After 12 days in Lima my spare tires still had not appeared. With some trepidation I decided to try to track them down. So on Friday afternoon I headed to the local post office, expecting a runaround, including being sent to the customs office in the airport. But the supervisor made one phone call, gave the person on the other end of the line my name and said pleasantly, “your package is at the customs office down the street. It has been there for five days.” I was thrilled but exasperated. “Why didn´t anyone call me or let me know it was there”, I wanted to scream out. But I politely told her gracias and headed to the customs office. After filling out a bunch of forms, waiting in line, getting an import tax invoice, running to the bank to pay it, waiting again in line, and running back to the customs office before they closed at 4:30, I managed to finally get my spare tires. It was close. I got the paid invoice to the customs guy at 4:25. Five minutes later and I would have had to wait until Monday. It turns out that anything over $100 requires an import tax.
By the way, I´m not sure how many Americans realize there is a free trade agreement with Peru going through Congress. It passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate in December. It is a big deal over here I can tell you. Front page news at least once a week. It would have helped me, that’s for sure.
Anyway, I left Lima the next day and fought my way through heavy traffic, exhaust and potholes for three hours before things started to clear up. The west coast of Peru is a desert with occasional oases. Here is a wierd town I came across. A number of dwellings but I did not see a single person.
A typical view along the Pan-American highway:
Heading north on the highway I stopped by the ancient ruins of Caral.
Much of the site is still being excavated. There are swarms of archaeologists and workers cleaning up the place. A guide told me they are searching for the cemetery which usually reveals a lot about the culture.
Caral was inhabited around 2600 BC – 2000 BC, making it the oldest urban center in the Americas. It is estimated more than 3,000 inhabitants lived in Caral. Once it was abandoned it was left deserted and covered by sand until discovered in 1948.
Caral consists of an elaborate complex of temples, an amphitheatre and ordinary houses. The urban complex is spread out over 150 acres (607,000 m²) and contains plazas and residential buildings. Caral was a thriving metropolis at the same time that Egypt’s great pyramids were being built.
I continued north to the town of Casma where there were other old ruins from the Sechin culture (1800 BC-800 BC). These folks were no joke. They were warriors who seemed to glorify cutting people up. Their bas-relief stone carvings depict grisly images of decapitated heads and other body parts. Here are some shots. Nice people.
That´s it for now. Back to the road.
By the way, check out the discussion on my previous post, Images of Lima. Does anyone else want to weigh in on the debate about Pizarro? Was he a hero, a good civil servant, or a butchering murderer?
It’s not either/or/or, Kev. He could be all three. But I probably couldn’t designate him a “hero”, depending on the definition you wish to employ. But he was certainly courageous, admirably so (which just shows you that courage is one of those virtues that become a horrific evil when put in the service of evil). He was not a great or even good civil servant. He defied orders from above repeatedly, both before and after the conquest, and wasted his country’s, Spain’s, resources and squandered the rewards of her conquests. He also ruled in Peru very poorly, and his policies bred all sorts of strife and civil war and precipitous declines in socio-economic conditions. He was a murderer, even though he was probably covered under military rules. I would say he’s pretty close to a courageous, daring, patriotic, half-cocked, bumbling butcher. Are you planning on emulating him?
Great shots of the desert. I can look at this stuff all day. Love that bleak frontier. Must not be too hot, since you’re riding through this territory.
I question the assertion that “Caral was… the oldest urban center in the Americas.” The Department of Motor Vehicles on Tremont Avenue in the Bronx is much older than that. It also looks worse.
Hi Kev –
Happy Thanksgiving! Glad you’re finally back on the road. Where to next?
All this talk about oldest has got me remembering this November 22 morning: Betty and I have now been married 55 years and counting. I hazard to say that we are probably the last generation to have long marriages and large families in the U.S.
I’m happy to see that you are back on the road. Your exploits with the customs, et al, reminds me of our fun and games running a business in Curacao and Barbados.
One finds perverse pleasures in these places: In Barbados, I loved to buy a stamp in a crowded post office and then with an exaggerated gesture, LICK the stamp (instead of wetting it on the sponge) and place it on the envelope. Looking up, I would see many staring at me in disbelief as though I just licked the countertop.
Im glad to see that you are back on the road. Let that be a lesson. You cannot sit down and wait for a call. Its simple —-Pizzaro loved his work.
Well Ben, thanks for the word on Pizarro. I´m afraid we haven´t heard the last of him yet. He actually started his American conquest in Panama, where I plan to be at the end of December. I am still troubled by the imperialism debate. By what standard do you proclaim it always wrong? If the conquistadors truly believed what they were doing was legally and morally right how can we apply our standards now, 500 years later, and say they did wrong? The same applies to all the conquerors, including the Inca, who were no saints themselves.
Ira, I think you are right. Parts of the NYC subway look older than the Caral ruins also.
Uncle Don, congratulations. Fifty-five years is amazing. I barely made it five years and that was a struggle. I would love more anecdotes about your Caribbean adventures.
Hi, Kev. Still troubled by this, eh? Well, it’s far too large a topic. I could make my case in 5000 words, but I don’t wish to take the time right now. Again, there arfe thousands of essays on the basics of moral philosophy on the web. I’ll turn the questions back on you and you can write the first 5000 words. Why do you think Pizarro was right? Because the standards of his time permitted conquest? That’s not even fully or exactly true. By Pizarro’s time (1530s), thousands of thinkers (mostly Spanish Catholic priests, to say something positive about religion and Catholicism) had already widely questioned the morality of conquest as Cortes and Pizarro had been conducting it. You’ve got to become conversant with the whole story of the times to make an assessment of one man’s possible culpability. Other questions for you: who defines the standards of any particular time? And how are those standards set and justified? And how are those standards discerned and understood in later times? More questions: why do you care (as I asked before)? Are you really trying to get Pizarro’s methods of conquest back in business, to morally justify them for today. In other words, what’s at stake in your pursuit of this topic, whether Pizarro was right or not? And yet more questions: If you think the “standards of a time” justify whatever behavior took place, then why question my position. I’m just judging some events by the standards of my time. Thus, according to your own moral principle, I’m perfectly justified in doing so. Hey, nice talking with you on this. Thanks for the comments on my blog. Loving all the photos. I will drop a line about those partying kids soon.