27 jul. 2012

Chicla: The longest zigzag of the Central Railway of Peru

One of the highlights of the trip by train to the 'Incontrastable (insuperable)' city of Huancayo, Peru, what has made it incomparable, as it will remain unmatched with any other railroad in the world, is the zigzag of Chicla (Lima), where the train has to go back for about 10 minutes in a very sinuous geography, full of curves and slopes that are synonymous to the great thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock, the late British filmmaker. The skill and professionalism of the driver of the locomotive (Daniel Garcia, the "Roadrunner"), will be reflected through these winding minutes.

The Central Railway of Peru is a masterful piece of engineering that today remains a source of admiration and conversation, with its great builder, the chief engineer, Ernest Malinowski, a Polish with Peruvian heart and who was in charge of the works between 1870 and 1899. We are in the district of Chicla, Huarochiri province, in the region of Lima and 3,733 meters above the sea level. It is a place where history seems to have been stopped.

Chicla is a classic district of the mountain of Lima, where the vast majority of the population is engaged in mining. Its silence contrasts with the bustle of trains and especially when the tourist train makes his entrance heading to the city of Huancayo. In this part of the Rimac valley, the Andes are less rugged than miles back. It is not a difficult area to access, either by rail or road.

In a few seconds we got to the zigzag, starting point of this new experience to the Andean cloud. We came to a blind tunnel, which has no outlet and is built to extend the length of trains. From this point back down in a "horseshoe" for 10 minutes, until passing the opposite side of the road to the center of Peru. The zigzag is the only way to enable the train to gain height. Otherwise it would be impossible.

After the standard procedure - while we appreciate the beauty of the landscape - we will arrive at the end of the zigzag, called Saltacuna, located at km 145.5, about 4,000 meters above sea level, after getting around small bridges and tunnels in our magical ascent. From the heights you can admire the district of Chicla, with its typical houses covered with corrugated iron (calaminas) or tiles.