I had been in two minds whether to go by public transport or pay the extra and just catch a taxi. If you are stretched for time then I recommend going on a tour - it will save you the hassle and stress of trying to get there. However, if like me and you are up for an adventure, then have your coins handy and go by combi. If you don’t want to book a tour online, head to Plaza de Armas and walk around looking for “tours” signs on the buildings. They may seem hidden at first because signage in Peru is more subtle, but there are plenty around.
TIPS FOR USING PUBLIC TRANSPORT
How do you know which is the right combi to take? Check the general direction of where you want to go (Google Maps also shows you traffic flow) and basically look and listen for your destination. The combis normally have a man/woman in charge of getting passengers and often shout out where they are going - I knew the temples were in the Moche valley so I was looking for vans with that name or Huaca de la Luna on it. It cost 1.50 soles. If you want to stop along the way, just say “baja” (ba-ha) and that tells the driver that you want to get off.
My guest house, D’Barrig, was in the barrio of Monserrate, in the old part of Trujillo. It was a street away from Avenida Costa Rica which turns into Los Incas, one of the major streets that takes you to the historic centre of Trujillo, Plaza de Armas. There are some street signs in Trujillo being a small city, which helped me to get my bearings. I did find this post by Unpaved South America handy.
The van dropped us off at the entrance of Huacas de Moche, the museum and ticket booth. Entrance to Huaca de la Luna is 10 soles and 5 soles for the museum - although I was only charged 3 soles because either I looked like a University student or Peruvian. It’s worth visiting the museum before going to the temples as it does have English translations and a brief history of the people and the site.
Follow the dirt road to Huaca de la Luna, about a five minute walk from the museum. It’s mandatory to see the site with a local guide - payment is voluntary and I gave 30 soles. Waiting time depends on how busy it is (group sizes are limited to 25) - usually in the afternoon it’s a lot quieter and there were only three of us in our group. The site itself doesn’t receive government funding and excavations and maintenance is privately funded or from ticket sales.
The guide spoke great English and was full of knowledge about the history of the Moche people as well as the temples. She even taught us some of the Moche language which is unfortunately not around anymore. There is believed to be a Moche dictionary containing 500 words, although no one can really confirm its authenticity.
Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) was believed to be the centre of religious and cultural events for the Moche people. The smaller Huaca del Sol (Temple of the Sun) more for administrative duties. Both are made of adobe brick, which are made from clay, straw and sometimes seashells. It’s only sun-dried not kiln-fired. So far, the archeologists have excavated five layers, each representing a different temple built on top and around the existing site. Our guide said that each temple covers 100 years of history for the Moche people, with the average person living up to 45 years old.
The tour takes about an hour, as it takes you through the different parts of the site. Throughout you see depictions of the god, Ayapec, which to the Moche people was both the giver of life and destroyer. Some Ayapec faces were angry, some smiling, and our guide explained that human sacrifices were made to appease the god, especially during El Niňo. Warriors would battle in war ceremonies and the loser would be sacrificed.
A visit to Huaca de la Luna takes about half a day, and although it can be done, doing this with a visit to Chan Chan (there are four different sites) on the same day can be exhausting. If you are really pushed for time, I highly recommend seeing these temples and the Palace of Nik-An in Chan Chan as they were the highlights for me. The masterful detailing that has been preserved on the sites is incredible and you can’t help but be in awe that you are walking in the same footsteps as the Moche people from 500 AD. A Peruvian treasure indeed.
Ronna Grace Funtelar is a thirtyish storyteller, creative, writer and slam poet currently travelling in Peru. She is a hobby hiker, photography and sunrise enthusiast with a passion for mindfully helping others live beyond their comfort zone.
Basically, a shorty who knows her life purpose.