My first proper stop in Peru was Chiclayo, and my first outing Tumbas Reales in Lambayeque, 15 minutes away by ‘collectivo’, a shared taxi. I was told it was the Día Internacional del Museo, 18th May – but alas, this meant free entry only for Peruvian nationals, not for extranjeros. So I got to experience the hordes of Peru descending upon the museum, trapped in the tombs with screaming children, without the associated benefit of getting in for free.
El Señor de Sipán was a ruler of the Moche culture who dominated the northern coast of Peru for the first 700 years AD. Within his tomb, he was accompanied by his principal wife along with two other women; a warrior, a standard-bearer; a child; a dog; and two llamas. Companions essential on the journey to the afterlife. Outside the chamber, a guard with his feet cut off, symbolising the fact that he could never leave his post.
I also visited a smaller museum, Huaca Rajada, on the original site of where the tomb was discovered in Sipán. The Moche palaces, temples and dwellings were built with adobe bricks – essentially sand, clay, and straw – and so unfortunately have eroded with the rains over the centuries. Outside the museum, they had some nice artisan stalls, where I bought a beautiful bracelet with blue, amber and turquoise stones, and some earrings. When I returned to the hostel that night, I found I had another souvenir: small red bites all over the underside of my thighs. Sand fleas? Sand flies? Ouch.
The most impressive site (and sight), though, was in Túcume. And here they hadn’t got the memo that the international day of the museum was just for nationals, so I got in for free. Bonus. I climbed up to the Mirador del Cerro Purgatorio and had an almost 360 degree view over this regional site, occupied by the Lambayeque/Sican, Chimú, and Inca from 800 AD to the arrival of the Spanish.
My final outing in Chiclayo was to the Witches’ Market, Mercado de Brujos. I didn’t see the snake skins, tortoise shells, and shrunken heads I’d heard about, possibly because I was too subtle in not wanting to stare. They did have a lot of herbs, though, and stones, and voodoo dolls. I didn’t think I needed any of those things so left empty handed.