Monday, 24 June 2013

My Trip To Peru

So I have just got back from a month away in Peru. I went over to do volunteering on an archaeology site through a company I to I. I worked from 8am to 1pm at the site of Huaca Pucllana in the district of Miraflores, Lima. My time in Peru included lots of historical visits, as well as some fun days relaxing by the beach and trying out new sports like paragliding and surfing. The official language is Spanish and with only very basic Spanish skills I found it very difficult to communicate and at times it was frustrating but I soldiered through and became confident by the end of it.

Peru has 3 distinctly different climates with the desert on the coast, the mountainous highlands in the centre, with the Amazonian rain forest on the far East of the country which makes it one of the most diverse countries in the world biologically speaking, possessing 88 of the total 101 bio-diversities in the world. I was staying in the coastal desert within the capital Lima.

My first day included a gorgeous lunch of fish followed up with a tour of the historical district of Lima. We visited the San Francisco monastery which began being built in the 17th century. I was surprised to enter the catacombs where 25,000 bodies are buried, but it was an interesting experience.

I started my first day at work the following Monday at Huaca Pucllana. Built in approximately 400 AD by the Lima Culture (1000 years before the arrival of The Incas). The site was effectively the capital and administrative centre for this civilization and was later taken over as a ceremonial place and burial ground by the later Wari culture and Incas. Although noted by explorers in the century before, this site was in the main neglected until it was saved in the 1980s (at the time it was used by locals for motorbike racing!) when professionals took over the investigation and preservation of this site.

I got to try out a week of everything so was very pleased about how varied my time was. The first week I did the basics; sorting through the material which had been excavated, cleaning and labeling it. This varied from sorting molluscs, vegetation and debris to cleaning fresh cotton and cleaning ceramics. I also got to see a mummy on my first day of work! 
The next week I worked in the textiles department; my time here included cleaning the mummy wrap preparing it for storage.

I also got to do some sewing restoring a piece (I'm not entirely sure what it was). We made thread from fresh, unspun cotton which was very difficult then proceeded to sew with a curve needle in the appropriate colour thread. I completed it at the end with some stuffing.

Ceramics was next and this room was filled with lots of treasures. From masks to ceramic vessels and pottery for decoration. I first worked on trying to piece back together the huge mess of grey pottery below. In about 5 hours I only managed to find 3 pieces, definitely the worlds most difficult puzzle. I then restored  the rim of a large vase, mixing a clay solution and filling in where pieces were missing.

The final week I took part in some excavation work. Unfortunately the sight doesn't dig in summer so my final week was their first week of the year being back out in the field. We were working on a site which would have been for their rubbish disposal. This was definitely manual work and I can understand why they wouldn't want to work in the hot Sun. Unfortunately in my brief time excavating I didn't find any great finds, but I finally got to fulfill my childhood dream of being an archaeologist, only if it was for a week.

The food in Peru was delicious, lots of meat, beans, corn and potatoes. Here are a few pictures which certainly don't do justice of how tasty it was. Some of my local favourites include pork chicharron sandwich, beef empanada and their stuffed rotisserie chicken.

Other places I visited included Barranco the neighbouring district, the Ballesta Islands, Huacachina Lagoon a oasis in the middle of the desert, Lunahuana where I did white water rafting and Cerro azul.

Other historical places I visited were the oldest church in the capital, Pachacamac and the temple of the Sun and Huaca Hullamarca.

The art was beautiful; I'm not an art enthusiast at all but I loved the mix of traditional prehistory art and colonial contemporary pieces. The street art and graffiti was also amazing.

I had a fantastic journey and would definitely recommend traveling solo. I can't wait to explore the rest of the history around the world and hope to visit Asia, Australia and Africa next.

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