Casma

I didn't entirely enjoy arriving at Casma at 4 in the morning or something... but I wandered around, and eventually it was late enough that I could check in to a hotel on the main street. It's more or less a desert town on the Panamerican Highway. I later learnt that there had recently been a spate of killings related to corruption - there are some large mining and industrial interests in the area. Apart from quite a few police on the streets, I fortunately didn't witness any of this.

My main reason for going to Casma was to visit the 13 Towers of Chanquillo, an archaelogical site 12km or so from town. But I figured I also had time to go to Sechin, another archaelogical site (Peru is really full of them), dating back many thousands of years.

Fortunately I chose to go to Sechin first. The moto-taxi drivers gathered there trying to get business taking people back to Casma. I negotiated with one, Peter, who was keen to improve his English, to go to Chanquillo. He did an excellent job as a driver and a guide, heading out along the dirt road along the valley, past fields where all manner of fruits and vegetable common and exotic were growing, eventually stopping by a house at the edge of the desert. We got out and started walking across the sandy, dry, plant-less landscape, blown by the constant wind.

First we explored the remains of Chanquillo's fort. Despite their defensive-looking appearance and hill-top location, the absence of any weaponry found there suggests that they were only symbolically defensive, perhaps protecting the wisdom and learning of the creators. The view was amazing, with the trees of the river valley curving around an opposite hill, and completely ending at a certain distance from the river where the water couldn't reach. Down below us, and at a short distance (1-2 km), were the thirteen towers.

Another walk across the desert took us first to what was perceived to have been a waiting hall for travellers or pilgrims who had come to the site (with a large 20-foot high wall, but not much else left), and then up to the towers themselves. Aligned along a ridge, a recent theory is that they were an ancient astronomical calendar. From a particular point on the desert floor, the sun can be seen to rise between the towers in different places throughout the year.

We were the only people around, and the desolateness of the situation made the presence of these huge stone constructions from so many years ago seem all the more impressive.