Welcome to the Andes!

Trip Start Jul 14, 2010
Trip End May 18, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hostal Plaza

Flag of Peru  ,
Saturday, January 8, 2011

The road from Chiclayo to Cajamarca was flat and dry at first, but after a few hours, we started heading inland and up into the Andes.  The mountains slowly started getting greener, and quickly started getting taller.  We stopped for lunch at a mango grove, so needless to say, there were ladies outside the restaurant selling mountains and mountains of mangoes of different shapes and sizes.  We bought two gigantic ones and some chips for lunch, as we didn´t have enough time to sit down for a proper meal.  Mangoes are good and bad at the same time.  They taste really good, of course, but they are so messy once you´re done with them!  Sitting there eating our mangoes, we struck up a conversation with some Peruvian ladies who said that if you eat a lot of mangoes, you can start to have stomach problems, so you need to make sure to drink a lot of water with them.  That was the first we´d heard of that, but afterward, I was starting to wonder if mangoes were the cause of some of my stomach issues later...

The road continued up and up, piling on top of itself and not seeming like it was getting us to a particular destination except the top of a mountain, but we eventually found ourselves in the town of Cajamarca after about 10 hours of travel.  We found our hostel, right on the Plaza de Armas, which had just enough room for us.  We had a large room with about 13 spare beds in it all to ourselves for the low, low price of 15 or 20 soles.  Granted, it was a little creepy to be sleeping in one corner of a cold room that looked like a mattress graveyard, but whatever.  It was cheap, and there were no bed bugs.

That night, we ate an expensive meal, where we tried our first lomo saltado and rocoto relleno, two meals that were specific to Peru, according to our guidebook.  Lomo saltado is cut up beef with grilled onions, tomatoes, other vegetables, and fries all mixed up together, and rocoto relleno is hot peppers stuffed with meat, cheese, and other things.  Both meals were really good, but way too expensive for us to ever go back to that particular restaurant.

Later on, we met back up with Roger, who was staying in the same hostel, along with another interesting character who hung out with us because we were speaking English.  The four of us went to Usha Usha, a small, candlelit bar with grafiti on the walls and an old owner with a great voice (like that of Ibrahim Ferrer of Buena Vista Social Club), great guitar lines, and great stories.  I think he played mostly covers, as Roger knew a lot of them and definitely hadn´t been to that bar before, and Logan and I recognized a few, like De Mi Manera, covered by the Gypsy Kings with slightly different words.  The owner greeted everybody in the bar when they came in, and found out where we were each from, then would start into a story about a certain place before going into the next song.  At one point, he planned to play a Carnaval song (that I wish I knew, because it seemed like it would be really fun to sing along to it) that had some cuss words in it, so he asked permission from each woman in the audience individually to use bad words before beginning the song.  That´s one remnant of machismo that I wouldn´t mind keeping around!  As the night wore on, our interesting friend left, and a bit later, so did Logan and I.  Roger stuck around, as he was getting along well with a group of young locals sitting near us.  He didn´t seem too worried about his bus that was leaving early the next morning, so we weren´t worried for him.

The next day, Logan and I had originally planned on taking a four hour hike or a taxi up to some ruins of aquaducts, where there was also supposed to be some climbing to do, but we woke up at 10 AM, so we had to nix that trip due to logistics.  Instead, we walked around Cajamarca and walked up a series of steep steps on one side of town to get a view of Cajamarca from above.  We didn´t go all the way to the top of the hill, because some lady in a booth wanted us to pay something like 3 soles per person to climb up more steps and get more tired.  Screw that!  We could see the city just fine from where we were.

We basically just wasted the rest of the day wandering around, saving money (since we´d spent so much the night before on dinner and the bar) by eating bread and mangoes for lunch.  When we got back to the hostel, a couple of surprises awaited us.  Number one, the hostes staff gave us some free cake and soda, which we gratefully gobbled down, and number two, Roger was there!  He told us he had a story to tell, so we went to dinner, where he told us his story of the rest of the previous night and the next day.

Apparently, his new friends had convinced him not to get on his bus the next morning, and told him they would take him to the aquaducts, and afterward, they would go to one of their houses for some really good barbeque.  Who wouldn´t say yes to that deal?  So Roger slept in longer, missed his early bus, and waited for the Cajamarqueños to pick him up to go to the ruins.  They never showed up, so after waiting for about an hour afterward, he went down to the bus station to see if they would refund his ticket.  They told him that the bus had waited for him for maybe 30 minutes before taking off, and gave him a partial refund.  So, here he was, still in Cajamarca.  Because of the mishap, he would end up leaving for Chachapoyas the same day as us, just on a different bus line.  The next morning, we all woke up early and took a taxi together to our buses.
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Jonathan on

Does the town name really translate as 'box mark'?

loganandkatie on

No, I think Cajamarca is actually something in Quechua, or at least partially...

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