20.11.2015 - 22.11.2015
Last weekend I took a trip to Cajamarca, a historically important highland city about 6 hours north of Trujillo. It's known as the place where Inca ruler Atahualpa finally fell to the Spanish in 1532, marking the end of the Inca Empire.
Cajamarca's main industries are gold mining and cheese production. I embarked on my trip with a cheese based shopping list from several people in Huanchaco, I had a map with the 'right' cheese shop labelled so I felt confident all would work out well.
On the first morning we went on a tour of Cumbe Mayo, the site of a pre-Incan aqueduct, potentially the oldest man-made structure in South America (according to my Rough Guides book!). If you look very carefully, shut one eye, tilt your head and throw in a healthy dose of imagination you can see the animals/ pirates/ etc. in the stones. Regardless, it's a beautiful mountainous spot and worth the visit.
Following the tour I attempted to find the cheese shop but to no avail. The wifi at the hostel wasn't working so finding more information - like the name of the shop and how much was required - was proving difficult. I had to abandon my cheese search to go on the next tour, to the Ventanillas de Otuzco.
The Ventanillas de Otuzco is a necropolis, this is thought to be the second burial place for the bodies laid to rest here. You can't go inside anymore as they're trying to conserve the site, so we briefly passed by. We moved on to - drumroll - a famous cheese factory called Los Alpes. It turns out, a Swiss man brought cheese production to the Peruvian highlands! I decided to purchase 2kg of queso tipo suizo, convinced that this would be plenty, possibly too much.
Incorrect. We got back to the hostel and the wifi was back up and running, it turns out my order from Huanchaco was for 3kg from the specific shop! By this time it was too late to find it, so I parked the search for the following day.
We got up early to visit the Baños del Inca, a site of thermal pools, with an overwhelming number of bathing options. Finally we settled on a group bath for 4 of us. You get your own changing area and pool where you can control the temperature of the water going in. You think because it's thermal baths you want hot water. It turns out, the hot water is really very hot and on several occasions we had the cold tap open and stuck our faces under it for relief. The 40 minutes we were allocated became an hour, it had initially seemed stingy, but let me assure you it's plenty. We left with our muscles so relaxed it felt as though we'd finished a 4 hour hike, all sleepy and slow.
It was in this state I went to look for more cheese, I think I found the right shop, it was not in the same place as I had been told, but it had the same name so I took a chance, and that was how I landed up with near enough 5kg of cheese to bring back. We left it in the very chilly hostel, whilst we visited the cafe with the 'best coffee and cake in town' for lunch. We went up to the viewing platform and supposed site of the Silla del Inca (there's no chair there these days), visited every single artisanal tourist shop on the way up, and when the rain wouldn't give up and stop just over an hour later, we found ourselves back in the cafe to keep dry.
The Plaza de Armas is striking with grand churches on either side and surrounded by mountains, giving the city both a Colonial and distinctly Andean feel.
It was a short but sweet trip with excellent company and a stunning backdrop.