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?