Friday, 11 November 2005

Virgins, Horses and Adobe

I arrived in Trujillo last night. According to my guide book, Trujillo is the most conservative city of Peru. What I discovered first is that it is not the cheapest: the hotel the taxi driver took me to offered me the smallest and most expensive room I've had so far. But then it is the end of the trip and only for a couple of days so I stayed. They also have 24 hour free internet access for guests with a decent connection so no need to go and shop around for this.

Once here, I went out and ended up in the Plaza de Armas, as you would in any Peruvian city. It was full of people who were obviously waiting for something and there were a lot of people in costumes. I had accidentally stumbled upon a procession of the Virgen de la Puerta, the Virgin of the Door. The story goes that in the year 1674, a fleet of pirates that had already pillaged Guayaquil, in today's Ecuador, were seen closing in on Trujillo, or rather the harbour of Huanchaco. The local people, who didn't even have much in terms of defensive walls sent emissaries to all surrounding villages, including Otuzco, where there was an hermitage dedicated to the Virgen de la ConcepciĆ³n. To cut a long story short, they put a statue of the saint on top of the city gate as only protection and the pirates didn't even disembark. To this day, they still don't know why but they celebrate the virgin and they do it in style.

Trujillo is also the most photogenic city I have visited so far in Peru, thanks to the beautiful colonial architecture of its centre. A large number of buildings are UNESCO world heritage and gives quite a posh and clean aspect to the whole city. This is exacerbated by the local favourite passtime: raising horses.

But Trujillo also has a past before the Spaniards. Around the city are some of the most important pre-Inca sites from the Moche and Chimu cultures, in particular the largest adobe city in the world, Chan Chan. I went there this morning and, even though a very small part can be visited, it is extremely impressive, covering 14 square kilometres.

Tomorrow, the plan is to see the Huacas del Sol y de la Luna, one of the best restored pre-Inca sites. Then, there's the beach and a concert on Saturday.

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