Saturday, October 4th, 2003

Chiclayo, Peru

Frances Exploring the Tucume Pyramids

Chiclayo: the friendly capital of Peru, at least, that's what it’s supposed to be... it’s still under debate.


When we arrived in Chiclayo, on Peru’s northern coast, we were led around by a taxi driver who at first seemed quite friendly, but it turned sour when we didn’t like his hotel suggestions. At one point he wasn't letting Veronica back into our taxi while he argued that we should take this hotel we had gone to. Also, the hotel we ended up at had a strange manager guy, who made us pay up front like he expected us to run out the door or something, and asked to see our passports to double check the information we were giving him... sheesh.


But thus ends the bad part of Chiclayo, which affected the girls a bit more than Tony it seems. Looking for food, we found a great cheap place to eat right away, which was a nice change. After checking out a local tour guide operator office for tours to see the local museums and archaeological sites (we left without yet deciding as it was quite pricey), we headed over to visit the local markets.


We found the witch doctors' section of the market, which was quite the sight. A restless brown capuchin monkey and his two human companions who told your fortune (not sure if it was the humans or the monkey that told the future). We watched for awhile and drew a small crowd… "hey, what are the gringos looking at?? It must be interesting..." (maybe we should try staring at a wall sometime) staring at the monkey, who didn’t seem to care less. The witch doctors sold medicines and potions of every sort (like frog concentrate), as well as amulets, pendants and the like, swords, monkey skulls on necklaces, stuffed frogs standing up, full croc skins, deer heads, bundles of fawn legs... herbs of many types (we got some muna, a yummy herb that settles your stomach for our tea)... Also, piles of San Pedro cacti and in the back, some more interesting things ...  You know how you can get pepper or lemon or blackberry etc. infused vodka? I’m now in possession of a small bottle of ayahuasca infused whiskey! It kind of smells like roses, oddly enough.


The people here were the friendliest bunch we've come across in this city, often talking to us and asking about us and joking around without trying to sell us anything, which was a nice change. While we were there a man walked up to us and asked us, in English, if we were from Canada, and if we had just come out of a tour agency inquiring about tours for the local archaeological sites... yes. He then introduced himself as our guide for the next day if we went with that tour operator! It was quite bizarre meeting this way, in this huge city, in a tiny witch doctor's market... he was told that three Canadians from Camelot (our hotel :) ) were thinking about it, and we looked like we fit the bill I guess. Feeling sorta spooked out cause we were in a witch doctors market and the coincidence seemed sorta weird. We saw this to be a sign of some sort, plus he spoke decent English, so we went with the tour. We talked to him a bit longer about the tour and about Chiclayo itself. He then asked us if we wanted to meet a “real” shaman/witchdoctor. Sure!


The guide, Luis, led us to the shaman’s hut, who offered to perform a San Pedro ceremony for us. He said the ceremony would be for luck, but also a sort of shaman check-up, where he diagnoses you to see if you are all right... and if not performs the necessary rituals or gives amulets or whatever needed to dispel your evil. I really hope he doesn’t use guinea pigs... Apparently the shaman of old used them to absorb the bad energies inflicting a patient... which would apparently kill the guinea pig... like he would let the thing crawl on your head and then it would stop and die when it found the source of your migraine, having absorbed the negative energy... boo. Sounds like they kill them (do I sound like an unbeliever?) No little animals dying on me thanks. We politely told him we’d think about it and thanked him for the invitation….


The next day we met up with Luis again to start the archaeological tour of the ruins and museums around the city of Chiclayo. I'll spare you most of the details... Went to a new museum on the Sipan Pyramids ... very nice!.


We started by seeing two very modem museums in Lambayeque which were the best we've seen so far by quite a bit. The new museum on the Sipan Pyramids was very nice. The whole museum is built like a pyramid and you walk up a ramp to the third floor and walk down through the museum seeing things that they have found there in the order that they have found... like lots of tombs of the lords and the gold and other clothes items and decorations they wore. The pieces are extremely well preserved, each in its own case with its own temperature and humidity monitor, lighted by a special light that doesn’t hurt any of the chemicals in the pigments on the artefacts. There were massive gold masks, chest plates, armlets, leg braces, etc etc. Gorgeous. Also went to the Tucume Pyramids Archaeological Site. While wandering around the ruins there our guide took us away from the usual tourist areas and we climbed to the top of an adobe pyramid that they are still excavating…. we could see the other pyramids below and other sites, as well as some bones poking out of the ground and some tombs of people from the civilization…interesting.


After the tour we hit the casino! Which we’ve never done before and so really had no clue about it, which I’m sure was pretty obvious as we randomly pressed the many buttons on the slot machines in the hopes of some kind of action... but we eventually figured it out. $2 entertained us for about half an hour because we kept winning our money back, which made the whole thing pretty fun, despite not winning anything in the end. As we walked by one of the machines one guy won the equivalent of $300 from a 40 cent poker machine. He seemed uninterested almost. By comparison, when veronica won forty 10 centimos pieces (about $1.70), she cried out WoOHOOO! HAHA! ... hehehe :)



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