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Chiuchín: A Journey into the Mountains of Lima

Chiuichín Photos - click to enlarge
Photo: Mylene d'Auriol



Chiuichín Photos - click to enlarge
Photo: Mylene d'Auriol



Chiuichín Photos - click to enlarge
Photo: Mylene d'Auriol



A legend tells us that an Inca was passing through a place where he left a maiden with child. In Quechua, "chiuchi" means little child or chick and this is how the village received its name. This village is one of four in the area, and a short distance away, you can find Picoy, Huancahuasi and Rapaz. Although you may have come to bathe in the hot springs, the natural beauty and peaceful landscape alone make this journey worthwhile, offering a respite from the noise and agitation of the city. The beauty invites you to stop and enjoy the silent harmony produced by the river, vegetation, mountains and deep blue sky.

More than hot springs
Apart from the obligatory visit and bath at the hot springs, you should take a ride between the villages of Chiuchin and Huancahuasi. The route between these two towns is only 12 km., although you must drive very carefully since the road is narrow and quite rustic. This trip offers landscapes of such striking beauty that it is a must to make frequent stops to appreciate the scenery and take pictures.

Continuing along, after about 15 minutes, you reach Picoy. Stopping in the town square, one is rewarded with a church whose picturesque facade bulges at the sides like one of those ceramic churches made in Ayacucho.

After driving through Picoy and past some very steep cliffs, you arrive at Huancahuasi. Here the valley widens and provides a renewed sensation of freedom, even greater than that of climbing to Chiuchin. Here also the light throws a striking luminosity onto the surrounding countryside.
In this place, some 12 km. from Chiuchin, in exquisite buildings with stone walls, imitating Inca architecture (although not quite convincingly) you find the medicinal hot springs of Huancahuasi. These installations offer the greatest variety of hot baths in the area.

Without doubt, the most impressive of these is an open air pool, also in Huancahuasi, on a mountainside. Nobody who comes to this place for the medicinal baths should miss a swim in this pool. It is an unique experience, combining the delightful thermal waters, a view of the majestic Andean landscape and -if weather permits - the splendid warmth of the mountain sun. In Huancahuasi the small children of the villagers often approach the travelers, offering a glass of maca, a drink made from an Andean tuber. Most people like the taste of this local beverage, which is like a sweet but not sickly pudding - but be aware that according to local folklore it is has aphrodisiac properties!

Cycling and trekking
This area is ideal for mountain biking as well as for trekking. It is better not to exercise on the first day, since the altitude is between 2500 and 3000 meters above sea-level, and exercise could provoke mountain sickness.

For cyclists, the trip from Chiuchin up to Huancahuasi is a must. This is a 12 km. route on a dirt road used by automobiles. There are various cliffs and steep hills, requiring moderate to vigorous effort on the part of the cyclist. Making this climb by bicycle has the advantage that you can stop any time to appreciate the view, catch your breath and take pictures.

Upon reaching your destination, it is best to wander around the area for a while, drink a glass of maca and to return again to Chiuchin. If the trip up was impressive due to the beautiful landscape and exercise, the ride down can also be an exciting adrenaline surge. Wear a helmet and be alert for oncoming traffic.

For those who prefer trekking, it is better to walk through Chiuchin where the mountains are more suitable for this sport because there are many trails that serve as guideposts for these climbs. Also, if you combine trekking with a little archaeology, passing through Huancahuasi, in Rapaz you can make a detour to the ruins of Rapazmarca.

To reach Chiuchin from Lima, you take the North Pan-American Highway to Huaura, passing through Huacho and make a right turn at the kilometer 142 marker, the turn-off to Sayan. There are 44 km. from Huaura to Sayan, where it is advisable to stop for fuel, since farther on the way to Chiuchin, there is only one extremely rustic service station. From Sayan you follow the route 46 km. along the Huaura river, until the junction Chiuchin-Chiuchin, which is the last place where you could hope to find gasoline.

Upon reaching the junction, you will be 18 km. from Chiuchin, which you reach by going along the banks of the river Chegras, a tributary of the Huaura river. The road is in very poor condition in this area, making the journey seem longer than it really is.

Travel throughout South America with

By Alberto Cappa
Volume III/Issue 11, Page 76
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