This Sunday our volunteer group headed to Miraflores for an upmarket lunch in the Huaca Pucllana restaurant. Now, the special thing about this eatery is that it overlooks the pre-Incan Huaca Pucllana archaeological site, right in the middle of the city! How often do you get to eat your lunch beside 1600-year-old ruins?! The lunch we had was a bit posh and very delicious; I had ñoquis (gnocchi) – yum! But we were itching to get out into the ruins afterwards. The site’s museum runs a very good tour (only 10 soles), and we learned a fair bit about its history from our friendly and enthusiastic guide. Apparently, the site was once an important ceremonial centre, originally constructed around the 5th century AD and built upon by subsequent civilizations through the centuries. It is built entirely from handmade adobe bricks, and it is a really big site (15 hectares). The part that first draws your eye is the 23m-high terraced pyramid structure:
The pyramid is solid (i.e. it doesn’t contain any spaces/rooms inside), and it was created as an imposing symbol of status and power – only the most important people were buried at the top, and from there the ruling priests could look down upon their subjects and keep an eye on things. We climbed up and could see for miles, and in the days before skyscrapers the ancient rulers would have been able to see the sea from there. Up on the pyramid, archaeologists have found the remains of high-status burials in tombs, where important people were buried head-up towards the sun, surrounded by offerings including child sacrifices:
Below the pyramid structure is a flat section formed of interconnected courtyards and passageways. The museum has recreated some scenes of life at the time down in this section of the site: the making of the adobe bricks, and religious ceremonies:
After we had finished exploring the ruins, we were led to an enclosure filled with llamas, alpacas and guinea pigs! Nothing to do with archaeology, but why not? They were very sweet.
After an educational afternoon, we headed over to the neighbouring district of Barranco for some dessert and a wander about. We found this wonderful streetside restaurant with the most amazing cakes on show. I tried a suspiro de limeña (literally: ‘Lima woman’s sigh’), which is a traditional Lima pudding made of manjar blanco topped with meringue. (Manjar blanco is very similar to what is called dulce de leche elsewhere in South America – basically creamy caramel.) It was delicious, but tooth-achingly sweet! Glad I only got a small one, else I would’ve felt sick pretty quickly I think:
Barranco is a really nice area to wander around, full of gorgeous views, brightly-colored building and sea breezes. Set on the cliffs above the ocean, it is quite an upscale neighborhood full of great pubs and cafes. The five of us sat on a pub balcony overlooking the Pacific, sipping cocktails. What a relaxing Sunday afternoon!
Ania is a volunteer and researcher for the Karikuy Volunteer Program in Lima, Peru.