Ancient adobe cities in the desert and my first flat tire
So that was enough time relaxing on the coast. Time to do something. Let’s start with visiting some archaeological sites! There should be some pyramids around Chiclayo. It’s pretty long stretch to drive in one day but there is really nothing to see along the way. It is all just desert. And not the cool mountain and rocky kind of desert, just the boring sand and sand dune desert. The only stop on the way is Piura, the biggest city in the north coast area. Not that there is anything to see there but it is a good stop for buying supplies. On the stretch from Piura to Chiclayo my low oil level light comes on. With all the relaxing beach time I forgot to check my oil. And even worse, because Ecuador was expensive I had decided to wait buying a new supply until I got to Peru where I haven’t been able to buy oil at any of the big stores. So now I have no new oil and I’m in the middle of the desert. The nearest town is another 50km drive so I guess I’ll have to try that. More fun, it’s Sunday so all mechanics and oil shops are closed. The first gas station doesn’t have anything either. Luckily at the second one I can buy a stack of 1 liter bags. I guess I should really get this fixed properly soon. When I get to Chiclayo it gets clear that this is not my lucky day. The security guy at my first camping option says it’s fine to camp there but just when I want to set up he comes back saying he’s very sorry. The whole hotel is booked for some conference and even though they don’t need the parking lot, the lady who organizes the conference is a bit difficult and so I can’t stay here. Option two isn’t far away but the roads are really bad because of the floods: washboards and potholes everywhere. But at the farm of a Swiss/Peruvian couple I am very welcome. This place wins the award of most rustic shower: underneath the water tower in the back of the farm, between three rotting, falling apart wooden plates. But after two long days in the hot desert without showers I’m pretty excited about this.
The family who owns the gas station where I fill up next morning is very excited about a foreign customer. They want to know everything about my trip and give me a gift: a bottle of Pepsi and a roll of toilet paper. A bit of an odd combination but I’ll happily accept it. The first cultural stop is Tucume, where there are multiple 1200 year old pyramids. It is a very odd site: there are no other visitors and no signs. The terrain is huge so I just follow the trails. Next to and over the pyramids are huge metal constructions with roofs to protect the pyramids against the rain and to provide viewing platforms for the visitors. However, all of the constructions are closed. It is unclear if this is because they are still being constructed or because they have been there forever and are now unsafe. One metal roof you can get a bit closer but under the roof is a locked wooden shed that probably protects the actual excavation. It looks more like a Star Wars film set than an archaeological site. Because the pyramids are made of adobe (mud) bricks and because of loads of erosion everything just looks likes piles of sand. However, once you climb the mountain viewpoint in the middle of the site the structure of the town becomes visible. On my drive to the second site I got dragged into some GPS adventure. The maps in these areas are pretty accurate as to where the roads are. The problem is the differentiation between main and minor roads. What looks like a highway on the map might be a tiny single lane dirt road or vice versa. Today it was the first option. Tiny bad roads in the middle of nowhere and no options to get off this road. But in the end I made it to Sipan where very complete, almost 2000 year old graves. Most graves in Peru were robbed empty by the time the archaeologists arrived, but not these. The museum had a beautiful collection of golden and stone artifacts. The site itself was another pile of eroded adobe bricks with holes in it where all the nice stuff was found. Not too interesting. From here my GPS sends me over another interesting shortcut over a huge garbage dump to Pacasmayo where I can camp at a hostel. I’m still checking in When Sarah and Dani show up too. Friends for dinner!
People have always been surprised when I say I have never had a flat in more than a year time and almost 50000km. Well here it is. My first flat. But it’s a bit of an anticlimax. When I got back from the toilet at the campsite in the morning I noticed my right back tire was all the way empty. It was fine while I was driving yesterday so it must be a tiny hole. Luckily I was planning to get my back tires changed in Peru anyway so I can use my compressor to fill it up tomorrow morning and drive to the fancy tire shop around the corner. So no drama here. That day I explore the nice colonial surf town with Sarah and Dani including a great three course fish lunch menu for 2 euros.
The tire change is very quick. An hour after leaving the campsite I have two new tires and I’m on my way to Trujillo. First stop here is the UNESCO site of Chan Chan, an almost 1000 year old adobe city in the desert. It is the biggest adobe city every build and used to house some 60000 people. Sadly enough you can only visit a small part of the city which, I think, is restored way too much. Anyway it’s another set of sandy walls in the sandy desert. I expected more. Camping is at the coast in a hostel and Sarah and Dani are already there when I arrive. The place has a great roof terrace with a view of the sunset into the ocean. Time to get my whisky bottles out of my van.
Laundry time! Finally! I’ve been trying to do laundry for weeks. Every time the laundry machine had just broken down, there was no water, no power, no power and no water or it was raining so the laundry couldn’t dry. But now finally I can clean my stuff. I think it’ll be two machines. Less fun news of the day, my tiny coolant leak that I’ve had since southern Colombia is getting worse. I can actually see the coolant coming out of the bottom so I really need a mechanic. Luckily there is a guy specialized in VWs in town, sadly enough it seems that he doesn’t know shit about cars. I’m quite sure my secondary coolant pump is leaking. The mechanic says it’s the power steering. My arguments: 1, the coolant level low light keeps coming on; 2, the level of coolant keeps dropping; 3, the liquid you can see dripping at the bottom has the same bright red color as the coolant I throw in the top; 4, the part that is leaking is attached to coolant hoses and marked as secondary coolant pump in my van manual. But no, I’m sure it’s the power steering. So I got out of this place as quick as I could. I guess I’ll have to try to fix it myself at the hostel. I can’t fix it all the way but if I tie the pump up with some cable ties the leak is down to what it was a few months ago. After that I go for a long run along the beach to get rid of some of the frustration. When I get back I see to my surprise that Sarah and Dani are back again. They had planned to head on today but ran out of time. The owners of the hostel are gone for a few days and gave me the keys so I can let them in.
One more attempt for a mechanic but there is a huge queue of cars waiting so nope, I’ll head on. Time for the mountains, but when I’m trying to get out of Trujillo I see on my map that I’m really close to the Huaca de la Luna. Another adobe pyramid. So I might as well stop. I’m not expecting much of it and the fact that I need to take a guide and wait for enough people to show up doesn’t make it better for my planning either. But what a surprise! This small unknown site was hands down the best of all the desert archaeological sites I’ve visited. The temple had loads of beautiful colorful murals. The temple actually consists of six temples build over each other, kind of like a Russian doll. Every time a new temple was build the rooms in the old one were carefully filled with bricks and a new wider and higher temple was build over the old one. This means that the inner temples are really well preserved. A great last stop along the coast. Now it’s really time to head into the mountains, but that is a story for next time.