To the east of the Cordillera Blanca, roughly parallel to the Callejón de Huaylas, runs another long natural corridor, the Callejón de Conchucos. Virtually inaccessible in the wet season, and off the beaten track even for the most hardened of backpackers, the valley represents quite a challenge, and while it features the town of Pomabamba in the north and the spectacular ruins at Chavín de Huantar just beyond its southern limit, there’s little of interest between the two. The villages of Piscobamba (Valley or Plain of the Birds) and Huari are likely to appeal only as food stops on the long haul (141km) through barren mountains between Pomabamba and Chavín.
The Callejón de Conchucos was out of bounds to travellers between 1988 and 1993, when it was under almost complete Sendero Luminoso terrorist control; many of the locals were forced to flee the valley after actual or threatened violence from the terrorists. The region’s more distant history was equally turbulent and cut off from the rest of Peru, particularly from the seat of colonial and Republican power on the coast. Until the Conquest, this region was home to one of the fiercest ancient tribes – the Conchucos – who surged down the Santa Valley and besieged the Spanish city of Trujillo in 1536. By the end of the sixteenth century, however, even the fearless Conchuco warriors had been reduced to virtual slavery by the colonial encomendero system.