Posted by: Jessie Kwak | November 27, 2009

Huaca Arco Iris (aka Dragon) and Huaca Takaynamo

A long time ago (two months, I suppose), Rob and I went to the palace of Nik An, in the complex of Chan Chan. For S/.11 you get a ticket good for 2 days that lets you into four different sites, including Nik An, the Site Museum, Huaca Esmerelda, and Huaca Arco Iris. Now, we started a bit late in the afternoon and because the sites are all pretty spread out (Chan Chan was home to 30,000 people back in the day), we only got to see Nik An and the Site Museum.

Fast forward to last Wednesday. We still had our Chan Chan tickets, and we’d not yet gone to visit either Huaca Esmerelda or Huaca Arco Iris. Sure, the tickets were time-stamped and had expired two months ago. Would anyone really look at them?

The Milagro to Buenos Aires bus of Trujillo

This bus goes from the city center to Esperanza and El Milagro. Hop on and check it out.

After our morning class at Fairmail we hopped on the first bus that said it would take us close, the “Esperanza Express” (Buenos Aires/Milagro, red and white, letter A). It was packed, and we got to sit up in the front next to the driver. Rob was snapping photos like a madman, and the bus driver and the wrangler were grinning as they watched him brace himself against the bumps and lurches.

One thing we’ve noticed about buses: If you’re a gringo, they get a kick out of you. The wrangler and bus driver (brothers, we suspect) both had the most amazing smiles. The wrangler had a mouthful of gold teeth that just gleamed as he shook his head and watched us bounce around on our seats (he smiled unnaturally with his mouth closed when posing for this portrait—I was disappointed).

The wrangler on our bus to Huaca Arco Iris

Hiding his awesome gold teeth.

The wrangler got us off at the correct stop and we waved goodbye. He just grinned at us again and laughed.

Chan Chan was a massive city, with settlements and temples sprawling from the center of Trujillo all the way up here to Huanchaco. The outcome of this is that while you’re walking through the suburbs of Trujillo you’re constantly wandering past huge mounds of dirt that once were temples.

A Peruvian Hairless dog's rear end.

Maybe not the best angle on a Peruvian Hairless Dog, but the other sides aren't great, either.

The Huaca Arco Iris is one of these ancient temples that now sits squarely beside a busy, traffic-clogged street. We were met by a pair of Peruvian Hairless Dogs (a must for any fashionable archeological site), and I handed our long-expired tickets to the gatekeeper. She glanced at the date, tore the tickets and waved us toward the temple.

It was as we had suspected. No one particularly cared about the “two-day” rule.

This temple has two names: Arco Iris (rainbow) and Dragon. Any guesses as to why?

Arco Iris carving: Two dragons kissing under a rainbow

Two dragons kiss under a rainbow. My guess is that dragons were the Chimú's version of bears.

The temple must have been fully covered with these Dragon-under-Rainbow carvings, both inside and out. The temple has been restored, its walls plastered smooth and the carvings exposed, and the pattern is repeated without deviation over all the surface that remains intact,

It’s not the same eerie silence that you find out in Chan Chan. Even with the high cement walls around the huaca you can still hear the honking of horns from the major street outside and the giggling of the highschoolers who had been trucked in for a field trip.

After we spent some time there we brought out the map. Something was wrong—we were definitely not where the map said that Huaca Arco Iris was. We finally figured out that we were about 5 blocks up and on the other side of the street, so we decided to wander down to check out where the map thought Arco Iris was.

We found a walled-off temple there, with “Huaca Takaynamo” stenciled on the side. We walked all the way around, and found a closed gate. We opened it and stuck our heads in.

Huaca Takaynamo is not a full-fledged tourist site yet. You can tell because of the stacks of mud bricks that are being used for reconstruction, the fact that the gate is closed and that we interrupted the caretaker while he was eating lunch, and especially because the guard dog that’s barking ferociously at us isn’t a Peruvian Hairless Dog. He looks a lot healthier, and a lot more vicious.

The caretaker put down his fork and came over to tell us that we really weren’t supposed to be there, but he permitted a couple of photos. I asked if they had plans to open the temple to tourism, and he shrugged. “They’re reconstructing it,” he said, waving his hand at the empty temple, the mud bricks and ladders and scaffolding. Who? I wanted to ask, but it was clear that no one had been by for a while.

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