The Sanctuary and National Reserve of Calipuy were established on January 8, 1981 in the department of La Libertad, Provinces of Viru and Santiago de Chuco, and in the Districts of Chao and Santiago de Chuco. It has an area of 4,500 hectares. The main purpose of the Calipuy National Sanctuary is to protect the country's densest plantation of Puyas, that represent a valuable biological potential for the species. The range of altitudes is from 400 to 4,000 meters above sea level, with temperatures varying between 25º and 6ºCelsius.
The Sanctuary and Reserve protect one of the largest plantations of puya or cahua (Puya Raimondi), a rare species of wild flora that produces the largest inflorescence in the world, and is a valuable biological resource. It belongs to the Bromeliad family, grows only on sunny hillsides and on well-drained soil. Despite living for over 100 years, it only flowers once (in a 9-month process), to die gradually thereafter. Its flowering is a real spectacle, because its inflorescence can reach 10 meters in height. Shaped like a gigantic sail, it is covered with thousands of cream-white flowers. At the time it flowers, dozens of hummingbirds and other kinds of birds can be seen milling around it.
Puya Raimondi is a plant that only grows in isolated regions with stony soil and very little humus. It is found on the high parts of the Bolivian and Peruvian high plateau, mostly in cold-wind areas.
It is a plant belonging to the bromeliad family, and is a real natural rarity; its stem takes up two thirds of the plant's height, the other third being taken up by the central nucleus from which hang its long, sharp-pointed leaves.
It lives around 100 years, and flowers during about one year in its final stage of growth. Once it flowers, the plant uses up all its energy accumulated over a century, shriveling up later in a process of self-combustion.
Puya Raimondi is one of the most impressive plants in existence. Related to the pineapple, it is the largest bromeliad, having several features that make it unique. For decades, its spiny leaves grow, giving it the appearance at a distance of a giant chagual (maguey or agave, in other parts of the world), measuring up to four meters in height, and making an unusual spectacle in the arid plain of the puna, at over 4,000 meters above sea level. The suddenly the inflorescence starts growing until it reaches a height of between eight and ten meters. There is no greater flower on the planet. It is said that the plant only flowers after it is a hundred years old, dying afterwards.
There are other high areas in the Andes where we can find and admire this natural rarity. One of them is in Bolivia, more exactly in Departamento de La Paz, on the quarries of the township of Comanche. This place is located southwest of the city of La Paz.
There are also other places it grows to a smaller size. One of them is the area of Condor Huachana in the environs of Pojo, Departamento de Cochabamba and in the southern area of Bolivia between Las Carreras and Tupiza, in the "Departamentos" of Potosí and Tarija.
The titancas grow in "forests", as we might call them for lack of a better term, dotted haphazardly around the Andean plateaus. The forests of these plants that are best known are in the Reserves of Huascarán, Calipuy, Succhubamba and the Central Andean Puna. They are really spectacular.
The rest of the plants that inhabit the Sanctuary are small-to-medium size, woody or herbaceous, and are scattered over stony or rocky soil. The woody type vegetation is more abundant on the mountainsides.
Among the Andes peasants there is a belief that Puya Raimondi is a carnivorous plant. This is explained by the fact that cattle grazing near the plant are often injured by its sharp thorns.
Among the wildlife species that we can find on the Reserve, the most notable are mammals such as the Andean fox (Pseudalopex culpaeus), the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and the "vizcacha" (Lagidium peruanum). Among birds, we can mention, belonging to the Tinamidae family, the sierra tinamou (Tinamotis pentlandii); to the Falconidae family, the aplomado falcon (Falco femoralis), the "chinalinda" or "guarahuau" (Phalcoboenus megalopterus albogularis); and to the Psittacidae family, the gray-hooded parakeet (Bolborhynchus sp.).
We may mention that the road takes you from the city of Lima to that of Trujillo, where you can take a commercial flight (50'), or by land along a good road in public service buses or other transport (8 hours), that may be hired in Lima; an option we suggest is taking the flight in Lima, getting to Trujillo and then renting a 4WD vehicle in that city to take you along a paved road to Otuzco town, three hours away from Trujillo; from there you can go to Julcan, a three hour drive along an unpaved road, getting to Santiago de Chuco four hours later. Here you must go to 890 Alfonso Ugarte Street or contact phone 044-340521, to get the necessary entry permits and any updated information you may require.
Don't forget this is an area you will find altitudes of up to 4,000 meters above sea level, so if you plan to stay in the area and take tours to view specimens of Puya, you need to be suitably equipped for camping. You can get everything you need in the cities of Trujillo or in Lima, where you have really high quality equipment. Bear in mind also that when you climb to the areas where the Puyas grow, there will be less oxygen in the air, and if you are not in good physical condition you will feel the unpleasant effects of the "soroche"; so be careful.