Total distance travelled: 54,094.7 kilometres (33,599.19 miles)
It was late afternoon/early evening when our bus from Chachapoyas finally arrived in the terminal at Cajamarca, after what had felt one very long day.
Our original plans for a day of rest after hauling ourselves across 28 kilometres to explore the Catarata del Gocta had been scuppered when we discovered that all of the overnight bus services had already sold out (the roads to Chiclayo were blocked so many people were taking alternate routes… basically any route they could), so as such, we were left with no other option but to take a day service.
This meant a 5am departure time!
Unsure as to what may or may not be open on Good Friday, we figured we had little choice but to make the journey on the Wednesday so we could at the very least secure ourselves beds and some food should the town shut down for the coming weekend of Semana Santa (Easter).
Waking with already sore legs, then having to haul our packs to the terminal was not the ideal, slow morning we’d initially planned…
Thankfully, despite the threat of rain as we left our taxi in the Plaza de Armas (yes, even we couldn’t face a walk from the bus station), we were armed with directions to a good hostel from Jose, our host in Chachapoyas, so off we went.
The promised rain, now began with a drizzle, but thankfully our hostel was only a handful of blocks from the plaza, albeit uphill.
Un-thankfully however, now at the hostle there was no answer, no lights within and simply no signs of life at all.
As the weather got colder we tried the bell a few more times to no avail, eventually deciding we had no choice but to abandon this course and find alternate lodgings.
After trying many surprisingly expensive places, we eventually settled on one, before ducking out in the now heavy rain where we found ourselves some pizza for dinner.
To our surprise, our enquiries about the following day suggested it would simply be business as usual for most shops, an incredible contrast to home where the whole country effectively (and I think stupidly) shuts down.
With a TV in our room, our first night in Cajamarca concluded with a cooking show, by two nuns, in Spanish…
The morning proved much brighter, if a little damp, so we kicked things off by searching at first fruitlessly for some new accommodation after a breakfast feed of yogurt and pastries.
Somewhat amusingly, we finally found a new, cheaper place, right on the main plaza exactly where our taxi had dropped us the previous evening!
Given its rich place in Peruvian history, this city, like much of Peru’s north receives a fraction of the visitors it truly deserves, as it was here that the Pizarro lead Spanish defeated the Incas, through a combination of ambush, ransom and treachery.
We purchased ourselves entrance to the Circuito Historico, essentially a ticket that grants access to four of the major historical sights, mostly churches, but also the sole remaining Incan structure in Cajamarca and began to explore.
* Apparently they can be quite picky here on the quality of the notes you offer, as I’m fairly certain it was here, that two friends of ours (Shannon and Brodie) had their cash rejected!
It was particularly good value (as well as a good way to waste a few hours) and included what would become our favourite church of Peru, the Iglesia de Belen.
What made this site so impressive was not just it’s elaborately decorated façade, but rather it’s even more elaborately decorated dome, one of the finest we’d seen and frustratingly one that you are not allowed to photograph!
We arranged ourselves a tour to some ruins for the following day which was in fact to be Good Friday (deserving of its own post) and spent the afternoon indulging in coffee and cake, a disturbingly similar trend to our time in Chachapoyas!
Greeted by much finer weather, Good Friday in Cajamarca promised much, especially as we spotted many icons and banners being erected as we left that morning on our tour.
Rather disappointingly however, the expected lofty celebrations for Semana Santa (after all, it was our first Latin American Easter) never delivered as we’d hoped.
We’d hoped for an abundance of colour, for parties, for celebration.
Instead it proved itself to be a an all too sombre affair, the highlight being a short re-enactment (which with the locals crowded around, looked more like a lynch mob) of some Romans attending to their business as they lead a condemned Jesus through the main plaza.
Other than that, all we were treated to was processions of mournful marchers with their icons, at random ours of the day, night and morning (indeed one military band apparently thought strutting its stuff at 5am was perfectly reasonable).
Still, on the plus side, we did at least get some chocolate Easter eggs!
* The bus from Chachapoyas to Cajamarca cost $45.00 Soles per person and took a lengthy 12 hour journey through the mountains. The winding roads were too much for some people on the bus (that lead to vomiting)!
* A meagre fee of $5.00 Soles per person allows access to the ‘Circuito Historico’. This allows access to the stunning Iglesia de Belen, Cuarto de Rescarte, Museo Etnografico & Museo Medico