Off the Gringo Trail in Peru

Sipán, Peru
by Irene Butler

Peru – Published in Travel Thru History E-Zine

Lord of Sipan CoffinWith the uncovering of over 1000 ceramic pots containing food for the afterlife, archaeologist Walter Alva knew his 1987 discovery near the village of Sipán, Peru was of major importance. I can only imagine his euphoria when under the pots he unearthed a sarcophagus of a king in royal splendour, and deeper digs revealed other kings and priests – the Lords of Sipán.

There are two ways to get to Sipán; the easy way is to fly from Lima to Chiclayo (which is 30km from Sipán). Or for the more adventurous, such as my husband Rick and myself, hop a bus heading north. A bonus of overland travel is being able to take in the treasure trove of sites along the 760km route.

Northern Peru is considered “off the gringo trail” since nine out of ten travellers to the country head south, the draw being Machu Picchu and other Inca ruins. Our first bivouac north of Lima is to the town of Trujillo (tra-HEE-yo) – the absence of souvenir shops and touristy restaurants speaks for itself – we are going against the grain.

The most prominent ruin in the Trujillo area is Huaca de la Luna, a 10-storey adobe pyramid of the pre-Inca Moche Empire. From the outside this temple, built in stages between 100-700AD, appears to be a gigantic mound of clay. Upon entering our eyes widen at the sight of mud walls curiously cut away, revealing levels painted with geometric figures and mythological beings. As we gaze at the elaborate mosaics in shades of magenta, gold, green and black, our guide Juan explains that each new century the Moche sealed the bodies of their deceased rulers into the pyramid by completely covering the tombs with a new stepped platform. Thus with archaeologists slicing through the eight-level pyramid, we are awarded this amazing glimpse of condensed history.

Read the rest of our Adventure – TravelThruHistory 

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