After we said our good-byes to our lovely hosts at the Rewash Hostel we were heading off to Cajamarca. One other German tourist (from Cologne!) told us that he took a bus from Cajamarca to Chachapoyas and it took 12 hours. At that time we were thinking, we could do it in one day. Later on we were proven very wrong!
Weather was cool, cloudy and grey. So we drove to a little town of Leimebamba first. Carlos, our host told us we should definitely stop at the Museum there. That was well worth the visit. Outside of this little town there was a newly, tastefully built complex with the support of an Austrian Archeologist and the National Geographic Society. In 1997 they have discovered numerous artifacts, ceramics, mummies, pottery and fabrics at the nearby Laguna de los Condores from the Chachapoyas people around 900 a.c. At least 60-70 well preserved Mummies of adults and children partially wrapped in gauze-like fabric were on display. Really fascinating! Heinz and I were the only ones in the museum, so we took our time.
Then the real adventure started. We drove high up into the mountains (approx. 3600m) on a very narrow but paved road. Max. speed was maybe 30-40 km/h, since we did not know what to expect behind the next curve. There were rocks and stones that had fallen from the mountains, all kinds of animals like sheep, cows, pigs and donkeys on the road and low and behold a bus came from the other direction. There were no guardrails anywhere so we had to squeeze onto the side. I really had to force myself not to look down into the valley. It was fr….steep!! At times the road was just covered in a rock slide, nobody bothered to remove it, so everybody simply drove over the rocks. Apart from all this the view was spectacular, once we were out of the clouds.
Needless to say by late afternoon it became evident that we were only two thirds to Cajamarca. We spent one night in Celendin, a mid-sized town still high up in the mountains. We found a decent hotel, with the help of the young receptionist we manoeuvered the bikes into one of the front rooms of the hotel.
Next day we finished the last stretch to Cajamarca on a much easier road. The landscape was slowly changing into dairy land with green pastures, busy indigenous people plowing their land with oxen and women sitting at the roadside and tending to their animals while spinning wool on a stick.
We settled into our Hostel Los Jazmines, again after the usual parking procedures with the bikes.
Cajamarca was one of the largest cities in the Inca Empire and marks the site where the Inca people and the Spaniards had their first and crucial showdown. It was here that the Inca Atahualpa was taken prisoner and later executed. We visited the building/Museum containing the room where he was supposedly kept (Cuarto del Rescate). This is the sole surviving Inca structure in the city. Also there are several nice (as always!) churches and museums and the Plaza de Armas, where Atahualpa was executed. I realize now the fascinating history of this country not just about the Incas but numerous other tribes even way before the Incas.
In the afternoon we were sitting together at our Hostel with another German (again! Ha, they were from Duisburg… that’s for my family!!!) couple, and all of a sudden two very familiar faces came into the courtyard of the Hostel. A couple of months ago we met 2 “Kiwis” (Gabe and Thomas) at the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border, who were bicycling the same route that we are taking. I remember giving one of them some Imodium, because he was in bad shape. Well, here they were again! Incredible! We greeted each other like old friends!! We had a lot to talk about! Their task for the day was to hop into a tuk-tuk and find a McDonalds because they were sick and tired of “pollo con arroz”( rice and chicken). Ha,ha!
So yesterday Heinz and I had a walk around the City with visits to churches and Museums. Today we went on a tour with bus and guide to visit Cumbemayo (translated: small stream). It is about 24km west from Cajamarca, a valley cut by an Inca irrigation ditch of carved rock. The sophistication and precision of the ditch’s angles-hewn by stone tools- leave modern day hydraulic engineers marveling. Sharp turns in the ditch prevent the water from rushing too fast, as do imperceptible inclines. In the same valley are Los Frailones (The Friars) huge rocks that have eroded into the shape of hooded monks- sparking a number of local legends-as well as some primitive petroglyphs and caves once used as places of worship.
So tomorrow we will move on through the mountains south towards Huaraz. Another adventure ahead!!