Lima wasn’t one of my favourite cities. The most exciting thing about it was the insane taxi ride from the airport to the bed and breakfast which was even more underpant-stripingly scary than the Formula Rosso rollercoaster in UAE and some of the food I ate in Chile. Some of my friends have said the same: Peru is much better when you get out of Lima. I didn’t have long there, so I decided on Pachacamac to get my fill of stuff built long ago, left to decay into dust and now under restoration.
Pachacamac – the perfect earworm
It wasn’t long after mastering how to say Pachacamac that I found it was roaming around my head constantly like a fly that can’t find its way out of an obviously open door. And it was the same with actually getting to Pachacamac. Armed with instructions from the B&B I managed to take the two buses required to get there (although, I missed the entrance to the park and ended up in the hideous little suburb/town of Chicarronerias de Lurin and took a taxi back 1km up the road).
Getting home was a whole different thing. I got off the bus where I’d got on (obviously on the opposite side of the highway), but there was no bus going to where I needed. Eventually I gave up and got a taxi for $15 back to central Lima and then a bus back to Miraflores where I was staying. At least if you’re lost in Lima it costs virtually nothing to become unlost.
Anyway, back to Pachacamac which is named after the ‘earth maker’ god Pacha Kamaq. Located about 40km south of Lima it was founded in about AD 200 and grew to cover 600 hectares with various temples and buildings and a grid street structure. Everything was going pretty sweet for around 1300 years and then the Spanish came, bringing the architecturally destructive force of Christianity.
Once you’ve bought your ticket to get in you can take a guided tour if you don’t want to walk, or you can leisurely amble your way around the loop that takes in the buildings, which is what I did.
Daniela is always laughing at me for thinking that a building built in 1880 is old, but that’s what comes with living in New Zealand, and here I was standing looking down a street that was over a thousand years old at buildings and floor plans home to people 20 generations ago.
Walking around you see the evidence of the painstaking restoration that’s going on. In the photo below you can see a pile of blocks that once formed the wall. All the lower part of the wall has been reconstructed from the pile and they are still working on it. It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle of things that look almost exactly the same.
Ultimately Pachacamac will be extensively restored, and you can see that in the photo below.
Therefore it will lose some of its ruins in favour of buildings that look fundamentally as they would have several hundred years ago. Perhaps this is good, but we’ll need to wait and see. Certainly the ruins are impressive in their quiet desolation.
The loop ascends a hill towards the Templo Del Sol (Temple of the Sun). At one of the lookouts I got talking to a guy who was a professional dancing horse rider (Peruvian caballos de paso). He showed me photographs of the horses in synchronised movements and explained how they train them. As he spoke virtually no English, my Spanish got put to the test, but I think I eventually understood that he had a very resilient perineum given that he spent so much time with a leather saddle bouncing into it. As is the Peruvian way, he gave me his phone number and invited me to his house to stay with his family – it was only 24-hour bus journey away!
What will be the most impressive temple, if it gets restored fully, is the Templo Pintado (Painted Temple) which had walls covered in red adobe plaster with anthropomorphic characters painted on it in red and yellow and outlined in black. You can still see the remnants of red on some of the blocks.
While Pachacamac is an interesting diversion from Lima, I can’t help but thinking that the adjacent town spoils the view. A place like Pachacamac should be in the middle of nature, but juxtaposed against the messy urbanisation it removes some of the magic.