Heading east from the Panamericana, the land stretches flat for kilometers. Ahead, between the folds of the mountains, is Huacabamba. This road is mostly unpaved and it is necessary to cross a river. (In the wet season, small boats take passengers across to a waiting bus.) Soon, the road will be paved all the way to Huancabamba and beyond, to the new copper mines at RĂo Blanco.
Huancabamba is called the "City that Walks"â€”or, in local tongue, Ciudad Resbalabamba (Slipping City). The town is built on a stratum of rock that is slowly sliding toward the river. Since at least the mid-19th century, there has been talk of relocating the village to more stable ground. People are now building higher up the hillside. Like any colonial-era town, the major buildings are around the Plaza de Armas. Along one side is the village church, Iglesia San Pedro, which is pretty colorful against the mountain backdrop. The plaza and church gardens are full of topiary, shrubs sculpted into animals (including a band of critters playing in front of the church).
In the center of the plaza is a statue of La Samaritana, who represents the hospitality shown by the huancabambinos. The region abounds with ruins of the former inhabitants. The most noteworthy is the Templo de los Jaguares. Many of the stone roads the Spaniards used still connect Huancabamba with Cabeza, Socha and other settlements. The most important spot is the Lagunas de las Huaringas, a traditional center for shamanism.
The village continues to open its doors to visitors who come to have a healing ceremony done by the regionâ€™s renowned healers. Lodging and dining options are basic, but sincere. Spend a while to explore the many natural and cultural wonders tucked into the valleys of this stretch of the Andes.
(Altitude: 1957 m/6,360 ft, Population: 14,000, Phone Code: 073)
Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...