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The White Lake
A visit into the most western nascent of Amazon River.

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Written and photographed by
 Ronald Benites

EL CARMEN DE LA FRONTERA, Peru - The mountain range will ever fascinate us by many motivations: the solids' majestuosity, the landscapes, the cool climate, even the culture. Perhaps it is about that fascination of feeling us closer to the sky, at least for we who feel it so.

I love the mountain range - I am learning to love it. If all would depend on me, I  took every time I get to  come here, breathe  pure air, enjoy around.

I already declared I am an activist of of this kind of spaces, so the coherent will be ever coming  here as much as I can, like right now. I am in a car  going up from Huancabamba City because my today's task is reaching the Shimbe [pronounce "Shimbeh"]Lake, origin of Huancabamba River, and if  we look at the map, the most occidental nascent of Amazon River.

Shimbe or White Lake (Laguna Blanca in Spanish), which meaning nobody precises to me (it could be belt in quechuan, and dove in Caranqui),  is located 3236 meters or 10616 feet altitude,  40 km or 25 mi away the north of Huancabamba , what is 215 km or 134 mi to the east of Piura City by land.  Although bare-eye it seems to be the largest of Huarinjas or Huaringas Lakes, tehre is not available data about its volume. The only sure is that due to its altitude, it is already part of jalca [pronounce "halka"¡ or Piura's moor ecosystem, that begins at 3000 meters or 9843 feet.

there is one hour by car from Huancabamba to Guar Guar. It is a jump-up,  900 meters or 2953 feet approximately, as FACTORTIERRA.NET calculated during a field assignment in 2009. The cloudy forest ecosystem ends at this location.

The jalca as well as the clody forest are key for water generation in the entire Piura region and the north of Cajamarca Region. The humidity ascending from Pacific Ocean (west) and the Great Amazon Plateau (east) as well shocks here  because those peaks are the lowest along Andean Range - not upper than 3900 meters or 12795 feet altitude.

despite forming snow-covered mountains, they create ssuch moisture, wwhich is absorbed by the existent vegetal cover-up, kept underground,and  deposited in lowest parts  due to the terrestrial gravity. That explains the lakes.  And that also explains the cold.

The protection of the vehicle ends here and our choices are to go walking or riding. There are still two hours of remaining trail from Guar Guar to Shimbe.

The first postcard someone gets is the typical Andean rural village  with disperse little houses, smoke on the roofs, and a combination of all-type cars &  pack animals. But if that one look most carefully at  the trees around, will notice indications of cut-off. some locals will confirm it to me further, and that is a problem because if you take off the trees from the roots, you weaken the soil.  When the rain comes down, the damage will be more evident because it will accelerate the erosion.

Again - let's remember  this is a mountain range and slopes are abundant wherever you see.

We decide going by a beast next to a guide, and it will be necessary because there are no signals on the way. The last one has left some steps behind in Guar Guar. However, the path is well-conserved... at least to my taste, what uses to have hard physical workout sessions indoor and outdoor aswell.

Due to altitude, the nor-acclimated people will feel  the air lacks during the climbing, an almost unperceptible climbing but  climbing. Let's remember  if FACTORTIERRA.NET estimations are correct, they are about 400 meters or 1312 feet more going up.

we are ahead on our way without any trouble. The guide tells me he would like having some project in his town that allow him to superate the poverty. "why don't you crop vegetables?," I ask. "Who crops vegetables?," he replies to me. "Me," I ssay him, remembering my home orchard in Chulucanas, where I live, another of my hobbies.

As we are going forward, the forest becomes thinner and bushes with fanky twisted trunks predominate: queñoales. On the soil, the natural big and hirsute grass transforms in a harder straw: ichu. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to jalca.

After climbing up a little hill, a mountain range appear in the background, Huamaní Range actually, where all Huarinjas are located, and a kind of cliff at the right side. We are going up from south to north.  As we follow more on the north, the lake begins to be visible, like it were a silvered water tongue.

The guide stops us and says it is the moment to request permission  for entering the Shimbe's home. "Did you bring Florida water?," he asks. we see each other surprised-face. Nobody warned we should  come prepared that way! However, the man realises we carry fruit and tells us  the spirit of the lake also appreciates the aroma of limes and oranges a lot.

we make our offering by orientating it to the Four Cardinal Points, those are easy to identify here: the lake at north, the path we have ridden at the south, some mountains at the west,  a kind of pretty-singing ditch at the east.

"It's not a ditch but Huancabamba River," the guide clarifies. Well, every river borns basically like a humble ditch, doesn't it?

Furthermore I will realise  that, holding the same orientation, the river borns at the right corner of natural reservoir, that means the southeastern extreme.  And that ditch forms Amazon River later?  OK. OK. Not a ditch but Huancabamba River.  Do not argue. I hate arguing.

After the entrance ritual, we go on and my emotion grows up and grows up every step ahead. And suddenly, I feel I belong to Nature, as I were one within. I could not describe it. It is just felt, that's it.

Finally we reach the rim. I thank God for the trek, for being safe. Along that rim, some people undress  for going into the lake as part of their healing processes.  It is said that Shimbe has medicinal power.  I do not think to discuss  if that is scientifically plausible.  The energy is evident.

"Are you going to get into the water?," the guide asks me. I do not mind stripping down but it is ever good a little trial, just in case.  I take off my shoes and put my feet into the rim...My God! This water is not cool, it is frozen!

I'm sorry. I love Nature but I am also very frightening, so I only finish to wet my feet and my head, while I make my wishes. Many people assure me this little water is miraculous, and I have faith that is true.

Sure that  if people would use the trash cans for putting the trash into, and those had some maintenance, the picture would be perfect.  The majesty of this site deserves we  care at the most those  details because of simply respectful perspective  to the place and the visitor.

Half-an-hour later we return .

People say that shimbe favors are constant as much as you also visit it constantly, and guess what - I want to come back as soon as I can.

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