Trujillo, Peru – Chan Chan: Cosmopolitan city of the desert

It must have been a city of well-nigh inconceivable area: Chan Chan, an awe-inspiring sight. With 36 sq km it is considered the largest pre-Colombian settlement in South America. With its 60,000 to 100,000 inhabitants it housed the largest amount of people in the 13th and 14th century all over the world. Still today it is the biggest adobe city. It was, of course, very well protected so that the Inca couldn’t conquer it. But it was built in the middle of the desert, and water came in aqueducts. The Inca simply turned off the water and waited. Then they took the very skilful goldsmiths and tradesmen to Cuzco. It is unknown what happened to the rest of the Chimú culture.
The climatic phenomenon El Niño with its torrential rainfalls badgered the construction during the last centuries a lot so that the walls appear like melted ice cream under the sun. There is really not much to see anymore. It is only possible to visit a very small part of Chan Chan, the Nik An Palace (former Tschudi Palace) that depicts something like a district with walls, corridors, squares, and halls. Some of the finely made adobe reliefs, partially original, partially reconstructed, that show fishes, pelicans and other birds or geometrical patterns, are enchanting though. The facility can be visited without guide, admission is 10 PEN. The ticket is valid for two days and includes access to the museum up on the main road (the satellite photo of the whole city is interesting) and two smaller excavations. Camping is not possible (S 08°06’31.0’’ W 79°04’30.6’’).
There’s a good supermarket in the north of Trujillo (S 08°06’07.9’’ W 79°02’46.6’’). Further north, close to the airport, the fishing village Huanchaco is situated: too many bus loads of tourists, too many reggae bars, and too many tattoos and dreadlocks. But the village is known for its traditional reed boats, called caballitos, small horses. Locals use them since 2,000 years for fishing, paddling and riding them like horses. After some months they are soaked with water and useless. You can see them on the beach. There is a public beach at the northern end of the village where you can camp (suitable for any vehicle, S 08°04’19.9’’ W 79°07’12.8’’). You are in the middle of all the restaurants, bars, and shops; if you like it or not.
It is quieter further north outside of Huanchaco, but not really pretty. Crossing the ecological zone where the reed is grown, dried, and woven into caballitos another public beach follows where locals happily send garbage flying. Head further along the walls fencing empty plots, but not too far. A poultry farm will appear whose flies are even more pestering than its stench (Camp at S 08°02’42.7’’ W 70°08’53.1’’).

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