My name is Alexandra Viches and I am a Peace Corps volunteer living in the district of Huancaya, in the Province of Yauyos, in the department of Lima. Huancaya is an incredible place to visit within the natural reserve of Nor-Yauyos Cochas.
I have been living here for a little over a year now and I'm a volunteer in the field of community development. I teach at the school very frequently, helping out with english and science, technology, and environment classes. I also plan special activities for the school with an environmental emphasis. I work with mothers in the community through cooking to bring a greater awareness of nutritional issues. I work with SERNANP (servicio nacional de areas naturales y protegidas) and the municipality on a variety of issues involving natural resource management and sustainable tourism. We are currently working on building a landfill for the community and installing public trash cans, because the only thing tainting the gorgeous landscape is the inadequate management of garbage in the town. Additionally, we work with the tourism committee, constantly trying to improve the experience of the tourist in a sustainable way, and we are working with school children, training them to be guides.
We're currently planning an exhibition of extreme sports for the end of August to promote tourism as well.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to live in Huancaya. Not only is the town itself adorable, with cobblestone streets, women walking around in traditional “mantas”, and Incan terraces as far as the eye can see – but walk 10 minutes out of town and the view will take your breath away. Rent a horse and head up to our annex, a town called Vilca. On the way you will pass waterfalls, lagoons, and some of the most incredible high altitude panoramic views.
One of the most interesting projects I am working on is with the museum of Huancaya. In the 1920s, a group of primary school students took a canoe trip out on one of the lagoons and soon discovered a burial ground with about 18 fully intact mummies. They loaded them up and brought them back to the school, where they were kept for nearly 80 years. With time, some of the mummies and ceramics were stolen, and the access the children had to them has done some damage, leaving painted skulls for us to see. However, there are still 8 mummies to see. I am currently working with a few archaeologists from the Natural History Museum in Lima to restore many of the artifacts and convince the Instituto Nacional de Cultura to make it a nationally recognized museum.
Huancaya is about 7 hours from the city of Lima and 5 hours from Huancayo. There is always somewhere authentic to stay and many tourists enjoy eating the trout produced in our beautiful floating trout farm. For adventurous tourists, there is kayaking and canoeing (recommended when the water level is higher, around April). It is also possible to boulder and free climb the incredibly imposing mountainsides surrounding the town.
Or come visit us for a town fiesta. The fiesta patronal, lasting 4 days begins every year on June 24th. Any holiday or long weekend is also a good time to come around (semana santa, fiestas patrias, etc). The first week of January come for our bailes de negreria. Or if you prefer a quieter escape, any weekday will do.
Come visit, let us know what you think. We look forward to seeing you here.