On the Seven Seas Mariner we sailed into Salaverry, the port city for Trujillo, Peru. Never heard of it before. It is a strange little place but interesting. The port is surrounded by a barren, mountainous landscape covered in sand. It is bleak looking.
Nearby are the ruins of Chan Chan, the largest mud city in the world.
We got into our buses and headed to town. It was a pleasant surprise. It had the usual look of a slightly run down town that you expect in South America, but it got better. We toured colonial homes that are still lived in by the families that built them at the beginning of the 1800s. The houses are built around one or more courtyards. Usually the front of the house is open to the public and the back is reserved for the family or a social club or bank that owns them.They are all built around the main square, painted blue or mauve or yellow and are filled with furniture from the 1800s. There are loads of family portraits, fabulous Old Paris porcelains, rugs and heavy carved furniture.
One house in particular had a pair of spectacular tall Art Nouveau monochromatic vases, adorned with lithe, beautiful women in long, flowing gowns, filled with fresh lilies. In the same room was what had been a bronze table lamp in the shape of a bunch of bronze lilies. There was no cord and the light bulbs were long gone but even so, it was a doozy! We were served Pisco Sours and empanadas. I was amazed at the little old ladies on the tour who had never heard of empanadas. They thought they had bananas in them! After several Pisco Sours they slept all the way back to the ship.
My favorite was the Palace Iturregui, built in 1855 in the Italian Neo-Renaissance style with three piazzas ringed with ornate columns, marble floors and ceilings with golden molding.
We did the usual obligatory visit to the local cathedral, which was lovely, and then across to the square which had a tall, enormous statue celebrating something. The statue was of a heroic nude man. The Bishop at the time of installation was not happy with the nudity. He sent a message to have it modified. They cut off two inches of the statue’s private parts, the Bishop was happy and there it stands. The Bishop probably had an inferiority complex.
Then it was back to the ship where all sorts of vendors were on the docks, and we all went shopping for the wool and alpaca knits that the area is famous for. By lunchtime we were sailing on our way to the next port.
The next day we docked at Lima and Brad left for Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. I thought the strenuous uphill walk was not good for my back so I stayed on board. I will let him tell you about that a little later. I went on a tour of Lima.
We saw incredibly beautiful churches, houses and convents. Alabaster is used a lot for windows in the church libraries. It lets in some light but not enough to damage ancient books there. These magnificent buildings and houses date from the 15th and 16th century, as do their convents.
We visited several houses dating from that period that are still in the original families. They had some of the most beautiful and unusual Old Paris porcelain I have ever seen. Some of the houses have three courtyards. We never got past the first. The family retreats to the back of the house when there are paying visitors.
The next two days I attended lectures, read and was a lounge lizard. I was supposed to tour convents and monasteries, but enough was enough.
Brad came home to the ship late the last day in Lima. Here is what he had to say:
“Machu Picchu is South America’s iconic destination for tourists, even if altitude sickness for travelers is a challenge. It was founded in the 15th century as the center for Inca society and was destroyed when a civil war broke out between the last two Inca leaders, who were half-brothers. The war diminished the power of the Inca Empire and the Spanish took advantage of this by killing the surviving brother. The conquest of Peru then began in earnest. Over the years Machu Picchu was abandoned and swallowed up by encroaching vegetation. It was not until July 24, 1911, that it was rediscovered by North American explorer Hiram Bingham.
“Most tourists reach Machu Picchu from Cuzco, a relatively large city that is 11,800 feet above sea level. Although some hardy souls hike there, because of its remote and difficult location to reach, a specially-constructed train takes most tourists close to the site with the last part of the journey completed on busses that wind up and down narrow gravel roads. You can’t just drive there in a private car.
“Machu Picchu was a complex comprised of many aspects: economic, social, military, religious and administrative. The carefully-chosen location provided a defensive advantage in case of a surprise attack. Its many cultivation terraces, interwoven with irrigation canals, allowed for multiple harvests throughout the year of crops such as corn, coca, potatoes and garlic. Springs and a system of aqueducts provided an ample supply of fresh water to the more than 200 houses, squares, granaries, palaces, temples and observatories.
There is not enough space to describe the spectacular grandeur of the site. Hopefully a few pictures will give some sense of the scale and beauty. It is not just the altitude that makes it breathtaking.”
Then it was off to Pisco, a city that functions as a very large Peruvian port. We enjoyed shore excursions to two different distillers of Pisco, a wonderful alcoholic libation that is at the heart of a Pisco sour. The first stop was a small “craft” distiller that is anxious to preserve the historic methods for making Pisco. The other is much larger and produces in excess of two million bottles a year.
The next day we sailed into Matarani, our last port in Peru. Not a lot to see or do, so we did things like laundry and made future dinner plans with new friends we have met on board.
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A fixture in Louisville society, Carla Sue Broecker has been writing her weekly column for more than two decades.