Wednesday, 21 March 2012

In search of warmth

I got warm today… seriously warm.  Cajamarca has perhaps the best hot springs I have ever had the pleasure to visit.  Very popular with the locals, I paid the grand sum of $5.00 and got a private pool with piped in water, and a pleasure swim in the public pool.  After weeks of showers I can’t begin to explain just how heavenly my afternoon was.

As for the balance of my time here in this Northern Peruvian city, other than a city tour I have been rather lazy.  The sun shines warmly in the mornings, and then the afternoon has brought rains and thunderstorms.  Rain rain go away.  Seriously.  There exists here the continual onslaught of honking and car exhaust found in most Peruvian cities, and as I am near the main square the traffic seems never ending and street crossings are death defying.  You know, normal.

The city itself is smallish, about 200,000 in population.  It has the feel of Cusco about it, with low adobe brick roofs huddled together in this high altitude valley.  We sit at about 9000 feet above sea level (as usual I have the headache to prove it), with the climate being similar to Chachapoyas. 

It is also a fairly well to do city thanks to the mining going on a couple of hours north of here.  Not that everyone is happy about the mine… this is the area of Peru that has seen some very well publicised protests, especially with regards to a massive new mining project planned nearby.  With this issue far from settled (the president of Peru had to step down because of a perceived conflict of interest) it seems that the protests and groundswell against such international mining conglomerates has spread to areas across the country.    

Before I tell you about my splendid trip up into the highlands I should catch you up on what’s been going on since my arrival on the Coast last week. 

As I mentioned previously my first day in Trujillo was a write off.  Seriously dizzy and disoriented.  Exhausted.  So about 24 hours after I arrived I finally managed to leave my room and go look for food and water.  And I changed rooms because the one they gave me upon arrival was dark and basically ugly.  

Day 2 was better, and between naps I scoped out the lay of the city and made my plans for the week.  Return of the ruins, part 1 more or less.

The coastal regions of Peru are hot and dry, with large swaths of desert and sand dunes.  Trujillo is on the northern coast and I had chosen to return here because I knew this was a place I could finally get warm.  And warm it was… hot, humid and Cloudy?  This area of Peru sees a miniscule average annual rainfall, but for me it rained every day.  Go figure.  One day it rained so hard I had a mini lake in my room.  The city (and hotel apparently) infrastructure is just not designed to handle these amounts of rain.

As a city it is a busy bustling business centre.  People in suits, celphones and briefcases in hand.  It is also loud, polluted and filled with kamikaze, honking obsessed drivers.  Still don’t know why they bother to paint lanes on the roads,  and just how anyone survives the traffic circles here is still a mystery to me.

There were few corner stores to nip into to buy water etc., but there was one smallish supermarket on the main Pizzaro street pedestrian walkway just around the corner from the hostal.  Vegetarian food?  Wait while I try and control my mirth.  Eggs, eggs, eggs.

Last time I was here their beautiful main square featured entertainment in the main square in the evenings, but there was none to be found this year.  Slight disappointment, but no biggie.

I was delighted to find the English speaking guide from my last trip, Marisa, who is a delight and made my various expeditions informative and enjoyable.  First up was a walking city tour, which introduced me to some interesting background to the city.  It was in Trujillo that the Spanish first arrived in Peru.  It was from here that they eventually conquered, and then settled the Incan territories to the north, south and inland.  This city reflects that colonial splendour, with lovely, lively painted adobe homes adorned with white iron window and door grates fashioned after fine Spanish lace.

 These original homes were long and feature several open courtyards, some of which are open for tourists.  We passed a beauty, which Marisa explained is now a Private Club… and apparently if you don’t have the correct pedigree it won’t matter how much money you have, you won’t be welcomed.  Hmmm.

We also viewed the cities original water filtering area ruins, now protected by a glass enclosure and surrounded by a pretty plaza.  The original city was protected by a high wall, and there are still 2 sections remaining… lone sentries to a time long past.

Nowadays, the streets surrounding the historical colonial centre are a maze of markets featuring all manor of things, but shoes are everywhere… this being apparently a huge local industry.  The large local malls are located further outside the town centre. 

I toured Mochi and Chimu ruins and found it extraordinary the amount of work that has been done in the last 4 years.  Inch by inch history is being uncovered.  At his point there are over 400 years worth of archaeological sights to explore, and with more discoveries being made regularly that list just gets longer.  

When people think of Peru they think of Inca, yet they occupy only a fraction of the cultural history of this country.  With the first ruins and remains dating back 12,000 years there more than a dozen documented pre Incan cultures.  It has been fascinating viewing the sights and artefacts throughout my travels. 

More details of which I will regale you with next time.  I have only so much wind at a time…

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