Chan Chan

What a stunning place. Chan Chan is the largest adobe-built city in the world stretched out over about 26 square miles and nine separate palaces (when one ruler died, the nobles closed it off and all moved into another one) just north of Trujillo on the Peruvian coast. Rescued from the sand about 35 years ago, only one palace is open now, but at 300 x 400m it’s plenty big enough: 10 metre high mud walls stretch off into the distance, enclosing everything from administrative offices and religious spaces, to sacrificial chambers. Some areas have survived the centuries quite well, and motifs of fish and pelicans can be made out amidst a riot of geometrical art that would do many mosques proud.

We’d have looked at it in a bit more detail, but one of our number, Shannon, got mobbed by schoolkids (either because she’s a gringo and speaks a bit of Spanish or she can look a bit like Posh from certain angles) who then proceeded to follow us about for a bit grinning and practicing the word ‘Hello’ over and over again. Quite sweet really, though it made getting a decent photo a bit tricky.

Over the road (well, -ish) is the Huaca de la Luna, a religious site built by the Moche people. Here, warriors got sacrificed after an orgy of sex and drugs if they lost in battle to their god Ai Apaec, and seeing as how they were warring with people all up and down the coast, Ai Apaec did quite well on that front. For all their bravery though, the Moche were killed off by an El Nino event, and their gold was later looted by the Spanish. Ai Apaec’s powers obviously didn’t run to control of the ocean currents…

It’s been nice to do some proper cultural-like stuff after what’s seemed like a fairly solid mix of boozy behavior in the evenings and 12 hour days in the truck. Rewinding a couple of days, the truck full of nubile Australian virgins or whatever they were meant to be did in fact turn out to be full of Gap-year kids and a fairly harassed-looking tour leader. Scenic but dumb about sums it up, and at one point it looked like it was going to kick-off a bit after someone kicked sand into our mild-mannered accountant’s face after several sherberts, a dance-off of all things, and some heroic failures on the chatting up front, all of which we watched with great amusement from the sidelines (he looks mild-mannered, but is in fact single-handedly redefining the image of accountancy into that of a far more psycho like nature).

Calm was restored fairly quickly and our errant accountant returned to the fold, but it did illustrate the tribal nature of this sort of thing. With Shannon also looking uncannily like Davina McCall sometimes (she has got a great future in the two-for-one lookalike industry), it can occasionally feel like Big Brother gone mobile. Without outside events and objects to wander round, we all turn in on ourselves and the trip can seem to become as much about the friendships and conflicts that break out between a group of 20 people driving round in a truck than it is about the places we’re driving through. Last night we had the ritual first Argument About a Restaurant Bill, which officially marked the end of the honeymoon period, and paved the way perhaps for some interesting times ahead.

Luckily, a) we’re a bit more psychologically stable than the average BB contestant and b) distraction is on the way, big time. This sector used to be 3 weeks long once upon a time but has been cut down to 14 days, 12 if you include the wandering round Quito at the start. That’s what’s led to the long days on the road and whizzing through the landscape at 100kph for hours on end, which in Northern Peru seems to have consisted mainly of a barren and blasted landscape, coupled with whitewashed brick walls covered in political slogans. We had lunch under a pylon in the middle of feck all anywhere yesterday, proving that overlanding is nothing if not glamorous.

We have another of those horrible, long days tomorrow, but then we’re in Lima, and after a day or two there we’re flying into Iquitos and the Amazon. And if that doesn’t concentrate the mind and give you something else to think about as a wee beastie with too many legs crawls up your trouser leg and perilously close to your nethers, what does?

More after then. Oh, and I’ll try and buy a lead in Lima to get some pics up from the camera too.

[nb None of them smell. They’re all very nice…and can read, use computers and navigate their way to websites too worst luck ;-) ]

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