tailed Gull of this trip. We had encountered them before on a previous trip mainly along the east coast of the Continent, but this was before they were 'split' into 2 distinct species, Olrog’s Gull to the east and Belcher’s Gull this side of the Andes. The time of arrival wasn’t noted but we soon found a comfortable hotel, had a further tussle with the taxi driver and over a drink discussed the sights we had planned to see the next day.

The main interests for us in Trujillo were to be the colonial city itself, founded in 1536, which is the main town of northern Peru, while the other was the nearby and immense complex of Chan Chan (pronounced Chan Chainy) and including the Moche Capital of Sipán. Waking surprisingly early that Sunday morning the sun was already making for a pleasant day, and in view of the fact we had been sitting much of the previous day it was decided to forsake breakfast for an early morning stroll. Leaving the hotel at 08:00 it was no more than a few hundred yards before we came across the pristine main city square edged by Colonial style Government buildings while the expanse of the paved centre was bedecked with statues, fountains, palm trees and other lush vegetation, in true Spanish style.

Diagonally opposite from where we stood, and quite some distance away, we could see what looked like military activity and there was definitely a brass band playing somewhere close by. With a scan through the binoculars a number of soldiers, with both swords and guns, could be seen goose-stepping around the perimeter, a sure indication that we needed to investigate further. As we arrived outside of what proved to be the City Hall, we stopped to look at the band activity and were approached by, what we thought to be, a very smartly dressed Naval Officer in white uniform. He had reasonable English and bid us good morning and inquired (in a most friendly way) as to what we were doing. He explained that he was in fact the Chief Inspector of the Tourist Police Force, gave us a very warm welcome before asking if he could introduce us to his superior a very senior Government Official.

We had no issues with this, but he was keen to get our names so he could use them in his introduction; in fact his whole manner was impeccable. Once the formalities of introduction were over, we were told that this was the day of the Cities Annual Parade, with each year in turn being dedicated to one or other of the Sections of the Community. This year it had been dedicated to the Ladies of the City, and as ever would traditionally involve full military participation and that of all other Civilian Groups. Then came what could only be described as a ‘bomb-shell’ as we were requested to become 'Guests of Honour' for the occasion. With me in my very best blurry lettered STONED AGAIN T-shirt and Mike looking like an out of work dockyard matey we readily agreed that it would be a great privilege to accept such an auspicious invitation. All this time, too engrossed in the magic that had unfolded before us, we were oblivious to the fact that the city square was filling with hundreds and hundreds of people, with police cars frantically trying to clear the roads and television cameras being set up all around us. Two other Officers were then detailed to show us around and brief us as to our duties and where we should stand at any given time. We were taken over to the main dais that had been erected outside of the City Hall, and were shown our place in the midst of all the high-ranking government and military dignitaries.

By now the band had struck up and the 3 officers we had met earlier, now with their swords drawn, smartly marched to where we stood and appeared to ask permission of the ‘head official’ to let the ceremony commence. On the opposite side of the road there was a lectern behind which a 6 star Army General began the proceedings. There was no need of an understanding of the language as he welcomed all the high officials, then announced us by name and welcomed us as their Guests of Honour. At nine ‘o’ clock the whole place fell silent as the city hall clock struck the hour and as the chimes faded the same three officers approached the dais and sort the Governors approval to raise the country’s flag. This done they turned about and escorted the President and his wife to the flagpoles as the band burst forth with the national anthem which seemed to last for an hour. Ably assisted by the Army, they raised the flag, seemingly the size of a football pitch, to the truck and then were returned, again under escort, to their original places. After the Peruvian flag, the officers then escorted the city Governor and his wife across the road to where they raised what, in England would be the County flag, of the La Libertad Region. Next it was our turn to march, under escort, across to the square and raise the City flag of Trujillo, and as we did so agreeing that I would hoist the first half and Mike haul it to the top. This was quite an effort as the flags were huge, taking 3 soldiers to hold them in the folded state, in addition to holding our stomachs in and standing to attention.
As the ceremony began, we were stood directly next to the
                                           President of Peru Alejandro Toledo and his Wife                                        
    (in blue mini-dress) as we were escorted across the square
  passed the ranks of Military Police
and up to the
 Flag Pole
Haul Away Handsomely

Our cameras had been passed to 2 Police Officers
who were detailed to take our photographs.
Pity they were no better at this than we were!

With all of ‘US’ VIP’s returned to the dais area the Parade proper began being led off, as it would be in the UK, by the Senior Service the Navy and followed by the Army then Air Force and the Veterans of the Bolivar Campaigns. Nurses, Police Officers, Firemen, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides followed as the whole community was being represented including the Kindergarten. After the march past we were invited to the Governors Palace, part of the City Hall, for a wine and cake reception, where as well as shaking hands with Signor Toledo and wife we were also introduced to many other city dignitaries, who all seemed anxious to talk to us. Throughout, TV cameras had recorded the events, and although we left addresses a copy of this was never received. However, there was a full afternoon before us which we decided would be spent at Chan Chan. With no more than a mention of this we were whisked away to an awaiting Staff Car, while Police Officer lined the roof of their Station waving to us, before being driven the few miles to the complex. En-route there was time to reflect, long and hard, on an experience that not even money could buy.

During the transfer, the drive was slow enough for us to view many of the other splendid buildings in the City, as well as a number of small Adobe Temples that had survived since ancient times. Once there, our driver had a word with the Gate Keeper who afforded us ‘free admission’ and the services of a Guide.
Note on Chan Chan - The largest Pre-Colombian city in South America, Chan Chan is an archaeological site in the northern Peruvian region of La Libertad 5 Km west of Trujillo. It is located in the mouth of the Moche Valley and was the capital of the historical Chimor Empire from AD 900-1470, at which time they were defeated by and incorporated into the Inca Empire. The Chimor Empire, a conquest state, developed from the Chimú culture which established itself along the Peruvian coast around 1400 AD. In the Chimú tongue, Chan Chan means "Sun Sun;" as it was named for its sunny climate which is cooled year round by a southerly breeze. In a particularly arid section of the coastal desert of northern Peru where, due to the lack of rain in this area, the weather effect has preserved the City as it is seen today. Additionally, the major source of water is in the form of rivers carrying run-off  from the Andes Mountains which with careful control, allows for the irrigation of farmlands. The city of Chan Chan spanned 20 Km² and had a dense urban center of 6 Km², which contained extravagant Ciudadelas which were large architectural masterpieces housing plazas, storerooms, and burial platforms for the ‘highest dignitaries’. The splendour of these monuments suggests their association was exclusively with the Royal Class, as housing for the lower classes of the hierarchical society are known as small, irregular agglutinated rooms (SIARs). Because the lower classes were often Artisans, whose role in the Empire was to produce crafts, many of these SIARs were also used as workshops.
Our introduction here was to the La Huaca Acro Iris, known locally as the Temple of the Dragon, which is one of the best preserved of the Chim Temples as before excavation in 1963 it was covered with sand. The site covers some 300 square meters and consists of thick defensive walls surrounding the 80sq metre Temple. This is on two levels with a combined height of about 8 meters with adobe mud walls covered with a repeated rainbow design and huge ramps leading to the top allowing for excellent views. Next, some 1 Km from the city, was Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna, built about 50A.D. the oldest of the temples we would visit. Not unlike what the original Iron Age long barrows, found in UK, must have looked like before the grass grew, they are indeed huge monoliths.

 Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon)
 Huaca del Sol (Temple of the Sun)
The Pyramids at Sipan
Germany still lead the field
United Kingdom
United States

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