Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Peru-Brazil 2013 – Day 2 – Lima

We all “slept in” until about 7 am, and were down to breakfast at 8 am. We have a long day planned and there is no time to lose. From the time I was here before, I remembered a very interesting archaeologic site that had a super display on the Lord of Sipan, but everyone I asked assured me that there was no such thing, and that we would have to go to Chiclayo (outside of Lima) to see the original site. Well, as we were driving in from the airport I saw the sign for the Parque de las Leyendas, where the zoo is located. That was it! It had been at the zoo that the site was located. As luck would have it, the Parque de las Leyendas is but a short walk from the hotel, through a park strip. Interestingly, there were plastic molds of Saint Bernards throughout the park, as part of a campaign to teach people to clean after their pets. We think the campaign is working, but now and then you find a landmine in your path, so you have to be careful.

Yes, as soon as we got to the park I knew this was it. The Lima culture (and many of the coastal cultures) built their pyramids out of adobe and river gravel, because there was no stone nearby they could quarry. It is fortunate that it never rains in Lima, so the big mounds of adobe are well preserved. The ones in the park have been stabilized by archeologists, and it is easy to see that they were important civil structures in their time. The Inca came and took over many of these sites, and changed them into granaries to store local tribute, which would later be distributed little by little to the local population. These pyramids or public buildings are called “Huacas” and in the park there are four of these, including the amazing Huaca San Miguel.

We were a little early, so we had to go for a walk through the zoo to wait for the small archaeology museum to open. It starts with a scale model of the site, and the chronology of the different occupations (the Lima culture blossomed around 200 AD) and then, all of a sudden, you were transported to Chiclayo, to see the excavations of the Lord of Sipan. They had amazing, full size reproductions of the gold and silver artifacts found at the tomb, mannequins dressed with all the pomp and regalia due to the Lord of the region, and then, la piece de resistance, a full-size replica of the tomb itself, with the skeletons of the three young wives of the Lord, the lookouts, the llama and the dog, and of course the Lord himself, covered by layer after layer of textiles, gold necklaces, pectorals, and other treasures. I have gone into some detail here to express my surprise that this fabulous exhibition is located in a tiny museum inside the zoo, pretty much unbeknownst to the inhabitants of this fair city.

We strolled through the park and admired the few animals that were awake at that time, and the adobe wall built during Inca time to protect the compound. Incidentally, Tom and I concluded that they must have poured the adobe as concrete, rather than making bricks, because there are no joints, and the adobe is stratified. Clever fellas!

Full of archaeological fervor we took a taxi to the Larco Herrera museum, famous for its amazing pottery collection. Larco Herrera was a politician (eventually became the VP of the country) with vast estates in the Moche Valley. One day a worker came in, to show him a pot. He told the worker to pass the word that he would buy any pots they would bring him, and pretty soon he became the main collector in Peru. The collection is now housed in a colonial mansion, which operates as a private museum. The pieces in display are absolutely exquisite and show that the Moche had achieved unsurpassed mastership of the art of representing just about anything in pottery. Famous are the face pots, which by the thousands are a remarkable portrait of Moche society, the animal pots, and last but not least the erotic pots. The Moche were not shy about representing sexual intercourse in every shape and form, venereal diseases, and vaginal and phallic closeups.

Interesting that we men go through that part of the collection quiet and circumspect, whereas the women were heard making ribald comments and laughing loudly throughout the exhibition. Later Annie boasted, much to my prudish surprise, that sex was a common topic of conversation at the family table. Really? Clearly I still have a thing or two to learn about the Barber family.

We were getting hungry, so we headed for the Plaza de Armas, where we were told it was easy to find a good restaurant. The food was very good, but definitely tourist priced, and our quick lunch evolved into a two-hour affair. I had a starter of Peruvian ceviche (delicious), followed by a main plate of steamed fish in a salsa de aji (again delicious), while Annie had an artichoke stuffed with ham and tuna salad, and a beef stew with a rice/bean/aji mixture rolled into a spindle shape. Then we inquired about dessert, and our waiter recommended Suspiro Limeño. Annie wanted to know what that meant, so the waiter translated it as Breath of a Woman, but we were still muddled by our visit to the museum and everybody understood Breast of a Woman, so we just had to order two to keep the symmetry.

We wrapped the visit to Lima by taking a touristic bus that, for 8 Soles each, took us all around the old downtown so we could see the sights that every tourist has to see. It was nice, but sleepy heads told us that it was time to call it a day and go back to the hotel. I was still hoping to convince my little band to go to visit El Callao, but had to give up that idea. I guess I am the only one that gets excited about the ports of old.  

No comments: