A very Good Friday: Cumbe Mayo & Otuzco

Days: 282 (3 April 2015)

Total distance travelled: 54,094.7 kilometres (33,599.19 miles)

It was with some relief that we discovered that unlike back home (despite Latin America feeling far more religious than in Australia), the world here does not stop for the religious holiday that is Good Friday.

We were quick to take advantage of this unexpected ‘normal’ day (we’d had visions of us scrounging up meals of pop noodles, chips and chocolate for the day) and booked ourselves on two tours.

One for the morning and the other for the afternoon.

It was the pre-Incan site of Cumbe Mayo that was the primary lure, so it was in a full mini-van that we found ourselves whisked away from Cajamarca’s Plaza de Armas, but for a brief stop at a mirador overlooking the town, directly to our destination.

On our final approaches to the site, the scenery was a stunning combination of rolling, grassy hills and rugged rock, protruding from the earth like broken bones.

The stunning landscape around Cumbe Mayo

The stunning landscape around Cumbe Mayo

We also discovered that Good Friday is possibly not as holy a day for the holy as we thought… at least if the crowds and queues we were suddenly confronted with were anything to go by!

This is one of our pet hates with partaking in tours (they all seem to arrive at the same place at the same time), but unfortunately, this site was just too remote for us to aim for independently.

We’d expected queues for the church, but not necessarily here…

We’d expected queues for the church, but not necessarily here…

Cumbe Mayo is more than just lovely scenery however, home to a long passed indigenous culture (as already alluded to) which meant it was time for a little exploration of those not so distant rocks, and yes by explore, I truly mean queue.

If you have any experience with queues in Peru however, you’ll also understand that they don’t usually work as they should, as the local population has no qualms about pushing their way ahead in a not so orderly manner.

Still, eventually we got there, clambered amongst the rocks (including one cave which allowed us to pass through the entire rock) and discovered both indigenous rock carvings and child beggars!

The charm of the old (left) & the sorry state of the new (right)

The charm of the old (left) & the sorry state of the new (right)

Forgetting the fact that these children, as well as others posing for photos (for money of course) with young lambs who mournfully bayed for their mothers should instead be in school (although at least on this particular day there was no school, but by all accounts they are always there), it was a most lovely and picturesque place to be.

The scenery only got better, as our path began to worm its way into a wide depression, the combination of green hills and grey rocks only looking more impressive up close.

The beauty of the natural world (Click on image to enlarge)

The beauty of the natural world (Click on image to enlarge)

As our guide unconvincingly tried to convince us that various rock formations represented various animals (although I will concede that 1 rock did at least somewhat resemble a Whale), we began to descend into this small valley, traversing an at times muddied and slippery path, before emerging close to our ultimate destination.

Beauty aside, Cumbe Mayo is in fact most famous for its pre-Incan canals, a series of waterways built from and at times within the rock that surrounds to irrigate the lands around.

Our descent into the valley (left) & a pre-Incan engineering marvel (right)

Our descent into the valley (left) & a pre-Incan engineering marvel (right)

An aqueduct carries the water over a natural watercourse

An aqueduct carries the water over a natural watercourse

This was an impressive site, designed in such a way that the natural contours of the land, aided by the subtle angle of the canals, allowed the water to be carried to whatever location they desired.

A large sacrificial rock adjacent to the point in which we first encountered the waterway was a ready reminder that for all their engineering genius, there was still a primitive nature to these people (not too dissimilar to wars in the name of religion today).

Incredibly, the canals still function to this day

Incredibly, the canals still function to this day

Carved through solid rock (left) & taking command of nature (right)

Carved through solid rock (left) & taking command of nature (right)

A short walk back to our bus and that was the end of our Cumbe Mayo adventure (I spent the journey back to Cajamarca in various stages of consciousness).

We had an hour or so for lunching back in town, before we clambered back aboard what was possibly the same bus for our second tour of the day.

Our first stop was somewhat disappointing, as we found ourselves at a rather unremarkable suspension bridge (truly, it was a crap, not even a scenic location).

I think its primary purpose was to allow the local touts to try and lure tourists into equally unremarkable looking horse rides (admittedly, the ladies did sport the same ridiculously high hats we’d spied in Cajamarca itself.)

Average looking horse rides sold by ladies with those wonderful looking hats!

Average looking horse rides sold by ladies with those wonderful looking hats!

Thankfully, not too many succumbed to their charms and it wasn’t long at all before we were back on board the bus for the brief five minute journey to our desired goal, Otuzco.

We’d Googled this in advance and this was why we’d shelled out the money for the second tour in the first place, a series of tombs carved into a mound of solid rock, somehow resembling a modern city (look at the images and hopefully you’ll understand what I mean).

Despite the fading light, it was admittedly no Cumbe Mayo, but remained an impressive sight to behold.

The almost city like tombs of Otuzco

The almost city like tombs of Otuzco

True, it wasn’t an expansive place, but it was still amazing to see these tombs carved, like the mornings canals, out of the solid rock.

Unfortunately, an apparent lack of co-ordination between the various tour companies, sees all of the tours to Cumbe Mayo run at the same time (in the mornings) and all of the tours to Otuzco at the same time as well!

This meant there were a ridiculous amount of people here, when a little communication could surely see half alternate the order of their tours so that there is less of a crowd at both locations…

Still, it was cool to check out for a short time.

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An ancient city for the dead

That wasn’t all for our tour, as the afternoon did continue on into the evening, but in truth there is little that was good to write home about.

Our final two locations on the itinerary promised much, but in fact delivered little, a local garden (which was in truth just a series of tacky souvenir stalls) and the biggest disappointment of the day, a dairy and attached factory/cheese shop.

This was somewhere we looked forward to with relish, being lovers of dairy and all, but there were few samples and seemingly just as little stock at reasonable prices.

Not to be denied our cheese however, we did conclude our night back in Cajamarca with cheese (bought at a reasonable price) and cheap red wine in our hotel room…

Happy Easter!

 

Notes:

* Our two tours including entrance to both of the key sites, Cumbe Mayo & Otuzco, cost us $35.00 Soles per person.

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4 Responses to A very Good Friday: Cumbe Mayo & Otuzco

  1. thatsbalogna says:

    Nice post, love those Cajamarca hats!

  2. Interesting post, Chris. It does indeed spoil the intrigue of a historic site when there are hoards of people and line-ups.

    And it is sad and distracting when parents put their children up to begging from tourists. We certainly came across that in Guatemala as well.

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