Friday, February 24, 2012

Cajamarca Carnaval

Cajamarca City is sleepy capital city 6 hours away from Trujillo, that has many great tourist sites, just minutes from town (Hot springs, rock forests, major Incan historical sites, etc.); However,  the main reason I went was: Carnavales!!! I'm sure you've heard of Carnaval in Brasil, or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but I wonder how many have heard of the great celebration in Cajamarca City, Cajamarca, Peru. Its a blast! Water balloon fights, paint fights and parades that last for hours. This city really knows how to wake up.

I went for the tail end of the festivities, and just caught the paint fight and the never ending parade, all while being under a constant bombardment of water balloons. This is one of those trips that I'm planning on doing again. Unlike my trip to the beach for New Years, I feel like this one must be repeated. Here's why:

The Paint and Water Fights:
From 8am to dark, if you are on the streets, you free game to be pelted with water and paint. There is no mercy and it comes from all directions. Everyone gets to act like they are fun loving kids. People in cars driving by with squirt guns, old women on roof tops with buckets, and bands of teenagers armed to the teeth marching to the beat of drummers and waving flags, are all normal sites. The pictures tell the story best. However, one quick note on the band of teenagers: the first band that approached me (I was walking one way down the street, they were coming from the other way), caught me smiling when I was engulfed by them. A few seconds later I made it through the back of the band past the drummer,covered in paint, and understanding that smiling at a band of kids with paint only leaves you with mouth full of paint (which I spent the rest of the day spitting out). 
I was well painted no less than 10 minutes after leaving our hostel. 

Me with my new look in front of the city plaza.

I decided I needed to arm myself. Squirt gun 15 soles, two buckets of paint 6 soles. 

Some fellow PCVs in the plaza getting ready to do some painting. 

I didn't get breakfast that day, so luckily this restaurant let Gisel and I in for a quick lunch. When we asked if we could come in, they just simply said "Asi son los carnavales." (That's carnaval). 

I add every shade possible. 

The crowd eventually gathered at this side plaza for some live music. 

Even a few of the police got painted, obviously not too bad. 

A few PCVs at the concert.

The Parades That Never End:
These were easily the best parades I've ever seen (sorry Seeley Lake 4th July Parade with the town dump truck). They go from 9 am to 4 pm and with no breaks in the action. It's waves of dancing groups, folklore displays, and bands marching through town. Cheered on by two solid walls of people, who throw water at anyone walking by not actually in the parade. Not even the rain stopped them. And when it finally does end, every one stands in the plaza banging drums, dancing, and of course drinking. Hopefully the pictures help.
Each group generally represented their specific region. 

The news camera to the bottom right prevented people from throwing water balloons at us during the parade. There appeared to be unwritten rules that cameras and old people were off limits. However, sometimes the rules were broken. 

A very solid turn out for the parade. 

Notice the water marks on the pavement where water balloons missed their targets. 

Peru's Political History 

The parade continues despite the last two hours of rain. 

Powering through the rain. 

The Tourist Attractions Close to Town:
I didn't get to visit many sights in Cajamarca, but I did see the ones in town or on the public buss routes. The Mirador has a great overlook of the whole town and the Ventanillas ("Windows") are Incan grave sites carved into a cliff near town. Both very cool, but not my favorites. My two favorites were the Ransom Room and the Incan Baths.

The Incan Baths are hot springs where the Incan leader Atahualpa was camped when he first heard that the Spanish conquistadors were coming. He was camped there preparing to take control of Cusco and all of the Incan empire, when Pizzaro interrupted. What happen next is what leads to the story of the Ransom Room.

Atahualpa and his warriors numbered in the thousands, while the Spaniards had less than 200 men. Fearful of the Incan numbers, the conquistadors decided to capture Atahualpa in a trick meeting in the city plaza. The ambush worked surprisingly well thanks to the help of fear inducing horses and canons, something unseen by the Incans. After Atahualpa was captured he was held in a large room where his ransom was negotiated. The Ransom: A line was drawn in the room at the level of man reaching arm straight over his head. Then the room was to be filled to this line once with gold and twice with silver. The Incans did so by bringing all their decorative items made from silver and gold, which was then melted down by the Spaniards. Then still fearing Alahualpa, the conquistadors sentenced him to be burned at the stake. Luckily for Atahualpa, he decided at the last minute to be a baptized Christian, and he was just hung to death instead... phew, what a lucky duck.

Gisel and Bri (Ancash 16ers) at the Mirador in Cajamarca. 

Bri at the ventanillas
Lots of caves where ceramic pots with the human remains were placed. 

The Ransom Room (in this picture you can only see about half the room)

Kyle (Peru 17 Piura) and Gisel (Peru 16 Ancash) at the baths.

Me in the exact spot where Atahualpa was standing when he heard about the Spanish coming... or so I'd like to think.

The water behind me is said to be 160 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm not sure, I didn't test it.