We arrived in Cajamarca late afternoon on Thursday. We had found a CouchSurfer to stay with there, as well – I was determined that my first exposure to CouchSurfing wouldn’t deter me from trying it again.
This was a much better experience than the first time. Hebert and his French girlfriend Anaise (who spoke impeccable Spanish – I was super impressed) were incredibly nice and accommodating. We had a lovely chat with them the night we arrived, and they gave us lots of information about the city and places to see around it. We ended up only staying two nights there because we really didn’t like the city itself, but at least the accommodation was very nice.
Nevertheless, it was still a little strange. I have decided that CouchSurfing is kind of a package deal – you get a free place to stay, and also pretty much always an interesting story, as well. With Herbert and Anaise, the weird part was that they actually hosted us not in their house, but in their office. They have a little room in the office with a bed in it where they keep their surfers, and we just hung out there after they left work and went home. I must admit, though, the 3 deadbolts and 2 padlocks that Herbert trained me on locking before he left was a little unnerving…
The weirdest bit about the CouchSurfing experience in Cajamarca happened the afternoon before we left, when we met Aaron. Aaron is an American from Wisconsin who is traveling for like six months on a SUPER tight budget – hitch hiking and CouchSurfing all the way, basically only spending money on food. Anyway, he was waiting outside of Herbert’s office when we got back in the afternoon. Said he had been traveling with a Russian girl who had gone on ahead of him, and left a note for him to meet her there. Except she wasn’t staying with Herbert, and thus ensued a complicated endeavor to find the mysterious missing Russian girl, with Herbert calling the other CouchSurfing hosts in Cajamarca (yes, the town is small enough that he knows all of them) to try to figure out where she had gone so that Aaron could meet up with her, and with me playing translator, since Aaron doesn’t really speak any Spanish. I found it rather comical, actually, although I’m sure I wouldn’t have if I was in Aaron’s shoes.
The day after we arrived, we went on a tour of Cumbe Mayo, an ancient pre-Incan civilization. It is believed that the name “Cumbe Mayo” is derived from a quechuan phrase meaning “thin rivers,” and there is even today the remnants of a quite sophisticated drainage system that allowed water on the bottom of the channel to continue flowing while the uppermost water remained still. However, by this point the majority of the ancient remains have disappeared, and it is mostly just a really cool canyon. But it was still fascinating, very different from most everything we had seen before. Plus we met a very friendly couple from Trujillo, George and Anita, who made me nostalgic for the lovely city I had so recently left :).
But other than Cumbe Mayo, Cajamarca didn’t have any pull for us; add to that the fact that more CouchSurfers were coming to Herbert’s house the next night from Germany, and we decided to go ahead and move on to Chachapoyas.
Going through the little tunnel to get to Cumbe Mayo:
Kids walk for hours, unaccompanied, to Cumbe Mayo because they know that tourists will be there. They go in the hope that they will be able to pick up tips by begging or selling things or singing or taking pictures with people: