14th and 15th January. Callao, Peru:
Thick fog as we approached the port and the approach was done solely on radar, as there was nothing ‘visually’ to be seen. The visibility improved as we came through the breakwaters and became sufficient enough to dock.
Callao is a ‘hub’ port for the west-coast of South America and is therefore very busy; container ships, car carriers and bulk-carriers are docked, while out in the roads, ships are anchored, awaiting berths. Little has changed over the centuries, as in the days of Spanish rule and the Conquistadores, all the plunder from inland came through Callao, was shipped to Panama, carried overland to Cristobal and Cartagena and thence to Cuba, where it was shipped to Spain.
Lima, the Capital of Peru, is 40-minutes by road, away. A city steeped in history, from Inca to Wari, the race that was here before they were conquered by the Inca, who subsequently were conquered by the Spanish. Even in the heart of the city, there are pyramids from these bygone days. Because the area seldom saw the sun, the Wari worshipped the Moon and the Shark, being tied to the sea in their daily lives. Cruel times as they ‘specialised’ in ritual sacrifices too, only they only sacrificed women, between the age of 18 and 25 and children, all to appease their Gods. The pyramids kept their gruesome secrets until only recently, when archaeologists commenced their investigations. Forty years ago, the locals used the mounds of earth as an off-road motorcycle area!
The present-day Presidential palace, in the main square, was built over the original Inca palace, heaven knows what secrets lie under there……..
Lima lies on the ‘ring of fire’, the tectonic plate area which stretches from South America to North and has its history of devastating earthquakes. The pyramids were built in such a way that they should withstand the tremors and the Spanish were similarly inclined. What appear to be solid stone structures have in fact internal structures of wood and a facade of thin stone.
Some guests have returned from Machu Picchu, while others left from here and we will embark them in General San Martin tomorrow, before we head south-west, across the Pacific, towards Easter Island. I am already being asked if we will make the call ;), however I can only reply that I will do my best to make it, only time will tell. We leave here at 1800 and it is only a short overnight hop to our next port.
Jonathan Mercer is Amsterdam’s captain.