Thursday, October 24, 2013

Biggest In The World?

The big yellow things are not Easter eggs but papayas.

Are these the biggest papayas in the world? Sadly we don't see papayas much in Europe but when we do, they are very poor cousins to these, which are standard size in Peru. Peruvian avocados are nowhere near that big but still much, much bigger than the runts we get.

Chachapoya Mummy Sarcophagi
In 1997, tombs were discovered, which revealed 219 mummies, which are kept and studied in the museum at Leymabamba.

Hmmm! Tasty!
We climbed (on foot) to 2800 metres to see the funerary complex at Revash. We saw several farmers on horseback. These beautiful butterflies are obviously very pleased about the horses' passing.

From Revash we moved on to our overnight stop in Chilo, which is where I discovered that I had become a great grandparent.

The next day a very winding road took us to Kuelap. The first time we came to Peru, two years ago, we had just entered Peruvian airspace and were high over the Andes. I was looking out of the aircraft window, marvelling at the extent and ruggedness of this mountain range when I spotted a large ruined city on a mountain top. Surely this can't be Machu Picchu, thinks I - that is much further south. Later a bit of research told me that what I had seen was Kuelap, a place of which I had never previously heard.

And now here we were. At 3,000 metres.

Kuelap is astonishing - a walled city on a high mountain top at 3,000 metres - in old money that is almost 10,000 feet. More stones were used in its construction than for the great pyramids of Egypt.

Little is known about Chachapoyan culture but each year more sites in the area are discovered and investigated. It was one of the most advanced of all the pre-Inca cultures.

More from Peru in another post.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Magnificent Peru And Its Ancient People

Detail at Huaca de la Luna

You are off to Peru because you are interested in the pre-Columbian civilisations? Oh, that will be the Incas, then? Actually, not. The Inca story is fascinating and tragic but they were  only in power for a couple of hundred years before the Spanish destroyed their civilisation and stole - worse, melted down - all their gold and silver artefacts.

Fortunately, there is still plenty to see in the way of colossal buildings left by the Inca. But there is much, much more from the civilisations which preceded them. The Inca genius was in conquering other peoples and absorbing them and their skills, and in administering  the huge Inca empire which resulted. Very like the Romans in all those respects.

But much of what we saw on this trip is evidence - massive evidence - of civilisations which existed thousands of years before the Inca. It is now known that Peru was inhabited, at least as long ago as Egypt, Sumeria and China, by peoples who erected enormous temples, colossal buildings and walled cities.

Much of this has been discovered in the past few years, even though it has been hiding "in plain sight" - "That's not a sandhill, it is a pyramid!" - and there is much more to come.

The picture above is from the Mochica complex of Huaca de la Luna, near Trujillo. The Mochica are famous for their wonderfully realistic portrait pottery and the beauty of their gold and silver jewellery. Of course much of this is missing, having been transported to Spain as ingots. But much remains and is being discovered.

Also near Trujillo is the colossal complex of Chan Chan. So far only one of many palaces has been uncovered, but it is one of the biggest buildings I have ever seen. So big that it was difficult to photograph. I borrowed this one from the Internet

Chan Chan was built by the ancient Chimu people.

Cabalitos de Tortora
Not far from Chan Chan is the seaside resort of Huanchaca, where fishermen make and use these reed boats - caballitos de tortora - which have been used for centuries and which bear much resemblance to reed boats used on the Nile in ancient Egypt.

In the mountains is Cajamarca, where the Spanish tricked and killed Atahualpa, after he had paid an enormous ransom by having rooms filled with gold and silver. There is little by the way of ancient buildings to see in Cajamarca but it is a fascinating place. Why were these police, with shields, guns and teargas, ready for action in a town where the only activity that day seemed to be a student graduation ceremony and a peaceful march by mothers and children, demanding better school facilities?

Looking for Trouble? You came to the right place ...

Students getting ready to celebrate their degrees

And why is somebody taking my name in vain by opening this cafe in Cajamarca?

From Cajamarca we had a long, mountainous and very scenic drive to Leymabamba. Here are some pictures from that drive. More about Peruvian civilisations soon. Coming up next will be the Chachapoya. For now, enjoy the scenery. Don't forget you can enlarge the pictures after clicking on any one of them.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Success Story

You may recall me extolling Geoff Woodland's book "Ice King" in THIS post.

"Ice King" was Geoff's first book - about the slave trade - and was self-published. It was so successful that it was snapped up by a "proper" publisher and following their advice he has changed the name to "Triangle Trade". It is an excellent read by this Merseyside-born author, now living in Austalia.

You can read more about Geoff and his book on his website. Just click HERE .

Friday, October 18, 2013

Long Lost Peru

I haven't forgotten that I promised to post some pictures from our recent trip to Peru. Here is one to be going on with. I will post others soon.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sam's Big Walk

Having myself undertaken a very long walk for charity (and written a book about it) I am always interested in similar experiences and similar books.

Sam walks 500 miles from his home in Kentucky to Oprah Winfrey's TV studio in Chicago. His objectives are to raise funds for a cancer charity and to present the manuscript copy of one of his other books to Oprah in the hope that she will be impressed enough to help him get it published.

Sam is a young man so, based on my own experience of walking more than twice the distance at the age of 70, his walk should be an easy one. But Sam was recovering from (fortunately successful) treatment for testicular cancer when he set off from Kentucky to Chicago. Clearly this put his walk into a different league than otherwise.

Unlike some other walkers I have read about, Sam did have the sense to train for his ordeal. When people ask me what advice I would give, I always say the more training you can do, the better. The second thing I say is "Use Vaseline on your feet and on all points subject to friction. Fortunately Sam found out about the Vaseline during the walk but before it was too late.

His book is entertaining and informative. He takes the space, in flashbacks, to give a very good impression of what a horrible business it is to undergo chemotherapy.

I really enjoyed the book and am sure his experiences will enrich his life but I share the disappointment he must have with the celebrities involved, and with some of the support he rightly expected but did not receive.

Keep up the writing, Sam. It is your dream to succeed, and you surely will.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Flaming Llamahead!

I took the pictures, but to tell you what they are all about I can do no better than quote this item from

"As far as accidentally quirky attractions go, Peru’s capital Lima boasts the most endearing that we’ve ever seen. Here, on the Plaza San Martín, resides a diminutive statue of the Madre Patria, symbolic mother of Peru.
This monument was sculpted in Spain, with instructions to give the good lady a crown of flames. However, nobody thought to point out the double meaning of the word flame in Spanish (llama), and the luckless craftsmen duly perched an adorable little llama on her head.
The llama is a somewhat dopey domestic animal, commonly kept in Peru for its wool and meat. So we’re talking about the equivalent of Queen Elizabeth sporting a crown of miniature sheep."

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cricket Was Played In Ancient Peru

Some years ago I read in newspaper report online that the Chinese authorities had set a goal of achieving world dominance in Cricket - a sport which the Chinese are not noted for. This seemed pretty astonishing and I eventually realised that it may have been an April fool spoof which had been picked up by another newspaper and reported as fact - I have seen that happen before.

However, if you Google China+Cricket you will find that there are some developments in Chinese cricket and that the new president of the MCC, Mike Gatting, hopes that cricket will make further inroads into China.

But I can report a connection between cricket and a country which is now known to have substantial and impressive civilisations at least as old as those in China, Egypt and Sumeria.

During our recent visit to Peru we were in the National Museum in the capital, Lima, looking at some Moche pottery. Moche pottery is stunning in its quality and quantity. It is particularly noted for the heads and faces, which are amazingly lifelike. Every head is different and seems to represent a real person. There are colossal numbers and yet not one is female. Here is an example:

But look at the first picture. Click on the picture to enlarge it. Then tell me that is not a cricket ball.  Ignore the structure on top - as you see from the second picture, you get that on the heads as well because all these items are made to represent drinking or storage vessels and to accompany important bodies into the burial chamber.

I await my Nobel Prize or at the very least a special award from the MCC.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

10 Weeks, 10 Days, 7 Hours, 12 Hours, 6 Months

In 1957 I was crossing the Atlantic in a ship. Along the way we passed, but did not see, a replica of the famous Mayflower - the ship which carried the Pilgrim Fathers to America - which had been built for the purpose, and which was being sailed across, many years after the original, which made its voyage in 1620.

In 2013 - last Sunday in fact - I at last saw, and boarded, the Mayflower replica at its resting place in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Like all the other visitors, I marvelled at how tiny the vessel is, and how appalling it must have been to be crammed in there, along with 101 other people (not counting the crew but including 3 pregnant ladies)  for the ten weeks which the crossing took. My own trip on a cargo ship in 1957 took about 10 days from Liverpool to New York

A few days after Gay, Samantha and I visited Plymouth, Gay and I flew from Boston to Amsterdam in under 7 hours. How things have changed.

Our visit to Boston was tagged on to the end of our trip to Peru. I was unable to post photographs while in Peru but will be doing so in the next few days.

By the way, our flight to Lima from Amsterdam a month ago took 12 hours. It took the Spanish conquistadore thugs 6 months each time they made the same journey.