The Almost Forgotten City of Caral
I don’t even know how to begin this story so bear with me.
While my boyfriend and I were in South America, we had plans to go to the Amazon. While in Cusco, days before the Amazon, we get a call from our Galapagos Island agent that the boat (which was like THE most fabulous one, I think it was called Majestic? Whatever) was cancelled. Mind you, we barely have service and the trip is a week away. So basically it was supposed to be Cusco, Amazon, Lima, Galapagos. It was super hard trying to find nice boats that were still available last minute etc etc. We were supposed to be in the Amazon for 3 days with no service and we needed to get this sorted out.
We were sitting in the Cusco airport lounge because our flight to the Amazon was delayed, of course. While we were waiting & trying to get this Galapagos trip booked, we get an email from the Amazon people saying that the trip may have to get cancelled because it is torrential down pouring. NOW we started bugging out. Everything was falling apart! The tour guy calls us and I literally couldn’t even hear him over the rain. It was insane. We ultimately decided to skip the Amazon and spend some extra time in Lima.
K I just wanted to build up the drama there for the real story… how’d I do? Intrigued yet??
So first of all, Lima was freaking fabulous! I loved it!!!! I don’t care what people say about it, it is awesome! Culinary scene is off the charts, Larcomar, or as I like to refer to it as – Paraiso – is so fun and fab!! Like you would think a place like that would be a little cheesy but I didn’t think so at all! What is cooler than a gorgeous entertainment mall off the side of a cliff? (check out my tips below for Lima)
We had this extra time and we were looking for interesting things to do. In our searches we came across the Sacred City of Caral-Supe. AKA a 5,000-year-old metropolis complete with complex agricultural practices, rich culture, and monumental architecture, including six large pyramidal structures, stone and earthen platform mounds, temples, amphitheaters, sunken circular plazas, and residential areas.
K maybe that looks like a lot of boring words but imagine all that 5000 years ago!! It is the oldest center of civilization in the Americas and it is exceptionally well-preserved. How freaking cool does that sound?!
I can go on and on explaining all the cool complexities they innovated but I want you to continue reading so I’ll just get on with my story.
We were totally in for this. We rented a car, a small little Hyundai Genesis and we were on our merry way. Just pulling out of the rental place getting onto the road you notice some dangerous driving going on. But then it gets worse and worse and worse. My heart is literally beating so fast, I’m sweating, & literally begging for my life (minute 20). I am not exaggerating when I tell you, it had to be one of the most dangerous cities to drive in, in the world. People absolutely do not care for human life. Lanes are nonexistent. Traffic was insane. It was constant fear for life, for HOURS.
So after what felt like a lifetime of impending death and we got to a less populated area we thought we should be good now, how much longer of this can it be?! WRONG. The roads only got worse, and the drive was only half way through. We suddenly get to a weird point where we’re not even on a highway and we see on a random brick wall, literally out of nowhere, the word CARAL spray painted with an arrow under it. We didn’t know what the ef was going on anymore at this point, our phones didn't have service but it was still is sort of navigating us so we just followed the “sign”. THEN we enter NO MANS LAND. LEGITIMATELY. We enter a desert-like area and finally thought this was really it, we are so close, we just gotta drive a little bit through this land and we should be there no prob. NO.
At this point we were driving through a rocky, bumpy, non-road. We were in the middle of NO WHERE. (Check out my video below to get a glimpse of what we were going through) It was the scariest, most helpless feeling I probably ever felt. We were in this shitty Hyundai Genesis (sorry Hyundaiers), driving through endless desert, rocky land. Every horizon we’d think ok it’s gotta be just up ahead. It wasn’t. We were not prepared for this! I didn’t bring any snacks!!! (I need my snacks) We bought a small Coca Cola bottle from someone that dared to stand in the middle of the roads, which was finished by hour 2. I had to pee so badly, and it was just constant praying a tire didn’t pop. We were driving like 20 miles per hour because if a tire popped we were screwed!!
After I’d say about 2 hours or more of driving through desolate land, we FINALLY see a sign!
AHHH WE MADE IT!!!!
I was so beyond exhausted and mentally worn out that by the time we got there I could barely even pay attention to the tour guide. (which was fully in Spanish and requires a lot more attention for me)
For the way back we were hoping we could take an alternate route that didn’t require that misery but of course because of high tide, we couldn’t cross this little river that would’ve allowed us to do so. So… got back on that same “road”, which I must say was not as bad second time around. Although it was starting to get dark, there was a large van way up ahead of us that we tried to keep our eyes on. But after the dirt road, all hell broke loose. I guess it was rush hour and boy did I think the way there was bad on a Lima highway, man was I wrong. Cars were going into the shoulder lanes and the non-lane next to the shoulder lane. It took us 6-7 hours to get back. It was pretty traumatizing I must say.
Thankfully, once we got back we were mightily rewarded with a FABULOUS dinner at Panchita. Highly recommend this place for a fantastic meal.
Lesson of the day: BE PREPARED!! It’s fun to be spontaneous and all but really know what you’re getting into before you decide to take a mini road trip in a foreign country to the boondocks. Always have a backup plan & prepare for the worst. AKA make sure you ALWAYS pack some snacks!!! Also, I’d like to apologize for calling the Hyundai Genesis shitty because come to think of it, we freaking survived in that thing! That car was a survivor just as much Nuggy and I were survivors.
Also, quick reflection moment – to think that the Caral civilization achieved such early development in complete isolation from other populations, thousands of years ago, is beyond fascinating.
Miraflores – nice neighborhood, great restaurants
Panchita Restaurant – when the bread they serve is a full challah bread, you know you’re in for a treat with the rest of the meal
Avenida Diagonal – by Parque Kennedy, pedestrian area (bars)
LARCOMAR!!! Is where it’s at!!! – an outdoor mall along the Pacific
Shops, movies, bowling, arcade, restaurants, clubs (Gotica – cool venue, electronic club)
Barranco – south of Miraflores, bohemian district
Don’t miss the fountain show!!
Museo Larco – excellent museum housed in a 18th-century viceroy's mansion (English guides)
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