January arrived, the month of our team conference, but after that came the opportunity to take some time off. For us Fischers, that can only mean one thing: a road trip!
We packed up the Hilux, and in convoy with colleagues Ben and Daniela and their 4 lads, our first day's journey got us to Nazca, where we lodged for a couple of days. Nazca, of course, is most famous for its geoglyphs -- enormous designs drawn into the desert surface centuries ago by the now vanished 'Nazca culture'. We had seen some of these last year while on the way to pick up our daughter Jocelyn from Lima (there is a high viewing tower outside Nazca), so instead Kerry, Megan and I trooped about 20 kms out of town to see a partially-excavated ancient cemetery.
The dead were buried wrapped up in a bundle, and seated upright. As you can see, the person in the photo above had an impressive set of dreadlocks, all preserved in the arid desert climate.
From Nazca we drove up to the 'Kawai' campsite, about 1 hour south of Lima, where we had our annual SIM conference/ retreat for about 5 days. This gave us the chance to catch up with the rest of the SIM team from other parts of Peru, and this year's speaker encouraged us from Psalm 119 with some great insights into the chapter.
Ben and tribe headed back south to Arequipa, while we Fischers pointed the Hilux north towards Cajamarca, via the coastal city of Trujillo. North of Lima there is the 'Fortress of Paramonga', another pre-Inca site. We climbed to the top and took in the lush countryside of the surrounding river plain.
We stayed in Trujillo for a couple of days, and (of course) visited yet another pre-Inca site. There are many old mud brick pyramids dotted along the coast and in the river valleys. This one is called 'El Brujo' (translated, 'the wizard'). Because most of these pyramids went through stages of development over the centuries of their use, excavations have been able to reveal the superbly well-preserved ealier pyramids still inside the weathered outer structure.
Like many of these 'pyramid cultures' of the Americas (e.g. the Aztecs of Mexico), human sacrifice (typically of captured enemy warriors, it seems) was practiced. In the picture above you can see the main figure holding the head of a decapitated victim. On a nearby part of the 'El Brujo' site, burial pits containing the bones of hundreds of sacrifical victims have been excavated.
Trujillo is also well-known for its surfing culture -- but using traditional 'boards' made out of bundles of reeds:
After Trujillo it was on to Cajamarca -- a most significant city in the history of Peru. It was here, in a terrifying and bold move, that the conquistador Francisco Pizarro captured the Inca emperor Atahualpa. Now being held hostage, and realising that the Spaniards were particularly interested in gold, Atahualpa offered to fill a room with gold to buy his freedom. This was duly done, but by then the Spaniards were convinced (so they said) that Atahualpa had been plotting against them, and so they then executed him on the charge of treason.
The room in which Atahualpa was held prisoner survives to this day, close to the centre of the city:
Some other photos from around Cajamarca during our stay there:
After Cajamarca we headed south to visit the national park of Huascarán -- the highest mountain in Peru. We wound our way through stunning mountain scenery and beautiful little villages, driving along tortuous roads with innumberable hairpin bends -- some so tight that a 3-point turn was needed. After a long day's drive we were only about 1 hour short of Tauca, our stop for the night before reaching Huascarán, when we were confronted with this:
This landslide wasn't going to be cleared overnight, so with only about a week left of our time off, Mike had to pull off a 15-point turn (estimate only) and we pointed the Hilux back the way we had come. Maybe we'll get to see Huascarán another time ;-) This turned out to be the first forced change of route for the trip -- but all it did was reveal yet more wonders of this spectacular country:
Old Inca terraces in the morning sun:
Video footage of driving Andean roads:
Then we turned south and started heading back home to Arequipa. We went to pass through Ica (on the way to Nazca) but the protesters there had barricaded the highway, so we had to take our second forced detour: through the desert of the Paracas national park. Once again the Hilux (by now nicknamed 'Burrito', or 'little donkey') acquitted itself magnificently, coping with the sandy tracks across the dunes and taking us through the breathtaking desert valleys. We even saw flamingos in the saltwater lagoons along the ocean's edge!
We managed to slip around to the south of Ica and then it was on to Nazca, our last stop before home. Because of all the protests and blockades which have been going on for weeks and weeks now, it was impossible to find diesel in Nazca. So we decided to keep on heading south, in the hope that we'd find a more remote grifo (service station) with some diesel to spare. On we drove, watching the fuel gauge needle dropping lower and lower, until it was at about 1/8... at which point we were seriously considering just stopping in the next coastal town and camping on the beach.
But then at a town called Tupac Amaru (named after another Inca emperor) we found this grifo receiving a fresh load of fuel:
Well that was a relief! So, with landslides, blockades and fuel shortages behind us, it was on to Camana, the last coastal town before heading inland to Arequipa. Just one snag: the blockade in Camana had not been removed, as we'd been led to believe. So we spent a tense 30 minutes or so waiting with unbelievably long columns of trucks, to see if the police could get things open again. Thankfully they did! The police in Peru generally have a bad public reputation, but at times like this everyone is grateful for how skilfully they handle these worked-up protesters.
So we got back home with a filthy Hilux and a much greater understanding and appreciation of Peru: its history, its geography, its people, its needs. And Megan was thrilled to see the cats Princesa and Ozzy again.
Now we turn our minds again to helping meet the training needs of pastors here.