THE SONDONDO VALLEY

The Sondondo Valley is a beautiful place located in the south of the Ayacucho Region. It can be reached from either of two unpaved roads which branch off from the main Inter Oceanic Highway just beyond Puquio on the Nazca to Cusco section. The first part of the valley forms part of the province of Lucanas. The Sondondo River begins its course in a place called Negro Mayo and together with the Chicha Soras river flows into the river Pampas.

There is plenty to enjoy. The archaeological site of Caniche in the town of Andamarca has been declared a Cultural Heritage of the Nation. It was built by the Rukanas Civilization but was also occupied by the Wari and Inca populations later on. The Rukanas was a local civilization which became allied to the Chanca Nation. The Chankas were the main rival to the Incas before the arrival of the Spanish. The Wari civilization controlled the largest Empire in South America before the Incas. Their Empire lasted from about the 8th to the 13th Centuries and at its height its territories extended from Lambayeque in the north to Arequipa in the south and included part of the jungle in Cusco. Their capital was at Huari close to Ayacucho. The Incas controlled an even larger Empire in the hundred or so years before the Spanish invasion. Their capital was in Cusco and their influence extended to parts of the territories currently belonging to Ecuador and Colombia in the north to Chile, Argentina and Bolivia in the south.

The Sondondo valley is one of the best places to see the scissor dance, which has been declared as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO for its ancient roots and its symbolic value.

And if this were not enough the local families have maintained their terraced agricultural systems perfectly for around 1,000 years. Prehispanic civilizations built close to a million hectares of terraces in Peru. These structures have many advantages including: an efficient use of water, a massive reduction in soil erosion, protection against frosts and increased yields. The farmers continue to cultivate their terraces today and maintenance is carried out during traditional festive periods. Water management practices are very efficient and every August the district of Carmen Salcedo organises a famous Water Festival (Yaku Raymi). Similar fiestas are also organised in the districts of Cabana Sur, Aucara and Chipao between September and October.

There is a very large population of condors close to the village of Mayobamba in the district of Chipao. Groups can be seen from a lookout point flying in formations every morning between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.

A large plantation of Puya de Raimondi plants is also found in the district of Chipao. These impressive plants are found only in a few places in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia. They live for around 100 years before producing an enormous stalk which produces flowers only once before the plant dies. The Puyas are included on the Red List of Plants in danger of extinction published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The Ccarahuasu volcano is the most important natural Deity (Apu) for most of the Ayacucho, Apurimac and Huancavelica Regions. It is visible from many points within the Sondondo valley. It has an altitude of over 5,200m and is the most important source of water for both the Sondondo and Chicha Soras valleys.

The Sondondo valley has also been host to a number of historical episodes. Although there is debate surrounding the issue it is probable that the Inca Huascar was killed in Andamarca in 1532 after losing in battle against the army of his brother Atahualpa, who was the last Inca before the Spanish Conquest. His remains were thrown into the Yanamayo River. This event is reenacted in Andamarca every August.

The famous chronicler, Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala is said to have been born in the village of Sondondo which is located within the district of Cabana. He lived there as a child for several years. It is possible to visit the home where he supposedly lived.