Day Two – Huacas de Moche


Today would mark a trip to a second set of ruins, Huacas de Moche also known as Huaca del Sol y Hauca de la Luna, or Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon. At one time Hauaca del Sol was actually the largest step pyramid in the Americas. Much grander and more impressive than Ruines de Chan Chan. The day would conclude with a small simple ceremony on the beach with the sunset.

Some of the buildings with unfinished construction, they save on taxes


Breakfast the following morning would seem to be what I found as a traditional breakfast in Peru. Eggs either scrambled or fried, completely fresh juiced pineapple or papaya juice, a bread made fresh that morning or the previous evening. While not a coffee drinker, I totally appreciated how they served the Peruvian coffee. They would bring out a pitcher with hot water, another with cream, and the a third small cup with very concentrated coffee. Then at your table you made whatever strength coffee you wanted. I totally appreciated the ability to make your own strength coffee at your table, and with what I heard was outstanding coffee.
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Huaca del Sol y Hauca de la Luna

After breakfast and a little leisure time, we got in the bus to head to the main focus of the day. We were on our way to Huaca de Moches, Temples of the Moche. Huaca in Quechua, the native language of the people of Peru, is a word that means temple or shrine. The Moche people were a group of people that lived on the coast of Peru over a thousand years ago. At Huaca de Moche these people built two huacas, Huaca de Sol and Huaca de la Luna, Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon.

Peruvian dogOh as a side note here, it is at the visitors station that I got my first view of the native Peruvian dog. A hairless creature with little tufts of hair on its head. Super bizarre to look at and see. We all took a ton of pictures of this sucker, and of course noticed a lot more of them later on in the trip, taking not so many pictures later.

Huaca del Sol had hardly been excavated at all. So the huaca was a largely left under layers of sand with some of the lower tiers to the pyramid showing. It is estimated that at one point in time this huaca was significantly bigger than Huaca de la Luna. In fact it is believed that at one point it was thHuaca del Sole largest pyramid structure in the Americas. However after the Spaniards came begun the colonization process of the natives,  the huaca was still largely in use. So the Spaniards diverted the Moche River to facilitate the plundering as destruction of the huaca. Ruben at one point said that it is believed that around two-thirds of the Huaca del Sol was destroyed in this fashion.

Huaca de la Luna however has had extensive excavation, conservation, and restoration to it. Personally I would have to say that of all the ruins we would visit on this trip, this huaca was my favorite, more so then even Machu Picchu. Maybe it was the color to it, or maybe it was the shear size and work that went into the complex as a whole, or maybe simply it was the energy of the site.

Huaca de la Luna was basically a reverse step pyramid built over generations. Used for religious and ceremonial purposes it like the Huaca del Sol was built from thousands of adobe bricks and had a large ceremonial plaza to the north of the temple. On the north facing wall of the pyramid facing the plaza, colored frescoes were created. These frescoes were incredibly beautiful and colorful. During they heyday they must have been tremendous to behold. At the middle top of the frescoes was a section that had been removed by looters in years past. The only part of the frescoes so effected. The benefit of this damage was that one was able to see some of the frescoes from the layers that had been covered over.

Two different levels to the pyramidOne of the things that made this structure outstanding was it’s construction. The first structure built on this place of power was a simple one level pyramid, with one level of frescoes facing the plaza. Then when the Moche king died, he was buried (likely in Huaca del Sol) and the structure of Huaca de la Luna was filled in with brick and a new layer, now stepped was built over the first structure. This build over would include the frescoes, and a whole new set of frescoes was created, now encompassing two levels. This process was repeated over and over a total of seven times. So by the time of it’s final construction, the huaca is measured well over 100 feet tall at the front of the plaza, with an overall dimensions of 210 to 290 meters in east-west and north-south measurements. To face the plaza with all the color and size, was amazing and quite astonishing.

Bricks with family stamps on themMillions of adobe bricks went into the construction of this ceremonial place. To imagine the number that also went into a larger pyramid in Huaca del Sol is truly mind-blogging. We were informed that the bricks each had stamps on them that reflected a particular family. Providing bricks for these huacas was essentially the form of taxation that happened for the Moche people. So for those families that might not have worked directly on the huaca, they provided a certain number of bricks, stamped with their family symbol as proof of payment.

It was difficult for me to imagine that a pyramid tier would be built, decorated and colored in the most exquisite fashion, only to be covered over, and the whole process starting a new with a new ruler. When we first entered the huaca, we can into a covered area, that had the excavations layered showing three different of these levels exposed. One could clearly see the differences in the artwork that adorned the different levels.

The distance between the two huacas was considerable. They have begun excavating the city that lied between the two huacas on the intervening plain. Only a small fraction of the city has been excavated, but it is obvious that it would have been hugely extensive. What little was uncovered was impressive.

Ruben talked quite a bit about the nature of the human sacrifice. How the belief systems of the people are so very different than what we carry today. First of all death was just simply a part of life back then in a way we cannot comprehend. Then there was what he talked about with regards to the cycles of life, birth, life, and death. The understanding an belief of these people in the afterlife were huge. When you believe strongly in a wondrous afterlife, death in this life is not such a big deal. On one of the frescoes, there was a long line of war prisoners roped up and being marched. He talked about how the prisoners were treated extremely well up until the time of their sacrifice. How they would have been brought in on litters and almost treated like royalty for their offering. The offerings were made to the deity that was represented by the faces that we saw throughout the huaca.

Remains of a ceremonial room/areaHuaca de la Luna was definitely a ceremonial/religious temple. With rooms used by the priests or to prepare offerings and the like. At the bottom of the plaza was one wall in particular that encased a room believed to have been used by the priests. On this wall are various icons in color on a white background, over 200 icons in fact. The work was tremendous and amazing to behold.

Ruben also talked a lot about the energy of this place. Additionally he talked about the function of crystals to focus and magnify energy as well and how in this location the Moche used a large number of crystals in the fashioning of their adobe bricks to focus and enhance the energy of this huaca. Combine that with the energy that was already located at this particular spot and it was quite significant. I wonder if that had anything to do with the reason why I liked this place best of all.

Ruben talked about how these people also viewed the light and the dark, pointing out the reason for a Temple of the Sun and a Temple of the Moon. To these people it was not light and dark, just light. You see at night there was the penumbra, the light of the moon. Even if the moon was in the New phase and not visible, there was still light visible. But particular with the different phases of the moon, there was varying degrees of light. So for these people everything was just a shade of the light so to speak.
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Sunset Ceremony

Heading out the beach for the ceremonyThe day would conclude with a ceremony at the beach at sunset. Ruben took the whole group out and had us line up in a row facing the ocean. He talked about the imagination and using the brain to imagine and creating healing in the body. Color was an important manifestation of how this happens. Noticing what colors are were in the body and “feeling” into them will tell you want is going on with the body. That visualizing colors can help heal the body, but changing and replacing. He had us look at the sun for a few moments, and then close our eyes. Seeing the sun in our mind’s eye and the play of colors. Then to simply just start playing with colors in our mind and body and how they related to the sun. While we did this he used his chimes and whistling. He has the ability to whistle on both the exhale and inhale and create truly magical sounds. The chimes are truly like fairies, with the combination of the two fantastic.
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Day Highlights

First view of the FrescoesThe highlight of the day had to be coming around and seeing the magnificence of the frescoes. The shear size, detail, colors, height, and amount of work that must have gone into creating this is beyond comprehension. How well it has been preserved and lasted for hundreds of years is astonishing. The pictures that I took really did not capture the energy and the magnificence of the front of the plaza. It must have been an amazing site to behold in it’s day.

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Favorite Picture of the Day

This I think is one of the first pictures that really made me feel like a photographer. I caught Kyle in a good moment, and he was well in focus with a soft blur to the frescoes in the background. Overall I think this is one of the better pictures that took during the early part of the trip. To check out all the other pictures from the first day check out this link.

Kyle in front of the frescoes

Kyle in front of the frescoes at Huaca de la Luna

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