A truly adventurous journey that requires a minimum of four days and a lot of stamina leads to Huancabamba, a picturesque mountain town and the center of brujería (witchcraft and healing) for coastal Peru. The powers of the area’s shamans and curanderos (healers) are legendary and are part of an ancient tradition in Peru that mixes natural medicine with spiritual beliefs. These healers play a major medical role in the country where people sometimes lack even rudimentary health services.
People seek cures for a variety of problems such as infertility or psychological ailments. Shamans attribute those problems to susto (fear), whose symptoms resemble depression or post-traumatic stress syndrome because patients suffer from loss of appetite and insomnia. But probably the single largest group of seekers come for affairs of the heart: Jilted lovers place hexes on a competing suitor or bring a piece of clothing to lure back a departed lover. Others come to have a hex removed or to see into the future.
The physical center of all this work is Huaringas, a collection of 14 lakes over 3,900 meters (13,000 feet), where healing ceremonies (mesas) typically include dunkings in icy-cold lake water and the use of herbs and hallucinogenic substances such as the San Pedro cactus. The most famous of these lakes is Shimbe, which can be reached after a daylong mule ride. But there are also closer lakes.
A word of caution on Huaringas: If you come for healing, get a shaman suggestion ahead of time from a reliable travel agency or source. The tangibly magnetic energy of Huaringas can be used either for good or bad, and there are professionals who work en el lado oscuro (on the dark side) or as sham artists. It is also not a good idea to come if you are skeptical or merely curious. Shamans sense those attitudes immediately and often say it disrupts their work.
Huancabamba is also known as Resbalabamba, or “the city that walks,” because the town’s stratified, water-soaked foundation is causing the town to take an inexorable stroll downhill. In the area, there are excellent mountain bike circuits and walks to Inca ruins. Guides are available in town. There are also several hostels and cheap restaurants.
The trip from Piura  is a 215-kilometer, five- to seven-hour bus ride that passes through the scenic town of Chanchaque and over a bumpy mountain road before arriving at Huancabamba, around 1,950 meters (6,500 feet). ETIPSA (first block of Av. Guardia Civil, near Primavera bridge) has buses leaving daily at 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Once in Huancabamba, you still have a few hours of travel, first by combi, and finally on foot or mule.