h1

The Cajamarca Roundup

November 2, 2008
I had Thursday off of work so why not take the opportunity to run amok through the mountain metropolis of Cajamarca?  In past decade the city of 300,000 has boomed thanks to the influx of engineers, miners and gold diggers (literally). Cajamarca is supposedly six hours into the mountains from Trujillo by bus – but given the construction and torrential rains – the trip became a jiggling, jostling nine hour ride.  Thankfully, the chairs are super comfortable AND I made a point of traveling overnight so the journey wasn’t bad: like sleeping on an armchair stacked on top of the washing machine.

Cajamarca is famous for being the last Inca Atahualpa’s final battleground.  A tiny Spanish force captured him here and held him ransom for months while he filled a large room floor to ceiling twice with silver and once with gold.  Here is the chamber he in which he was imprisoned while his people melted down tons of jewelry into gold and silver bars.

atahualpa´s last home
atahualpa´s last home

At some point during the end of his imprisonment, Atahualpa sent word for the Incas to come rescue him – he though the Spaniards weren’t going to keep up their end of the bargain and release him.  Fearing an attack, the Spaniards freaked out and killed him anyway.  He was supposed to be burned at the stake, but upon accepting baptism at the eleventh hour he was allowed death by strangulation.

thankfully, didn´t have to go this way

thankfully, didn´t have to go this way

The Inca’s were conquerors, too.  The Cajamarca people, for which the city, province and department are named, ruled the region from 1000 B.C.E. to their demise when the Incas took over.  I went on a little afternoon tour which included the Cajamarca’s archeological feat Ventanillas de Otuzco.

honeycomb catacombs

honeycomb catacombs

The Cajamarca people carved these tiny windows (ventanillas) in the rockface overlooking the valley.  When an important personage died, he was buried underground for one and a half to two years – just long enough for his flesh to disintegrate.  His bones were then exhumed and the skelelton was folded into these spaces and sealed in.

arco iris
arco iris

The valley is lovely and the intermittent rains make for sweet rainbows.  My tour guide is nonchalant about rainbows: “Oh, we’re used to them here; we get them everyday.”  Nice – well I’ve never seen two side by side, so I’m going to take a picture. At all the tourist sites little seven and eight year old boys crowd around you asking to sing you a song for a few coins.  There are also women at the sites selling fossilized shells from God knows what epoch that they’ve dug up in the hillsides.

the hills above the Otuzco valley
the hills above the Otuzco valley

The Cajamarcas were later overtaken by the Incas who were then almost immediately taken over by the Spaniards, but not before the Incas converted the city to their architectural standards.  Unfortunately, the ransom chamber (pictured above) is the only Inca structure left in the city.  But way at the top of the central Santa Apollonia hill is the Last Inca’s chair, supposedly where Atahualpa came to sit and contemplate his territories.

Atahualpa´s throne
Atahualpa´s throne

Way off in the back of the picture you can kind of see where I started my day: at the Baños de los Inca or the Inca baths.  It’s a sprawling complex of hot pools and private baths that are fed by the same mineral springs that the Inca’s bathed in. Yeaaahhh spa day!

paradise, no?
paradise, no?

You can’t go straight into the natural hot springs – it’s too hot for us weeny, modern peoples.  So intead you rent a private bath which is really more like a private bathtub.  I was hesitant at first because 1) people are straight up stripping down and soaping up in their tubs and 2) there’s a guy lying down on the floor with his face strapped to an oxygen machine… too much hot water maybe?

misty mysterious

misty mysterious

But the bus ride was long and a bath was totally in order – I opted for both soap AND a bathing suit – Viva Compromise!  Oh, and also a massage.  Yes, folks, and it was so, so good.  Who knew $6 could be so well spent, eh?
So bien relajada I take the combi back to town – crowded as always…

traveling in style

traveling in style

It’s only 9am when I arrive at the city center, so I have the whole day to fill.  And I did.  First I met the only other black man in town.

the people

the people

The Afro-Peruvian population is tiny, maybe 3% of the whole country.  Or, for reference, the Afro-Peruvians make up the same percentage of inhabitants as Native Americans in the United States.  This guy is from Piura up north, but most of the population lives south of Lima in the cities of Chincha and Ica.
I also visited this old women’s hospital.

total recall moment
total recall moment

The façade is decorated with these crazy supernumerary (multiple, people, multiple!) breasts. It is apparently a local affliction, or at least it was at the time of construction.
I climbed these crazy stairs.

steep, but sweet

steep, but sweet

Visited some churches, cathedrals and the rescue chamber.
Found this Chinese good luck cat disguised as traditional Peruvian pottery.

traditional Peruv- hey, wait a minute!
traditional Peruv- hey, wait a minute!

Tried chicha – a homemade, alcoholic drink made of corn.  You buy it moonshine style in these glass bottles if you’re classy, or if you’re more bootleg, you can purchase it in a repurposed Coke bottle.

corn sizzurp

corn sizzurp

And finally visited a dairy farm.  This horse is a little lewd.  If I’d known I would’ve picked a different horse to get my picture with but I guess he doesn’t know any better.

hmmm
hmmm

The cows here are getting shots.  I’d hate to be them: one guy holds you by your nostrils while the other sticks a three inch needle in both sides of your rump.

moouch

moouch

Then two dairy maids lash your back legs together so you can’t walk away and then wash your teets of cow poo that’s been flicked up on your udder by your neighbors. And finally they pull up stools and sit on either side of you so they can milk 20 liters out of you in five minutes.  Crazy fast – it looks more efficient than those industrial suckers.

mooo

mooo

Here I’ve only filled the day through 6 p.m., so I went buckwild in the artisanal craft stores.  My friends, you know how much I love multicolored things, so I’m sure can understand how I spent the next four hours of my day digging through baskets of Peruvian cloth. 
After I tore threw the stores I made my way through some dinner and some internet and staggered back to the bus station to catch my night nap back to Trujillo. I can’t express how much I love night buses.  It’s the perfect travel antidote to long days and long distances.  Try it some time, yes?

Advertisements

One comment

  1. the pictures of you are the best



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: