T R E K K I N G P E R U
Located between the Cordillera Blanca and Cuzco, the often-overlooked Central Highlands await trekkers who appreciate the unbeaten path. In addition to gorgeous scenery, this region features important pre-Inca and Inca archaeological sites and roads, colonial cities, renowned folklore, and splendid crafts. At the heart of this extensive area spanning various departments is the congenial city of Ayacucho, originally called Huamanga. It has fine colonial architecture, its own gastronomy, craft workshops, and outstanding Holy Week processions.
The Sendero Luminoso movement was conceived at the University of Ayacucho, and the Central Highlands were among the areas most severely affected during the insurgent campaign (see Two Decades of Terror, Chapter 2). For a better understanding of this violent period, visit the Museo de la Memoria ANFASEP (see Appendix A) in Ayacucho. Since 2000, peace has returned and, despite the scars left by this terrible period, people in the Central Highlands are very friendly and welcoming ...
HUASQUI TO LAGUNA PACA
FOLLOWING THE CAPAC ÑAN
THIS IS SOMETHING OF a bittersweet trek, highlighting both the past glories of the Capac Ñan (The World’s Greatest Road, Chapter 1) and—in places—its current state of neglect and decay. Along the way are beautiful scenery, villages, estancias, and archaeological sites. The hiking is not too strenuous, but navigation can be challenging, especially as more and more modern roads encroach on the ancient one ...
LLOCLLAPAMPA TO HUAROCHIRI
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
AMONG THE ANCIENT ROADS connecting the highlands and the coast, the one from Jauja to Pachacamac stands out for its historical significance, monumental 1800- step stairway, and excellent state of preservation. Starting well before Inca times, pilgrims traveled it between the great sanctuaries of Pariacaca, southwest of Jauja, and Pachacamac, south of today’s Lima. Worship of Pariacaca, one of the most venerated apus in Peru, is described in the 16th-century Manuscrito de Huarochirí (see Dioses y hombres de Huarochirí and Ritos y tradiciones de Huarochirí in Appendix A). So great was the apu’s prestige that all wars are said to have been suspended during its annual festival. The sanctuary of Pariacaca was destroyed by the Spaniards, and even its location has been lost, but reverence of the apu endures. Herdsmen who travel this route offer tributes to it at apachetas along the way, and tributes are also paid during the Fiesta de Santiago (see sidebar in this chapter). At the end of the trek in Huarochiri, a massive colonial church sits on a stone platform of Inca or pre-Inca origin ...
A SOURCE OF LIFE
THE MOST REMARKABLE FEATURE of the Sondondo valley is the extensive ancient terracing of its slopes. Over the centuries, one culture after another modified its surroundings to create this productive and strikingly beautiful landscape. Some 5600 hectares of agricultural terraces were built mainly by the Wari nation; some were improved by the Incas. To bring life to the terraces, reservoirs and elaborate irrigation and drainage systems were devised. At higher altitudes, springs were diverted to expand bofedales where camelids graze. Perhaps most astonishing is that many of these terraces, canals, and bofedales are still in use ...
PERU’S FIRST MAP?
MOST TREKKERS LOVE MAPS, and finding an ancient stone map along the trail is pretty amazing. Scattered about the Sondondo valley are a number of maquettes or scale models, believed to date to Wari times. It is likely that these engraved boulders were models, used in planning the transformation of an area. Perhaps they were replicas, not-so-instant photos of an existing landscape. Or maybe they were just decorations. Carved into the rock are miniature terraces, ponds, and irrigation canals. According to the chronicles, the Incas used clay or sculpted-stone models in planning structures and for military strategy. The Mochica, on the coast, also had maquettes. The model-building tradition has not been completely lost. Today, one maquetero, Sr Julián Cuaresma, remains in the Mayobamba area (see Trek 16), continuing the tradition he learned from his father and grandfather ...
THE SELDOM-VISITED SONDONDO REGION offers an incredible variety of attractions. Start with wonderful scenery, endless ancient agricultural terracing (much of it still in use, see Trek 14), and unique scale-model landscapes carved in stone (Trek 15). Here too are several Wari and Chanca archaeological sites, ancient roads, lakes, waterfalls, and hot springs, not to mention the highest concentration of condors in the country. Stands of Puya raimondii (see Queen of the Andes, Chapter 2), meteorite craters, miniature volcanoes, and an exceptionally rich cultural heritage round out the wonderful cornucopia. Although Sondondo is off the tourist trail, it is easily accessible along the overland route from Lima to Cuzco via Nazca. ...
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