AYABACA- A FASCINATING
Located in the north of Peru, 213 km from Piura (5 ½ hours away by bus), Ayabaca is a province of the Piura Region, at the far western tip of the Andes Cordillera. It shares borders with Ecuador in the north, the provinces of Morropon and Huancabamba in the south, and the province of Sullana in the west. Its surface is 5,360 km2 and its capital is the City of Ayabaca; the varied topography of this province provides it with a number of different micro-climates ranging from hot and dry to humid and very cold. The access route is along a paved road to the district of Sullana, where one takes another paved road up to the city of La Palma at the mid-point of the trip, from which a cart track leads to Ayabaca.
It is estimated that the area was populated some 10,000 years ago by hunter-gatherers, and later was settled by different groups from the jungle and the "sierras". As from the 400-200 BC period, clear influences of Cupisnique, Chavin and Amazonica Cultures may be seen, this being the period when the Samango petroglyphs were carved.
Among its most representative attractions are the following:
The "Captive Lord of Ayabaca"
Some 200 years ago, in 1751, the town of Ayabaca was founded at its present site in the high Cordillera, at the foot of Cerro "El Calvario", at 2,815 meters above sea level. Legend has it that the local parish priest by the name of Garcia Guerrero decided to give the town its own patron saint. To this end, the priest and the parishioners ordered the carving of an effigy in nearby Ecuador, famous for its religious craftwork. A committee was named to make the trip and order the statue; according to the tale, on the way to Ecuador the committee met two gentlemen dressed in white who claimed to be sculptors and so impressed the committee members that they were immediately commissioned for the job. They consented to carry it out, providing that they were enclosed in a room no one was allowed to enter, their food delivered once a day at dawn, and the price agreed and payment made only when the work was finished. The population of the town agreed to these terms, and the sculptors were lodged in a closed room possessing only one window, through which their food was delivered daily at dawn. They were also provided with a thick cedar log, which had been brought from the nearby Mt "El Zahumario"; the sculptors started their work, and the food was duly delivered. However, after several days the food began to accumulate untouched, so the population assembled and, receiving no replies to their calls, opened up the room to find a beautiful finished image and no signs of the sculptors. This image is now known in that country and in Ecuador as "El Señor Cautivo de Ayabaca", and thousands of pilgrims come annually to the celebrations and prayers in its honor on October 13, which is the best time for a visit.
Samanga Cave Art
64 km away (3 hours by dirt track) lies the community of Samanga (2,300 meters aabove sea level). Nearby, a local guide will take you to visit the bas-relief rock engravings on large blocks of stone attributed to the ancient Guayacundos, who apparently were attempting to represent the movements of the stars. The Quechua term Samanga means "the place where the huacas lie". At the lowest spot in Samanga, the El Tuno sector, lies the rock carving known as "El Altar" (The Altar); the engravings here are said to reflect features of "Andean duality".
Aypate Archaeological Complex
Some 49 km from Ayabaca (a one hour fifty minute drive approximately), lies the community of Aypate, at an altitude of 2,916 meters above sea level; the ruins here date from the 15th century. They are noted for their Inca features, visible both in the central plaza, and also in the kallanca, the ushnu, and the acllahuasi (very typical Inca constructions). The typical terraces are also present (some are currently producing), and so are the remains of an ancient road. A fortified lookout post and a ceremonial well are also found here: the whole area is surrounded by a mist forest full of beautiful orchids, bromelias, birds, white-tailed deer and other species.
The Olleros Valley
Located 20 km from Ayabaca lies find this place which has archaeological remains showing it was the residence of a local king, plus sealed tombs, funeral urns and Cupisnique crafts (350 BC).
Chocan Thermal Baths
Some 12 km from Ayabaca, the village cluster of Chocan contains the only thermal baths in the area; they are made of stone and built onto the natural rocks that possess crystal-clear thermal springs whose water is hot during the first few hours of the day and cooler later after sunrise.
The traditional dish of the region is Sango (a meal based on ground wheat and pork), beef ceviche, salt fish with yuca, chochoca (a soup made from the hooves of cattle), among other regional delicacies.
The town of Ayabaca has a hotel providing basic services, with a conference hall and communications media. There are other more modest lodging options with fewer facilities, as well as restaurants serving local food, some specializing in oriental cuisine and some with very cheap menus.
The province's most important festivities are on May 3 (Santisima Cruz), July 26 (Santa Ana), and Virgen del Pilar and the festival of the "Señor Cautivo de Ayabaca" (October 12 and 13, respectively).