SCRIPS AND SCRAPS FROM A BEACH BUM GAL
I’m having serious trouble in leaving Huanchaco, Peru. No, nobody’s holding me hostage here, it’s just so beautiful and so consistently 77 degrees after all that Andean chill. So, I am now chilling out and finding excuses to extend my $25 per night stay in the very comfortable Hostel Huanchaco, night after night. Yesterday, I tried to visit the exhibition of the famous Peruvian Paso horses, but I started too late to arrive by showtime, so I went to the beach and lazed on a beach chair under an umbrella. Today, I’m hoping to actually make it to the horse show. Then, perhaps I will be able to peel away from here, catch a bus-cama and show up in Lima just in time to be splashed with water during Carnival.
Over breakfast this morning, I had a long talk with Bruno, a retired French Canadian, who had traveled South America eleven times, finally settling down here as a part-time expat. After all, Canada can’t match these temperatures and this is a wonderful place to settle into. Everyone is so friendly and easy-going.
Well, now to scrips and scraps: First of all, I’m also keeping a handwritten journal, and I often write things there and then copy them here. I don’t think I’ve included these little points here, but forgive me, if so.
There were two stark clues of tragedy picked up from my tour of Chan Chan the other day. One was the story the guide told as we were standing on the funerary platform where the dead Ruler was dispatched to his Great Reward, accompanied by his principal wife (who got to lie with him in the center of it all) and surrounded by forty of his lesser wives. Beyond us were the graves of many servants and animals, all of which he was taking with him into the future life.
As we all know, these funerals were attended by most of the living-but-soon-to-be-dead individuals who were not going to have the luxury of a natural expiration date. Our guide spoke of the thirty-nine women who had apparently been resigned to this fate and who had been found in their graves with their faces looking upward, having died ceremonially in the proper way. Poison? Slit throat?
But, there was one skeleton found sprawled face down in an agonized, unsettled, position. The archaeological conclusion was that she had changed her mind when push came to shove and had fervently regretted becoming a member of the King’s harem, only to have him expire before she did. She must have tried to avoid the consequences at the last minute but found herself no match against the multitude of priests who were not inclined to let her have her cake and eat it too. Thousands of years later, her last moments could be reconstructed just in the fact that her final moments were not in conformity with those of her fellow royal wives. Until recently, wives in India, married to a certain class of man, were still suffering the same forced end to life, simply because a spouse died first. There are some definite advantages to being an old maid.
The other story gleaned at Chan Chan was about the sweet little Yoda-like Mexican Hairless Dogs, three of whom are there to meet the tourists. These were bigger than I had imagined and were about the size of a medium breed, but they sure were hairless, and had a sort of a deep purple/maroon color, or a reddish-pink, to their exposed and slightly wrinkly skin. They have big, expressive ears and very intelligent, knowing, eyes.
The normal body temperature of these dogs is quite high. Much higher than other dogs and thus, they have been used to soothe the pains of arthritis by cuddling up to a human sufferer. A natural heating pad, ready to be applied at an instant, and though these are way to big to be lap dogs, they seem to be very sweet and affectionate in temperament.
Well, they had been highly-valued as Temple Dogs in these pre-Incan, Chimu times. However, Pizzaro and his gang, the conquering Spaniards, jumped to the conclusion that they all must be suffering from some terrible disease (high fever, and fallen-out hair) and so the Spanish executed most of them. For centuries after that, the survivors of this breed had no acceptance among the population and they became the strays and scavengers in the country.
It’s been in relatively recent times, when the modern archaeologists found carvings and drawings of these very distinctive looking animals on the temple pottery and walls, that their lot improved markedly. Now, there are always several Mexican Hairless Dogs on duty at all archaeological museums and they have become accepted as household pets by the local population.
At least that’s the story that our guide told. Maybe the Kennel Society has a different story, but I’ll bet it’s not as heartrending as this one.