So, we accidentally hiked up a mountain over the weekend. We had gone in search of El Bosque Dorado (The Golden Forest), which we’d heard about from a taxi driver in town a few weeks ago. He had described it as a tranquil spot with some Incan ruins. We asked our host parents, who had never heard of it, looked in our Lonely Planet guidebook, which didn’t mention it, and finally scoured the internet and found one article about it from a local news station. The article explained that it was about 10 km from the center of town in Paccha, an annex of Huancayo, and that it was a nice spot for recreation and doing things like tai chi and yoga. Great, we thought, let’s go check it out!
We hailed a taxi near our house on Saturday morning and attempted to explain where we wanted to go. The first reaction was, “Is that a restaurant?” “No,” we responded, “it’s a park nearby.” The taxi driver radioed back to HQ and they finally figured out where it was and approximately how to get there. We hopped in the taxi and drove off up a dirt road to Paccha, which is basically a small town on the outskirts of the city where people were tending to their crops and livestock. The driver didn’t know exactly where to go after we arrived in Paccha, so we pulled over to ask a man how to get to El Bosque Dorado. He said it was way up the side of the mountain and that the roads weren’t well maintained and only passable in a 4×4. We thanked him and continued as far up the mountainside as was possible. He was right, the roads were terrible. Eventually the little sedan we were in couldn’t get any farther, so we stopped and decided we’d try walking a little bit to see if we could see the entrance to the park. The steep, rutted road snaked back and forth up the mountain and we had no real way of knowing how much farther the forest was. There was literally no one around and so we asked the taxi driver if he’d wait for us to ensure we could get a ride back to town. He not only agreed to wait, but decided he wanted to walk with us and see the forest for himself.
After 45 minutes of walking pretty much straight uphill, the road leveled off a bit and we were surrounded by eucalyptus trees. We heard some people nearby and called out to ask them if we were getting close. They responded that the forest was “casi en la puna” (nearly at the top of the mountain) and so we continued on down a tree-lined dirt path, sucking wind because of the altitude. Eventually the trees change to queñuales (the Quechua word polylepis, a gnarled tree native to the Andes), and then we entered El Bosque Dorado.
Down to the right off the main path, extended the ruins of an Incan amphitheater. The stage and seats were all covered in a bed of green plants and grasses. The stairs, made of rock, had a drain running down the middle for water run-off that still appeared to be functional. We walked down the stairs to stand on the stage and take in the view. Standing on the stage, you looked up and saw the mountains rising up even higher into the blue sky, quite an imposing sight that makes you feel really small.
On the way back down to the taxi, we stopped to take in the spectacular views of Huancayo and the surrounding towns. It’s quite magnificent from that altitude and I am especially impressed now with the people who choose to make the hillsides of the mountains their home.
We highly recommend El Bosque Dorado to anyone visiting Huancayo and we hope to go back one day, but maybe next time we’ll hire a 4×4 to take us all the way there!