Favorite recent and insightful quote I have read recently:

Favorite quote I have recently read: "The word temple comes from the Latin templum, which signifies an extended open space that has been marked out for the observation of the sky. In what manner is such a space marked out? According to Dr. Hugh Nibley, the word templum, "designates a building specifically designed for interpreting signs in the heavens--a sort of observatory where one gets one's bearings on the universe." The root "tem-" in Greek and Latin denotes a "cutting" or intersection of two lines at right angles, the point where the "cardo" and "decumanus" cross, hence where the four regions come together." Matthew Brown - "The Gate of Heaven"

Monday, February 28, 2011

World Record Cuy "Jimmered" in Peru

As a follow up to our recent trip to Chimbote we were invited to participate on a hunt for a very large guinea pig, known locally as Cuymaximo. There have been stories about such giant animals but none have been seen in recent times. Wall paintings and etchings at Coral, the oldest city discovered in South America, suggest they frequented the area millennia before. This critter, part of the rodent family, was consuming large quantities of mangoes. The area of our hunt centered in orchards of a community north of Lima called Barranca. The mango fruit producers, like others engaged in agriculture in Peru, pay a very high tax of 14% to the federal government, so the devastation to their local mango crop was causing serious financial stress. The locals told us this animal would easily strip an entire tree of mangoes in just a few minutes.  Seems it has a voracious appetite and favors mangoes above alfalfa or the local grasses. Cuy are crepuscular, meaning they are most active during dusk and at dawn, not unlike deer and elk that I have hunted in the intermountain areas of Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado. That is when we focused the hours of our hunt, early in the morning.
Some of my friends who helped me with this animal
Accompanying us on our expedition were representatives from La Molina National Agrarian University.  Tissue samples and blood was taken in order to determine, if possible, why the enormous size of this particular animal. This university has been working with Cuy since the 1960's in order to breed larger sized animals. The goal of this university research would perhaps make them more economically sustainable in South America as they are much easier to raise than traditional livestock including cows and alpacas. Secondly, the upside potential for foreign export to other countries and areas in the world including the US, Western Europe, Japan, and Canada is huge.
Soon to be ripe mangoes hanging from the tree
Cuy as a food source likely began 5,000 years ago in the Andean highlands and coastal regions of present day Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Chile. Held in such high regard among the native peoples here,  religious festivals now tied with particular Catholic Saints holidays, are held annually honoring these animals. 

I took the shot with a locally supplied, but in excellent condition, civil war era, .64 caliber black powder musket. It was on loan from the Museo de Armamentos of Lima. The range was estimated at 75 yards which is a fairly long one for black powder. Muskets of this era are notoriously heavy barreled and I had to use a tripod to steady the aim.  Cross winds are not a problem with the 1200 grain lead ball.  It was necessary to be no more than 90-100 yards as the expectation is the ball must have some killing power for a Cuy of such enormous proportions. The hide of the Cuy is well known for its toughness and this animal was no exception. I placed the shot in the nerve bundle just below and behind the left ear.  It was far enough back that the head mount will not be compromised. I understand it will be on display at the aforementioned university after it is studied more carefully. As for the meat, the university released the carcass to a committee of town folk including the "alcalde" or mayor of Barranca.  The heart was immediately cleaned and bagged and within hours we were enjoying some of the finest anticuchos we have ever tried.  We may well have been the first to enjoy Cuy anticuchos since antiquity. I have been told by my friends that as you get further north from Lima the food and especially the type of seasonings change and really are much better. That certainly was the case with this Cuy. The animal prior to the cleaning process tipped the scales at just under 475 KG's. 
Anticuchos and Peruvian corn known as choclo, delicious!
All in all, it was a good day hunting with friends. Their scouting work and efforts really paid off as we bagged this animal shortly before sunrise. Now the locals will not have to stand guard duty of their mango crops 24/7 any longer. The university can continue their research in optimizing and developing their genetic strains for producing larger animals. On a side note, BYU is sending a team of archaeologists to analyze this animal and to take plaster casts of its unusual hoof like feet. Speculation suggests it may have been related to the "horses" so far not found in Pre Colombian South America. Similar type prints have been discovered in Nine Mile Canyon near Price Utah, dating to about 5,000 BCE. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Road Trip to Chimbote Peru

We took a two day road trip along the coast north of Lima. Our destination is somewhat well known among missionaries I know, at least those who have served in this backwater and marine fishery center known as Chimbote. There is a very distinct odor of sardines being processed here though we stayed in the newer southern part of the city with a lessened aroma in the air. 
The PanAmerican Highway stretching north from Lima
We traveled the Pan American Highway some 260 miles from Lima to our destination at the Buenos Aires Stake Center in southern Chimbote. The PanAmerican Highway, though impressive in scope of more than 29,000 miles from Prudhoe Bay Alaska to the tip of South America leaves much to be desired. The pavement is far from smooth or maybe the Nissan SUV we were riding in just really had terrible suspension. Portions of the highway are dangerous due to the narc and coca culture in the jungles of Peru, Ecuador, and Columbia. In Peru the road is dangerous for a number of other reasons. More than a few drivers turn off their lights at night to save their headlamps and it was reported to us that trucks or busses, which do breakdown with regularity along with cars, are left where they died, no attempt being made to remove them to the roadside. The highway is also shared with the ubiquitous moto taxis that thrive in the smaller cities along the way and in the poorer areas of Lima. More than a few slower moving trucks had tree branches fastened to the backs of them. We were told this was to prevent the bandits from jumping on board the trucks and removing the cargo as the trucks slowed, and they were very slow, going up the hills along the highway. The tree branches possess very long and numerous thorns sufficiently able to discourage highway robberies.
Thorn branches tied to a flatbed to discourage highway thefts.
Leaving Lima we looked for the signs leading us to Ancon on the PanAmerican Highway. Ancon was once an upper scale beach retreat and resort area near Lima. No longer is it a mecca for the wealthy and mobile as they seem to have abandoned it for the playas or beaches south of the city. Ancon occupies it own place in history as it was the original and oldest source of Pima cotton in the western hemisphere. Who can say whether Egyptian cotton predated the “Pima” cotton of Peru? The name Pima is not Peruvian but comes from an effort in honoring the Pima Indians of Arizona who worked with the USDA in growing cotton there. Cotton fabrics and balls have been found in the Ancon region as early as 4,000 BC. Some accounts place cotton farming as early as 6,000 BC. So fine is this Ancon/Pima cotton it was woven with silk throughout history. I would like to find an XXL Pima/Ancon cotton shirt here in Lima before we leave.
Houses along the way fashioned from woven bamboo panels, sides and top.
Chimbote was our destination as our neighbors and friends upstairs, (first counselor in the temple presidency,) were invited to speak in the Buenos Aires Stake of Chimbote. Forty some years ago the first branch was organized. Claim is made by Elder Gregory Larson of Centerville and his companion for this honor. To date there are now three stakes and fifteen wards there. The growth of the church follows that of the region. It has been very robust. Earthquakes, floods, and declining anchovy, sardine, and mackerel populations have caused economic challenges and turmoil through the last decades from the highs of the 1970's. Catholic diocese in the US raised significant sums of money for out of work fisherman and factory workers in Chimbote during the lowest of those cycles. In other regions Peru continues to export its natural resources and is rich in mineral deposits being bought up by the Chinese. The balance of trade is presently very good and survives in spite of the mismanagement of and the credit the national government takes. In addition to a number of other firsts for Peru it is the world's leading supplier of organic coffee ahead of both Jamaica and Hawaii. The arid and desolate coastline and lower elevations we traveled through are broken up with very rich and productive agricultural regions where we saw trees heavily laden with mangoes awaiting harvest. These orchards and fields rely on irrigation water carried from the few rivers that make their way from the snow of the Andes to the Pacific. The height of summer here is in fact the rainy season so farmers are blessed with adequate water thus far.
Rich and fertile areas get the water from irrigation channels
from the few rivers that traverse the area on their way to the ocean.
Traveling up the coast it is a mystery to me is why there is such desolation here. I am used to the California coastline with its lush vegetation and redwood forests, a stark contrast to that here. Lima is a desert and except for El Niño, when weather patterns change, it never rains enough to wet the concrete. The driest desert in all of the world is the Atacama of Chile on the leeward side of the Andes. The ancient lines in the sand at Nazca have survived a millennia because the region is so arid. The answer to the amount of desert along the Pacific side of South America is to be found in the ocean current known as the Humboldt Current. It is one of the major upwelling marine currents in all of the world and also explains the very rich marine environment for fishing off the Peruvian Coast. Nearly 20% of the world's supply of fish comes from this upwelling of the Humboldt marine environment. Chimbote is Peru's capitol for the fishing industry. Overfishing has compromised the region's productivity and steps have been taken by both the governments of Chile and Peru to limit the fishing and allow it to rebuild itself naturally.
We love the mangoes here and the trees were loaded with them 
The ocean waters being as cold as they are cool the air above which blows on shore cooling the landmass and keeping most us here somewhat content without AC in the summer. This cooled air from the Humboldt Current is not able to pick up sufficient water vapor to be deposited as rain on the parched coastline. That is my layman's explanation and understanding for the arid coastline. The most we get is a fog and a mist through the winter months here and very seldom a light rain.
One of three stake centers in Chimbote. Note the bars on the 2nd story windows
We enjoyed our trip and seeing more of Peru and meeting more of the people here. We spoke with the stake president following the meeting and he reminded me we had met earlier in the temple and remembered that I had told him I enjoyed and appreciated cebiche, written about previously. The Saints in Chimbote are excited a temple is coming closer to them up the PanAmerican Highway in Trujillo. A bus ride to the temple in Lima is a good 10 hours and a ride to Trujillo will only be a couple hours. We continue to be impressed with and the beauty of this land in which we live. A sad note though – on our way home as we neared the urban area of Lima it was evident a pedestrian had been killed in the opposite lane of the PanAmerican Highway. The body was covered with pieces of cardboard from shredded boxes, the police having no blankets or a body bag. From the small arm protruding from under the pile of cardboard it was likely a female or a younger male. Life is not always easy on the PanAmerican Highway or here in Peru in spite of the current economic climate. There is no way to offer condolences or express support to the family who lost someone yesterday. We are reminded life can be a slender thread in Lima Peru or Centerville Utah. We are grateful for all that we and ours are blessed with while we are here serving en el Templo de Lima.
Chimu or Moche ruins along the highway.  Their construction was adobe.
This site is not uncommon along the coast highway

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Museo Larco

During our vacation here while the temple is closed for maintenance we visited the Larco Museum, a very well run private institution. The museum is best known worldwide for its very large collection of ceramic pottery including the world's largest collection of ancient erotica. Long ago in a beginning introduction to anthropology, at the U of U, I learned that anthropology is the study of stones, old bones, and the dirty stories of dirty people. Political science, which became my major, on the other hand is the study of dirty stories of freshly laundered politicians.

It is doubtful the visitors filing into the erotica hall had scientific or anthropological interests in mind, just a curiosity. Ticket sales which include this part of the museum likely keep it prospering. Our guide seemed quite disappointed that we were not interested in continuing our tour of the erotica hall.

Chimu gold funerary jewelry

The storage area of the museum where many of the artifacts are preserved
To date, the Larco is the most impressive of all the museums we have visited in Lima. Ceramics, textiles, and metals are featured spanning more than the 40,000 years of human habitation of the coastal deserts, Andean highlands, and mountains of modern day Peru.  The Inca and many other of the indigenous cultures worshipped the sun as it brought conditions suitable for growing crops in the high mountain valleys around Cusco.  For the Chimu bordering on the vast and dry coastal deserts of Peru worshipping the moon made more sense, as the sun was something that dried, scorched, and destroyed. As noted previously our favorite of the ceramics are these Moche Chimu due to their lifelike features forever preserved in their fired pottery vases. Chimu pottery distinctly shows human facial hair which is unusual.  Judging by my inability to find and buy an electric razor after arriving in Lima several months back facial hair is not a problem for many Peruvian males.
Chimu POW held captive to be sacrificed. Note the beard and mustache. 
One of our guides, while touring Cusco last week, told us there were more than 170 distinct pre-Incan cultures and civilizations here in Peru. They are not all on display at the Larco but the collection of more than 45,000 artifacts contributes to the preservation of Peru's past. A quick search on ebay disclosed Incan and pre Incan artifacts can he had there, though it is illegal to transport anything of an historical nature out of Peru. Very good quality recreations of the artifacts can be purchased in the gift shop.
Moche lifelike fired ceramic vase
Stylized spider measuring several hundred meters in length at Nazca
Archaeologists still debate, and who can say, that the answers will ever be found as to why a civilization flourished and then disappeared, or of what purpose were the great lines of the Nazca painted in the desert. El Niño has profound influence and impact on weather patterns here and throughout Peru's past. There is ample evidence of climate change with periods of drought being often followed by periods of heavy rainfall and flooding, a situation we wrestle with worldwide today. Human sacrifice seems to have been nearly universal among these earlier inhabitants of Peru in attempts at appeasement and persuasion of the gods to send the right amount rainfall and sunshine to insure the crops of corn, squash, beans and potatoes thrived. Stones carved like the Intihuatana of Machu Picchu, (meaning sun catcher in Quechua), were prevalent thoughout pre Spanish Peru as astronomical observatories and offered assurances to these early farmers and societies when the winter solstice had arrived and once again the sun would begin its annual journey to warm the earth for the planting and growing of crops.
Few stones survived the Spanish conquest such as this one in Machu Picchu
In addition to the outstanding exhibits of the Museo Larco we had been told of the excellent cafe and gardens around this former colonial estate. The gardens have won several awards and the fresh sea bass cebiche in their cafe was as good as any I have experienced.  The chicha morada was exceptional as well with the extra citrus, lime and orange, ingredients that I enjoy. We look forward to taking friends and family to this wonderful location in the future.  The AC was particularly nice too, on a warm summer afternoon here in Lima.
The garden adjacent to the Larco cafe

Relaxation at the garden cafe

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Machu Picchu with friends...

On Thursday of this week we returned from our trip to Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. We had noted earlier in emails and FB posts the difficulty of putting into words the grandeur and beauty of Machu Picchu. It's attraction, both in its mountain top setting and the craftsmanship with which it was built, was described in a 1983 UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site as "an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization." The Inca ruled the Andean region of South America beginning in the area around Cusco in about 1200 CE to become the largest of all pre-Colombian civilizations.  The Incan Empire like those that preceded it and even the fate of the Spanish Conquistador Ferdinand Pizarro ended in bloodshed at the point of a weapon. Yet, the technology, building, the civilization, and accomplishments of the Inca were an accumulation of many cultures that came and went prior to their rise in the 13th century. Among the favorites for RuthAnn and I are the Moche ceramics, so lifelike and finely crafted, along with Huari textiles and tapestries.  
Moche ceramic pitcher,  note the lifelike features

Jeff,  Connie, RA, George and Miky

February is a rainy month and we were warned to bring ponchos which we needed only for brief periods. We were told the Inca Trail was closed. We were not interested in hiking it in any case, but that also meant far fewer tourists and visitors. Turns out February is one of the best months for visiting Machu Picchu. The site is being threatened by it's popularity being named as one of the seven great wonders of the modern world. Peru has not always managed the site well, though the government is working hard these days to preserve this valuable asset of their country's  past. The filming of a beer commercial some years ago damaged the Intihuatana Stone of which there are so few found in Peru. Steps have been taken by the national government to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future. Helicopter flights over the area once granted have now been banned.
G and RA at the Intihuatana, a solar observatory

Intihuatana stones, a name derived from Quechua, by the American explorer Hiram Bingham were numerous throughout Incan lands as they were astronomical observatories and timepieces which told the farmers when to plant their crops each year. The Spanish systematically had them destroyed among many other Incan treasures and masterpieces.  The value of Machu Picchu today is due to the fact it was never conquered/looted by the Spanish. Though Bingham, a Yale University lecturer, gets the credit for "discovering" it, others came before and in fact there were Quechua living and farming in portions of the ruins when Bingham arrived 100 years ago.  He, like the Spanish before him, carried off all the treasure he could back to Yale to be studied. More than 5,000 artifacts were taken. Only this past November has Yale University agreed to return to Peru the treasure taken from Machu Picchu. NPR and others have carried the story of the eventual return of these artifacts to Peru. 
The Sun Temple where twice a year the sun shines through one of two windows marking the solstices 
There are a number of theories about why it was built and for what purposes, as noted in an earlier post. My favorite theory is one being promoted by archaeologist Johann Reinhard that it was largely used for religious purposes.  There are numerous examples of astronomical alignments and observatories found there. The Inca had great respect and worshipped their world of mountains, rivers, valleys, and lands. These same thoughts were indelibly impressed on us as we visited Machu Picchu.  It is a deeply reverential and awe inspiring place. 
Seen from the beginning of the trail entering and leaving
We look forward to future visits to Machu Picchu. We were grateful our friends Jeff and Connie came all the way from Utah to enjoy this trip with us. Our time was limited and there is much more to learn and to appreciate on our next visi. 
Our friends in one of many moments of contemplation