A Step Back in Time to Peru’s Chan Chan Temples

Day 12, 2023 Grand South America and Antarctica

Wednesday, Oct.18, 2023, Trujillo, Peru

We’ve all heard of the Incans and the Mayans, but there were many, many other civilizations spread across North, Central and South America for centuries. (And to think that we were taught that Columbus discovered this world that already had millions of inhabitants. For a deep dive, read the award-winning non-fiction book “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Charles C. Mann.)

Today we docked in Salaverry, the port for the nearby Trujillo (the second largest city in Peru). We explored the history and remains of pre-Incan societies living in what is now Peru. Our main focus was Chan Chan, the capital of the Chimú kingdom. The Chimú lived in this part of northern Peru from the mid ninth century until they were conquered by the Incans in 1470.

One of the ten temples in the city is open for tours. The thick adobe temple walls now are only about half of the original 30-foot height, due to erosion from centuries of rain. We wandered through the ceremonial sector, to the vast set of rooms used for collecting taxes and storing the payments, which were made in crops, livestock, fish, metals and jewels. A large reservoir collected water from the Andes (and proved to be the downfall for the Chimú, when the Incans realized dams could deprive the city of fresh water).

All that remains here today are the walls and carvings. Horizontal lines represent the waves from the nearby Pacific Ocean. More distinct waves carry fish, and sea birds line the coast. The moon was their first god.

I was thankful that I wore sneakers for the mile-long loose gravel walk through the ruins and that there was a steady breeze. And I was surprised that this close to the equator the temperature only rose into the mid 70s. Clouds made it seem a bit cooler, but I expect that had I not used sunblock I would have been suffering later.

In a nearby museum, we saw many relics from this and the previous Moche era. The large floor map illustrated just how big Chan Chan was with its 10 palaces.

A few miles away is Huanchaco, a popular beach town best known for its reed boats. Local fishermen can make them in just a couple of hours, once the reeds are dry. Their paddle is split bamboo, and they ride the reed like a horse through the surf to deeper water. When they return, they surf back to the shore, with their catch in the hold in the back.

Today I almost tried to do the impossible – be in two different places at the same time. I had booked myself on two tours, one with Holland America and another with an independent group. I discovered my double booking when the organizer of the independent tour mentioned a couple of days ago that I still needed to pay him. Fortunately, he found someone to fill my private tour spot, as it was too late to cancel my ship excursion.

My mistake was in failing to put the private tour on my planning spreadsheet, so a week ago I booked a ship excursion of the same sites. To be honest, I’m surprised I haven’t done this more often. It has been a crazy year as I am spending time on sea days researching, planning and booking tours for as many as eight future cruises at a time. Later this afternoon on the ship, I worked with my sisters back home to book a grizzly-bear tour for our Alaska cruise next June. This popular private tour just opened for booking and we needed to jump on it.

The roll calls on the Cruise Critic website are a great tool for meeting others on your specific cruise and planning independent tours. For longer cruises, usually someone volunteers to create a group spreadsheet listing the participants on each private tour. You can bet that I spent some time while we were at sea yesterday scouring the spreadsheet for this cruise to make sure I haven’t missed another booking.