In takes an impressive 8 hour ride northeast of Huaraz on the other side of the Cordillera Blanca to reach delightful Pomabamba in the Callejon de Conchucos valley. The clock seems to have here stopped a while ago. The 3rd and 4th of october are the central days of the local fiesta. Numerous bands and colorful dance groups playing chimaychis and huayno circle the plaza moving from capilla to capilla tents in front of the church. Climax of every fiesta night is the castillo with fireworks when the plaza fills up and the entire town dances.
Pomabamba is well worth a visit. The people are remarkably hospitable and the area is beautiful. Don't expect fancy hotels or restaurants: this is the green tranquil outskirt of Andean Ancash.
Irma, Elvira and Sara Huerta are three attractive sisters that return every year from Lima, where they work, to celebrate the Pomabamba festival. It's a long bus ride: 8 hours from coastal Lima to Huaraz at the base of the Cordillera Blanca, waiting for a connection, and then 8 hours more to pass the Cordillera Blanca and drive down to the Pomabamba valley.
"We want to keep the fiesta custom alive", says Irma. This year they dressed as elegant "pallas" with a colorful crown with flower motives and white embroidered sleeves that blow up when they dance in circles. "An expert from nearby Corongo came to Pomabamba to teach us the dance. It's just an additional style to the dances Pomabamba already has". >>>>>
One of the most remarkable typical Pomabamba cultural styles in the chimaychi music. Most people that hear it for the first time think it sounds Chinese. A quite unique music style that is still played a lot during the festival even though the easier danceable huayno music has clearly taken over ground here as in the rest of Peru.
The most famous chimaychi singer from Pomobamba is the nationally known "Estrellita de Pomabamba" Nila Villanueva, who now lives in LIma and only occasionaly visits her home town.
Anita Fajardo, originally from Sihuas up north, is a younger singer who is dedicated to preserving the chimaychi culture of Pomabamba.
"Pomabambinos are proud of their culture", says Anita "but we need to keep working to preserve it. We welcome tourists but want to first develop a tourist infrastructure our selfs before inviting large groups to enjoy our beautiful valley."
Clearly Pomabamba isn't prepared much for tourism yet. There are a hotels and restaurants that offer basic services that are sufficient for regional tourism or backpackers on a shoestring but it not prepared for international groups like Huaraz, Caraz or Chavin. >>>>>
Although there appears to be a marked divide between elite and campesinos there is a strong social bond between the pomabambinos. This is visible during "el clasico", the football match between the biggest neighborhood football teams at the local football ground. The whole of Pomabamba seems present and witnesses how Ca–ari becomes the champion of 2006: 3-1 after being behind 0-1 at halftime. A brass band escorts the players and the inhabitants of the winning neighborhood dancing hand in hand through the streets towards the plaza and the saint Taita Pancho (Fransisco de Asisi).
"Taita Pancho is crying", says a woman in a traditional pink and light blue dress when it is raining at the last day of the festival. It is the rain that makes the Callejon de Conchucos (not so far away from the Amazon rain forest) so much greener than the Callejon de Huaylas on the other side of the Cordillera Blanca.
The wet hair of the people we see walking through an eucalyptus forest up from the Pomabamba river is not from the rain but from the hot spring baths they have just enjoyed. Pomabambinos love to take a bath in their natural springs. Women happily use the lukewarm water that streams out of the rocks to do their laundry. Pomobamba is a clean town and proud of it. >>>>>
Pomabambinos are also rightfully proud of their town and their customs. Let's hope they will remain preserving them as tries to do chimaychi singer Anita Fajardo.
(There are two direct buses going from Huaraz to Pomabama every day. Ask around for latest details as services change regularly.)