Baños del Inca (Cajamarca), Peru – The last Inca’s bath

Crossing the Andes, we have to descend to incredibly hot Rio Marañón below 900 m of elevation where cacti like those in Mexico and mangoes grow, and climb again to 3,800 m. There must have been some more landslides on the road, but workers already have removed them – more or less. We cross dozens of climatic zones and end up on a plateau with farming and cattle breeding. In the town of Celendín the adventure ends: The road is still unpaved, but two-lane wide now, and has unnervingly many potholes. Traffic increases significantly, especially on asphalt, which starts 35 km in front of Cajamarca. Few kilometres in front of town the national monument Baños del Inca is situated. The last Inca king Atahualpa is said to have bathed here before the Spaniards caught him. Nowadays hundreds of people feast daily in the steaming pools. So many that Joerg refuses a bath indicating potential hygienic problems. There is a quiet overnight place in the gravel parking lot behind the main paved one; the restaurants close at 6 p.m. (S 07°09’43.3’’ W 78°27’51.6’’).
Legend goes that Atahualpa was camping 1532 at Baños del Inca to cure some war wounds. On the plaza in Cajamarca he unsuspectingly met – with his bodyguards and 40,000 warriors in the background – Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro and his men who were ridiculously short-handed. But the not even 200 Spaniards had firearms and cannons, unknown by the Inca. First mentioned fired a little bit whereupon latter fled in a bewildered manner. Pizarro took Atahualpa prisoner who offered ransom to be set free. After one entire room was filled with gold and two more with silver, Pizarro let pass sentence on the son of the Sun King in a summary trial and – despite protests from his own ranks – executed him not even one year after his capture. Though centuries old advanced culture came to an abrupt, unexpected end.

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