Cajamarca's historical significance is that it is the location of the turning point in the Spanish colonization of Peru. It was here in 1532 that Atahualpa, having defeated his brother in the Incan civil war, stopped to rest his troops at the Banos de Incas. The natural hot springs are supposed to be curative and are definitely relaxing, so this was probably supposed be a pretty cool and well deserved rest stop on the way back to Cusco. As luck would have it though, Pizarro and his troops were nearby and decided to head up for a visit. The visit turned nasty - no doubt having to do with the superior fire power of the Spaniards -and Atahualpa was captured. Atahualpa offered as ransom for his release to fill the room he was held in twice over in silver and once in gold. He filled his end of the bargain but then, having served his purpose, was executed. This is the short form of the story but you get the picture - lots of historical import, hot springs and incredible riches.
Cajamarca today is a medium sized colonial town experiencing explosive growth. The town center - Plaza de Armas - is not quite as charming as some of the colonial towns we have visited, but does have some lovely churches
Iglesia San Francisco:
El complejo de Belen and its Bethlemite Chapel
The complex also included men's and women's hospitals which have now been turned into museum galleries:
But, of course, the big claim to fame in the city center is the Cuarto del Rescate where poor Atahualpa was held captive 8 months. It is the only known Incan remain in Cajamarca.
Cajamarca sits in the mountains and is quite a hilly city with lots of opportunities to wander - provided you have your good walking shoes.
Sitting above the city is a park in the Mirador de Santa Apolonia with a terrific view of the city and local area.
Should you decide to visit though, the real highlight is the Laguna Seca hotel and spa on the outskirts of town. This hotel came highly recommended by Karen Farrand, and for that I send my thanks. The hotel sits near the Banos del Inca and is fed by the same thermal hot springs. Channels of steaming water run through the hotel grounds and feed a number of pools and fountains as well as the bathrooms of the guest rooms. While we did do a bit of touring out and about the Cajamarca area, we ultimately decided that just hanging around our own private mineral baths was our style of relaxation. Here is a quick shot of the hotel grounds
and more shots
one of the wonderful thermal pools right outside our suite
thermal fed fountains - you need to be careful which of the springs you dip your hand into as the water at the source is really quite hot
Lugar de paz - a place of peace relaxing in the hammocks
after all that action some relaxation by the pool was required...
and what hotel would be complete without its own herd of alpaca on the grounds?
Aren't they cute?
and finally, the incredible bathtub in the hotel room. I don't think I have ever taken a picture of a hotel bathtub before but this one was worth it! Huge, fed by thermal hot springs with luxurious mineral water.... quite an experience
There are, of course, some lovely sites to see around Cajamarca. We took a half day tour to Cumbemayo, about 12 miles outside of town. The area is filled with rolling green hills and is named for the aqueduct that was built here some 2,000 year ago.
See more pics of the trip out to Cumbemayo and the sights in the area:
Rock formations on the way to Cumbemayo:
Local construction technique. Homes are built with a mixture of straw and abobe style soil with layers of rocks to provide stability. An interesting side note is that - with this kind of construction - no hammers and nails are used. Hence, the mines have a lot of very basic training to do when they hire local construction teams to support the mine expansions.
Textile work is a common form of artesania throughout Peru and many of the locals still make their yarn the traditional way by spinning the wool from their sheep.
The aqueduct system is intriguing because of the long channels that have been cut from hard rock with yet harder rock.
We also had the opportunity to visit a regional fair in Cajamarca - a wonderful connection to the local community and very reminiscent of our county or state fairs back home. The fair featured all the standard livestock and, of course, the local specialty:
Yes folks, guinea pigs - or Cuy - are a commercial product in Peru and a big local industry. No, I have not yet tried the tasty critters but probably will at some point in the journey.
Of course the fair also featured more standard exhibits such as:
The intransigent cattle:
The local handicrafts:
The prized Peruvian Paso horses:
And, of course, milking time.