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Chavin de Huantar

August 22, 2012

While we were in Huaraz we decided to have a break from driving ourselves everywhere and pay to go on a tour. It probably worked out cheaper than driving anyway if you factor in the cost of the diesel. The tour we went on was to the ancient ruins of Chavin de Huantar which was the centre of the Chavin civilization. The Chavin civilization was one of the most influential of all the Peruvian civilizations and its iconography spread across much of Peru.

The drive to Chavin took about 4 hours in a bus (not driven quite as crazily as some) with a stop of at the high altitude Lake Querococha for 15 minutes. Chavin is on the East side of the Cordillera Blanca and the route involves taking a high pass over the mountains.

Once at Chavin we had a pretty average meal at a restaurant where Sarah tried Chicharrones for the first time and was seriously put off by a plate of overcooked pork knuckles. Then it was onto the temple itself where our Spanish speaking guide showed us and the 30 others on the bus around. We wandered in and out but we only understood around 40% of what she was saying !

The highlight of the site are the underground passages which the temple is riddled with. One of the underground areas is rigidly controlled and you are only allowed a few seconds to view the Lanzon, a 4.53m carved granite statue that represents the Chavin god.

Archaeologists believe that the underground passages were used to awe non-believers with a confrontation with their god. They were made to drink San Pedro (an hallucinogen made from San Pedro cactus) and were pushed into the dark tunnels. Once there the priests blew on echoing trumpets, reflected sunlight through ventilation shafts and amplified the sounds of water by diverting it through special channels. All of these created a frightening environment so that when the non-believer came face to face with the statue of the God they would be suitably impressed !

There is still a lot of archaeological work going on a the site and we saw a skeleton being unearthed.

After the site itself we were taken to the museum which is a few km’s away. This is a good museum with a lot of interesting carvings from the temple itself.

We spent about 45 minutes in the museum and then were herded back on the bus for the long haul back to Huaraz which we didn’t reach until about 8pm. It sure was nice to have someone else do the driving for a change.

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