I left the sunny warmth of Trujillo on an overnight bus and awoke in the town of Huaraz to a cold overcast early morning – I had to change into warmer clothes at the bus terminal before getting a taxi driver to take me to the office of a bus company that would take me on to Chavin. Like other Latin American countries, Peru has a huge number of different bus lines, all of whom do some routes but not others. Unlike other countries, the companies do not generally share terminals so first you have to find out which one goes your way and then you have to find where they are in town (and the ticket office may not be the same as the departure point of the buses).
Anyway, the first place the taxi took me had a bus leaving shortly and we were soon heading up into the mountains, stopping on the way out of town for a man and his four live pigs to board (the pigs, which had been tied to a lamppost with ropes, were loaded into one of the under-bus luggage compartments).
I found somewhere to stay in the small town through my usual approach of asking where the town centre is and wandering around. It wasn’t the only place I saw, but it was the only one open for business. It being only lunchtime I had time to visit the archaeological site, but found it was closed it being a Monday. So after a walk around town I huddled in my arctic bedroom,the building a Lego model and cuddling a drinking water bottle I’d filled with mercifully scalding hot water from the shower. I slept in a lot of clothes that night, along with the same improvised hot water bottle.
Chavin was the religious and political centre of what is now referred to as the Chavin Culture, which flourished from either 1500BC (if you believe UNESCO) or 900BC (Wikipedia) until around 300BC. The site is in an Andean river valley at over 3000m altitude. To avoid flood damage in the rainy season, the builders incorporated stone lined underground drains and re-positioned a bend in the river.
The main structure on the site is what remains of a monolithic rectangular stone temple, with a tiny little portico entrance at the front which was built from white stone on one side and black on the other.
The rest of the site comprises various plazas, platforms and structures, some still unexcavated.
Under the main temple and an adjoining structure are networks of branching galleries which once contained carved stones and other artefacts, some of which are on display in the lovely modern museum at the other end of town.
The museum has many of the large stone heads that once adorned the upper part of the temple walls, along with carved stone stelae from the site. There is also some rather fabulous pottery, including this one of a man with a cut throat and his head facing backwards (sorry it’s not a great shot, the lighting was quite moody).
For the Lego model I dithered for quite a while before settling for a rather basic model of the central temple structure.