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End of the Inca and other tales from Cajamarca

(July 5-6 – written by Dave)

We’ve had a couple nice days off here in Cajamarca.  It’s a nice little city, 200,000 people, or the 13th largest in Peru.  More on what we’ve been up to later but first I have to start with the amazing “end of the Inca” story.  I always wondered what happened to the Inca as unlike many of the ancient civilizations, they faded from glory in semi-modern times, meaning there should be some record of what happened.

Inca icon

The Inca story

Well, something did happen and it was all centred here in Cajamarca.  Back in 1532 the Inca were basically divided into two groups led separately by half-brothers Atahualpa and Huáscar.  The Spanish arrived in South America early in the year and further split the Inca by saying they wanted to pick the most appropriate king of the Inca.

In the middle of the year, Atahualpa travelled with his army from Cusco to Quito and fought it out with Huáscar and his army.  At the end of the battle, Atahualpa’s army won and he ordered the execution of his half-brother.  Feeling stronger now in his position as king of the united Inca, Atahualpa lead his army on the return march to Cusco.  The 80,000 strong army stopped in Cajamarca and encountered a group of newly arrived Spaniards lead by Francisco Pizarro.

Things were civil at first but eventually tempers got the better of the Spaniards.  All 167 of them attacked the Incas and because they had cannons and guns, the Incas were routed.  It is worth noting that the Inca army was much smaller than reported – the army was really a mobile community with women and children, in addition to the army folks.

Atahualpa was captured and negotiations began.  He was held in a building here in Cajamarca known as the ransom room.  At one point in exchange for his freedom he offered to fill the room to the top of his arm with gold and also fill two more rooms to the same height in silver.  The Spanish agreed and the rooms were reported filled.  Unfortunately for Atahualpa this did not lead to his freedom.  The Spanish feared he would lead further uprisings and he was tried on twelve charges included usurpation of the crown, assassination of his brother, squandering public revenues, idolatry, adultery, and attempting to incite an insurrection.  He was found guilty and ordered burned at the stake, but then offered the less-harsh method of execution of strangulation if he agreed to be baptised – the Spanish felt that baptism was important as after all, they had earlier claimed all of South America in the name of God.

Atahualpa ransom house 1

The ransom room

Atahualpa story

Atahualpa – working on his release

Atahualpa ransom house 3

Mark on the ransom room wall where Atahualpa pointed

At this point, the Inca population as a nation pretty much ended.  They lost their two main leaders and the Spanish moved quickly to make Peru and the rest of South America their own.

While here in Cajamarca, we got to visit the actual ransom room where Atahualpa was held.  They have a mark on the wall where he raised his hand to for the ransom.  We are not sure if the room is is real or a re-creation but it does have proper Inca blocks (without mortar) so it looks legit.  Either way, it was powerful to visit such an important place in Latin American history.  And now you know the rest of the Inca story.

In addition to the ransom house we’ve been busy.  We visited a few of Cajamarca’s famous Spanish baroque churches, had some famous Cajamarca cheese and got a bunch of chores done.  The churches have great baroque exteriors.  The cheese we tried was ok – not overly “tasty”.  And the chores list was long.

Cajamarca church with pigion

Cajamarca baroque church

Cajamarca church 4

Cajamarca baroque church closeup

As for the chores, first we culled our bags and got rid of about 5kg of extra stuff that we don’t need.  This will make it easier for us to climb all those upcoming Andes passes and give us more room for excess food as we get into the more remote regions of South America.  Nancy gave up more stuff than I did but in truth, she had more to begin with (Senior editor’s note – not sure that is true, Dave’s bags are a lot heavier than mine…).

Our second chore was to build a beer can stove.  A beer can stove is not some sort of new South American cocktail but rather a stove made by carefully cutting a single beer (or soda) can in a certain way.  The stove burns alcohol and is better if you have to cook indoors.  Ours turned out ok but clearly more tuning is required as we’ve yet not gotten water to boil.  It’s only a beer can, so adding it to our bags is nothing weight wise.

Dave making beer can stove

Sure Dave, that will work…

Our last chore was planning – it should be no surprise by now that Nancy led this effort.  We have the next 10 days to Huaraz mapped out, including full elevation profiles for each day.  Now we just need to spend a little time on the big picture plan to see when we might be able to reach the end of the continent.  Big picture planning, now that sounds fun, eh Nancy?

Mirrador ladies

Locals at the lookout – note the knitter – women do it walking down the street here, super fast and without looking

Local artist 2

Local art spotted our wandering

Fish on

For Ishaan

When we were not doing chores we managed to have some good food and coffee.  It is nice being in a bigger city.  There is a small coffee culture here but only small.  For brekkie at our hotel they still bring you a small shot of coffee and a large urn of hot water.  They don’t have an espresso machine so we aren’t sure how they make their shots.  We found a cafe that makes proper espresso but it is being run by a Dutchman who’s been here for 22 years – gotta love the Dutch, trying to bring proper coffee to the rest of the world, one expat at a time.

Park worker

Garden worker, with skirt and hat to make it more authentic

Door of the day

Door of the day with dog of the day

Cajamarca from mirrador 3

View of the city from the mirador

Tonight we are having a birthday dinner with Hana and Mark, and probably Richard – the bike packers.  It is Mark’s birthday today.  I think that they invited us because we culled 5kg of weight from our bags.  While not bike packers, we are 5kg closer towards legitimate touring weights.

Tomorrow we hit the road, well rested and fed.  The next 10 days are pretty mountainous and we think there may be another record height pass to cross.  But more on that later, I’ve got to take another look at our new stove to see if we can’t get it working more optimally before leaving here…

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6 responses to “End of the Inca and other tales from Cajamarca

  1. Good effort! You guys will be flying up the hills 😉

  2. You will be motoring up those hills tomorrow! Great door of the day. I hope you are keeping your other stove as well!

  3. I spent about a week in Huaraz nearly a decade ago. Much of my visit is a blur due to altitude sickness, so I’m excited to read your posts about the town. I do remember struggling to climb a mountain while our guide trotted up in sandals! I’m amazed at your mountain climbing prowess as well!

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