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Articles Blog

Salaverry, Peru

Karyn Planett

Portal to the Past 

Plan this day well for there is much to see. And, as we often discover in cities around the world, points of interest are not usually within site of the ship. So get organized, get your stuff, and get going. 

Twin Cities       

Basically, Salaverry is the entrance to Trujillo, known as the “City of Eternal Spring”. It stretches along the valleys of Moche, Virú, Chicama and Chao in a dry, bone-dry patch of landscape preserved by parched winds blowing for much of the year. The “eternal” springtime here, and this should come as no surprise, is warmer than it is in Cleveland so be happy you’re here. 

Happy, too, were the Pre-Incan people who settled here and erected impressive temples, called huacas. Experts estimate that there are approximately 2,000 archaeological sites in the area, enough to make archaeologists leave home and spend years here digging about. 

The Pre-Incan Chimú Nation established their capital, called Chan Chan, here in 1300 A.D., give or take. Almost 11 square miles, it’s considered the most massive Pre-Columbian city in the Americas and for this it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Additionally, again due to lack of rain in the region, it’s also the biggest of the world’s mud cities and once home to 60,000 people, maybe as many as 100,000. Perhaps it was the priceless trove of silver and gold held by the Chimú that attracted the Incas who overran the city and conquered her people. Later the Spaniards arrived, that story follows, and within a relatively short period of time much of this treasure was gone. 

Back To The Huacas 

Our attention now turns to the Mochica civilization that pre-dates the Chimú by some seven centuries. Their legacy lives on in the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon, two impressive pyramids. Experts estimate there are 50 million adobe bricks in the Temple of the Moon alone. The Temple of the Sun is comparable in size to the more famous pyramids in Saqqara, Egypt. Perhaps 140 million bricks were used in its construction. It experienced a dark chapter in 1602 when looters directed a waterway to flow through the pyramid, cutting it into two sections thus destroying important details. 

The Spanish Arrived 

On December 6th, 1534 the Spanish Conquistador Diego de Almagro rode across these dusty plains to establish their first settlement in the region. He named it “Trujillo” in honor of Francisco Pizarro’s home city. The Spanish left behind an opulent, colonial, walled city rich with decorated balconies, shaded plazas and elegant manor homes. They also celebrated their faith by erecting churches and cathedrals, converting locals and saving souls. Their fortunes came from rice, sugar cane, and row crops like asparagus that’s cultivated and exported worldwide to this day. 

More of the story of the Spanish period unfolds in Trujillo’s Plaza de Armas with its impressive monument honoring heroes of the Independence War. 

When Is A Horse Not A Horse? 

When it’s a boat. True. In the fishing village of Huanchaco, approximately 10 miles from Trujillo, there’s something called “small reed horse boats.”  These curious vessels are called “caballitos de totora”, which means … “little horse of the totora reed”. Fishermen straddle these slender crafts much as a rider would a horse. Today, visitors have the opportunity to watch others try their luck and perhaps even surf a wave or two. 

One need not have as much balance to ride a Peruvian Paso horse, not to be confused with the Paso Fino, because his stride is virtually motionless, without the bouncing normally experienced by other breeds. This is particularly true for the novice rider. Many equestrians declare these horses to be the world’s smoothest-gaited horse. That’s all you need to know unless you’re curious as to why riding this horse is as gentle as sitting on a satin pillow. Well, it’s because of his unique and natural gait, a rhythmic 4-beat pattern of right hind foot, then right front foot, then left hind foot, then left front foot. (Please do not attempt this at home.) It’s called a “footfall” and estancia patrons can determine a young colt’s value simply by the sound of its footfall, without even looking, as a groom leads the animal along a wooden boardwalk. In addition, these animals exhibit an unusual stride where the forelegs paddle outward as the horse moves. 

The history of these extraordinary animals is fascinating. Before the 17th century, virtually all European horses moved in this way naturally, which was terrific because people traveled by horse. Then, the “boneshakers” grew in popularity for they were better suited to pull carts and wagons and work cattle. Meanwhile, the Peruvians coveted their gaited horses that were introduced by the Spaniards. Peru’s geographical separation from Europe fostered a successful purebred breeding program whereby now all colts are born here with this gait naturally.

This is a fascinating destination, you’ll discover, so you best get going.