Modern day Cajamarca built its reputation on its dairy products, beautiful colonial churches, mining, and the Inca Baths – a true fountain of youth. The Bickfords made the trip via Aero Condor – an old Fokker F50 – from Lima to spend a long weekend in this fabled city. I had never been on a plane that once it rises above significant cloud cover, one could see cloud condensation in the aisle separating the rows of passengers. Pretty neat! Our primary objective in this excursion was to spend our leave relaxing in the soothing hot springs. This water - similar to Rotorua, New Zealand and other places on the planet - is geothermally heated from the Earth’s crust. It is highly recommended to avoid taking a dip directly in the source, unless you want to understand what a lobster goes through before ending up on your plate. The waters of the Baños del Inca resort, slightly on the outskirts of the main city, are cooled from the source for the guests to enjoy relaxing either in the public pools or the private tubs in their respective suites.
This trip was highly recommended to my mother after her cancer treatments due to therapeutic qualities in the natural springs. Heated spring water generally holds more dissolved solids and possesses high mineral content. It is common to find compounds of calcium and lithium, both particularly useful in revitalizing the human body after radiation treatments. These medical procedures slow the natural processes of developing bone marrow, among many other observed side effects. Doctors drop a small nuclear bomb on a localized section of a patient’s affected area, annihilating infected cells and the success rate is high. Nevertheless, like most nuclear explosions, there is fallout. My mother’s road to recovery was cumbersome, making us ponder for several years after whether she would make a full recovery. My father was determined to try new things, such as these spring baths, hoping to ensure my mother had a decent comfort level even if the worse case scenario should apply. If she left us one day in the near future, at least we provided a positive environment for her.
From what I noticed, the majority of the city’s population originated from the native quechua people. Most outsiders fit in like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop. Even my mother was tall there. Like many places in Peru, Cajamarca shared a tainted ambience. Newer buildings appeared tired or worn out, as if the modern era hadn’t completely arrived or had arrived in a truncated shape. The streets were covered in litter due to inadequate and in some cases, non-existent garbage collection, giving a poor front stage to small and struggling neighbourhood businesses. The inhabitants carried themselves in a defeated or resigned manner, probably finding the day-to-day routine exhausting, as there was no hope for betterment. New generations came in only to relieve the old guard of their duties and resume the long established routine of their forefathers. The memories of their glorious aboriginal ancestors being defeated and humiliated by foreign conquerors were evidently deep in the subconscious of these people, continuing to mourn the end of the Incan golden age. The people of Cajamarca have much in common with other indigenous peoples of the Americas.
On my end, Cajamarca was a rather boring trip away from my close friends but I made the most of it. Many times, we are the masters of our own fate. We have the power to influence our surroundings, regardless of the hand we are dealt. I invested most of my time watching television in my room, catching up on schoolwork and reading in various places on the grounds. I was inclined to distract my mind from the events unfolding in my everyday social life back at base camp Lima. My parents ventured into the depths of the downtown core, walking around taking in the various iconic sites and observing the locals. With my insatiable love for history and culture, I regret I did not seize the opportunity to join them on their foot patrol. My teenage attitude got the best of me on this occasion, proving that sometimes, it is better to do things you don’t want to do. The only currency we have in this life is time and if we do waste it, there is no way to get it back.