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Throwback Thursday: Cajamarca part two!

Bet you thought I was going to forget yet another Throwback Thursday, didn’t you?

DIDN’T YOU?

Well hah, I didn’t, so there. Actually I’ve remembered the last two weeks but just didn’t quite work out the timing to get this post up and running by then. Which makes no sense as I predict it will largely just contain photos. Because you know…you forget some details after a year. Sorry about that.

Anyway, this post contains the last little snippets from my trip to Cajamarca, the beautiful rural northern city/region of Peru that features lazy farmland, Incan ruins and relics, and some stellar views. Check out the one below, for example:

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Point of pride: I got this photo featured on the BBC’s weekly photo contest back in the day. The theme was “hats”, and the women (and men) of Cajamarca have some very traditional tall, TALL hats. This one was on the smaller side.

So, what did I do in Cajamarca aside from visit Incan tombs, hot springs, and generally wander around with big hearts for eyes?

Well, primarily, I went to visit Cumbemayo–(also Cumbe Mayo) a region a short hop and a skip outside the city of Cajamarca that features a “stone forest”. Essentially, ancient lava rock has been shaped over the millennia by nature to produce massive stone features in the hilly landscape that are really just stunning to behold. Really. You feel very minuscule walking between them, puts some things into perspective.

Tours to Cumbemayo generally take you in a nice little micro up the hilly terrain surrounding Cajamarca (though word on the streets is that you can walk if you’ve got rather ample time to walk…I think it’s 12 miles out?) and stop at various overlooking points so that you can take a bazillion semi-blurry photos of the sprawling chaos below that is a Peruvian city. It’s really quite lovely though, given how it’s tucked so tidily in the valley. (This is also where I took the above photo.) Naturally there are locals available everywhere to sell you any of the handicrafts they’ve made, water, coca candies or leaves (altitude is an ever-occurring menace in Peru for some) or to let you take pictures with their baby animals, should your timing be right.

The bus will continue then, your tour guide chatting away happily, to the beginning of the sites where you will disembark at a local isolated farmhouse–the immediate region has a few, and you encounter the inhabitants again selling their handicrafts all over the place as you walk around. Basically from there on out it’s a supremely easy walk/hike around the scenery for a couple of hours.

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A local girl was working away outside of the farmhouse where our van parked. She had a very faithful and cute companion, so I couldn’t resist.

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Making adobe (mud bricks)…this looked like insanely exhausting work to be honest. (He gave me permission to take photos while he worked, just so we’re all clear.)

Just beyond the first house lies the path you see below leading to the first part of this “stone forest”. The path leading to the left into a shallow “cave” is actually a viewpoint for some petroglyphs scrawled on the walls, can’t remember for sure but either associated with the Incan or Chavín cultures. Cumbemayo features a few other such inscriptions, as well as an Incan aqueduct still in remarkable functioning condition. Those Incans truly knew their stuff when it came to engineering.

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The path to the right leads to another cave that you pass through to get to the other side. An alternative route is possible because the cave is EXTREMELY narrow. But it’s fun!

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A different area of the Stone Forest off in the distance. Photos (or at least photos that I take) could never do this megalithic area justice. Yeah, I just used that word. BAM.

After you go through the cave mentioned two photo up, you come upon another couple of farmhouses (and a never-ending slew of sweet dogs meandering about) and then start to continue on down to the main valley, which frankly reminded me of heading down a main street. There’s really no chance that I could describe in words just how high these stones stretch into the sky or how peaceful it is to amble between them. In fact I was going nuts with my camera the whole time trying to capture photos to do a better job explaining, and wished that we had stayed longer. But we continued on further down to the aqueduct.

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Yours truly in the main valley for tours through Cumbemayo. I would love to venture back someday.

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In addition to dogs, lots of roaming sheep. My not-so-inner animal enthusiast was pleased.

After being guided to the aqueducts and given ample photo time, it was time to turn back for the homestretch of the trail  and head back after an extraordinary and truly worthwhile afternoon “stroll”.

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More petroglyphs (in much better condition) to be seen on the way out. Amazing.

When we arrived back in town my friend and I decided to pop into a restaurant for a bite. I wasn’t starving, so I downed a single tamal, and my lovely companion got the classic lomo saltado which came with a side of some sort of amazing potatoes or yams–I think yams–which were mashed, shaped into balls, and then doused in that ají creme sauce I love (and miss!) so much. I definitely may or may not have stolen one from her. Ahem. Not sorry.

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Focused on the lomo saltado for the photo…but it was the potato side in the back that captured my love.

We finished off our afternoon with an unplanned return to El Complejo de Belén, this time dropping into the free art gallery. I believe the art displayed changes now and again, and the exhibits we saw were lovely to admire for a bit. The gallery isn’t enormous, so it was the perfect small adventure to wrap things up.

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Exterior of the art gallery hall in the Complejo de Belén.

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And now the interior! So light and airy, no?

Our train leaving Cajamarca was set to leave at night, so right before we left and were doomed to bus food (pretty on par with airplane food) we stopped into one last tourist café for some munchies–I had some local cheese drizzled with local honey (super sweet, super delicious) and my friend had the below sprinkle-covered crepe. Not a bad way to go out, if you ask me.

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Bananas and chocolate. And sprinkles. Which obviously make a huge difference in taste, right?

And that was Cajamarca in a nutshell.

A bientôt mes amis!

-B

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