On Friday I went to Cumbeyo by bicycle with Richard. Either I am fitter or it was a slightly easier ride, probably the latter. We again climbed into the surrounding hills, stopping at a fish farm to view the tanks full differently sized trout. Mostly wide track or asphalt the going was tough but manageable. The route eventually climbs to mine which we didn't visit and hence some of the drivers seemed more gun ho than normal, but not too bad. We passed through some stunning countryside with great views of a steep gorge and the winding switchback trail. perfect for mountain biking.
As we reached the area of Cumbeyo we were able to see literally hundreds of ventanillas (or windows) in the surrounding hills where bodies were once interned. They have long since been ransacked but I am told one can still find pottery pieces and bones. The town of Cumbeyo offers a dusty plaza and surrounding buildings. At a bodega we stopped and bought bananas and sweet biscuits and Mangos, 3 for 25p which Richard said were twice the price of those in the Cajamarca market. We were advised of some ancient sites nearby but the route would have taken us down and up again and was so steep that we turned back.
The fast and exciting descent was only interrupted by one short climb although we stopped for one puncture. Richard's inner tube looked well past its best with about 8 previous patches and I told him I would donate my 2 new ones before I left. As we passed through Otuzco some children pelted us with water bombs but we we didn't mind a little damping down and they were preferable to the occasional ferocious dogs which we outpaced easily. On reaching the airport there was some good flat asphalt and Richard opened up a lead but lack of oxygen meant that I couldn't respond so we coasted back to Cajamarca where they kindly taxied me back to my house.
At the weekend I met up with Another Richard and some of his family. They had offered a day's outing to Porcon which seems to be both a farming cooperative and huge managed pine forest. It is about 30km distance from Cajamarca and includes a zoo, some carpentry and textiles trades, restaurant and a downhill cycle track. Here the countryside appears very different and the forest stretches off into the distance in most directions. The enterprise is owned by an evangelist and the route is signposted with biblical references, often relating to the natural world or relationships with others. I am not too fond of zoos but at least the vicuna ran wild and some of the animals had largish enclosures. We spend t pleasant and tranquil few hours and had a decent lunch. Worth a visit but don't expect a wow factor.
Yesterday I had lunch with Father Michel Garnett. Michael or Miguel as he is known here is well into his 80s and has been a priest in Peru for around 40 years, taking Peruvian nationality in 1974. He is a remarkable man on many fronts, having written several novels and other books. At the moment in the process of turning one of his novels into a film he speaks modestly of his aachievements. Michael also teaches in the local private university and is a 4th dan black belt in karate! We passed a pleasant few hours and downed a sizable measure of Chilean red wine. He is a great conversationalist and has a repertoire of recollections about Peru's political, cultural and social history. His home is shared with a number of visiting god children and and is adorned with his own and others' paintings and memorabilia. I truly enjoyed our chats and hope we can remain in contact.
Aside from my language classes, the gym and some nice chats and lunches with my host family I have today witnessed the carnival swinging into action with the first of its processions. Not everybody is a great fan of carnival. In the evenings various groups bang drums and chant a variety of couplets, mostly about love and life in the countryside. There is a fair degree of drunkenness and the police keep a tight rein. The procession today was happy enough. I wasn't super impressed with the costumes, which I was told are last year's. It was loud and there was quite a bit of water throwing but generally good natured. As this was the first of the processions and we can expect several others culminating around the 14th February I guess there is quite a bit more to anticipate.
By tomorrow I am 4 weeks into my visit with 5 or so more to come. With few exceptions it has been a great month and I feel at one with the lifestyle and personally enriched by the variety of experiences and people I have encountered. I will probably be in Cajamarca at least another 3 weeks and then will loop back to Lima by way of Celedin and Chachpoyas potentially staying at lodge at Gotca where there is a super high waterfall and visiting Kuelap said to be the Machu Pichu of Northern Peru.