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Machu Picchu 0

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Text and photos by Walter H. Wustñay Wayna
The undisputed masters of the wild Wiñay Wayna, the torrent ducks can be commonly seen on the rocky riverbanks.

(LIP-jl) — The cloud forests of Peru’s Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary are home to a host of incredible creatures which often remain invisible to hikers. Come with us and discover the secrets of their lair.

It was a dizzying gorge, more than 100 meters deep, plunging straight down to the river. Between the moss and the orchids, thousands of yellow-leafed epiphytic plants clung to the rock walls while the white foaming torrent pounded on the rocks below. The roar of the waterfall was deafening, drowning out the birdsong.

Huddled on a narrow ledge, we watched the river rush through the canyon, whose rock walls have been polished by centuries of continuous erosion. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a pair of shapes make headway against the current, practically effortlessly. Every now and then, they halt at one of the vast polished boulders, before pushing off again into the swirling currents, as if defying the mighty Vilcanota River.

It is a pair of torrent ducks (Merganetta armata), one of the most extraordinary creatures to inhabit the mountain rivers. Commonly found in any highland body of water at altitudes over 1,000 meters, these birds, which will only live in clean, pollution-free water, have been doted by nature with the astounding ability to swim through the wildest rapids, making them their undisputed habitat.ñay Wayna
The archaeological site of Wiñay Wayna looks out over the valley from its ledge. The view is simply impressive.

The apparent risk of living in such an environment is compensated for by access to abundant food, for which there is no competition: the larvae of thousands of insects amongst the rocks, submerged in water rich in oxygen. Another species, albeit smaller, shares the rapids in search of smaller insects and larvae. This is the water blackbird (Cinclus leucocephalus), a tiny black-and-white bird no bigger than a sparrow which has literally learned to swim underwater in search of food.

As quickly as they arrived, the ducks flutter upriver. We decide to stay beside the river to photograph the dazzling variety of wildflowers. A purple fuchsia brims over with nectar for the ever-hungry hummingbird. The tiny bird will pollinate each flower with the pollen that clings to its feathers.

In another bulb, a pair of emerald green beetles appear to struggle clumsily inside the brightly hued flower. A little further away, fruit has proved to be irresistible for legions of colorful butterflies, while a slight movement amongst the leaves points to the presence of caterpillars, which in appearance look like something out of science fiction.

The forest is also home to two other creatures, as beautiful as they are elusive: the spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus) and the pudú or sachacabra (Pudu mephistopheles). The spectacled bear is South America’s only bear species, and lives out a vegetarian existence hidden deep in the cloud forest; the sacahacabra is a species of dwarf deer which stands just 30 centimeters high. The animal waits for sundown before setting off in search of shoots and fallen fruit, hidden by the undergrowth, making it invisible to predators.

Iquitos-Amazon 0

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Text and photos by Walter H. Wust
The impressive Marcelita, the boat which was our home for twelve days during our marvellous journey along the great river.

A journey along the Amazon is the perfect excuse to immerse our senses in the natural world of this remote region of Peru. Walter H. Wust, a tireless traveller and a frequent contributor to Rumbos, shares with us an extract from the journal of his voyage along this great river.

Day 1

Iquitos, seven thirty in the morning. My eyes fall first on intense shades of yellow and green, followed by the purples and reds of the heaps of fresh fruit that Doña Luisa sells from the sidewalk on Pebas street, a few meters from the entrance to our hotel.

I wander through streets busy with motorcycle taxis and filled with the aroma of damp earth, guided only by the images of this tropical dawn as they crowd in upon me.

The sky-blue Portugese ceramic tiles of the big houses along the Tarapacá promenade come next, followed by the brown palm-thatched roofs of the floating houses on the Itaya river, the blazing greens of trees along Sargento Lores Avenue, and the blues and yellows of the old San José college, from whose windows the faces of a dozen curious students appear.

We are on a bus with wooden sides and seats like church pews, on our way to the local dock. There the vessel which is to be our home for the next nine days is waiting for us.
Air conditioning, games and a candlelit buffet meal. Luxury and comfort on our journey into the remotest forests on the planet.

Marcelita is the name with which the boat’s owner, Renzo Fontanella, christened her. Born in Spain, Fontanella has been living in the Loretan jungle for the last fifteen years, ever since a providential bout of typhoid changed his life.

The Marcelita comprises forty-five tons of steel and cedar gracefully distributed along its forty-nine meter length. Two powerful Perkins engines propel us along smoothly while the sun falls like lead on the chocolate-colored waters of the Amazon.

We are sailing towards the frontier, lulled by a breeze from the south. Round clouds hang above us in a blue sky.

The immense brown of the river and the green edge of the forest mark the limits of our field of vision. We might be the Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana or the Frenchman Charles-Marie de la Condamine, indigenous forest dwellers heading to the market in Belén, or even timber merchants.

Everything which ventures deep into the forest along this great river is converted, for a time, into something smaller and somehow less significant.

Our first day on the Amazon draws to a close. Now the moon emerges to rule until dawn, reverberating in the waves that flow from the bow and lulling us with her magic.

Cajamarca 0

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Text and photos by Juan Puelles Urraca National Park
Cutervo National Park located in the province of Cajamarca.

A new day begins and the mist fades, revealing the teeming tropical forest. For the fog it is time to rest, while other creatures awaken in this unique area.

The first light of dawn crowds the dark horizon and suddenly myriad anxious birds rush into the mouth of an enormous cave, filling it with their raucous cry. As if in fear of the sun, they seek shelter deep in the cave.

The moist earth steams as the temperature rises in the mountains. The Cutervo National Park became Peru’s first protected area on September 8th 1961, and covers an area of 2,500 hectares.

The beautiful Tarros mountains are home to this national park, a rugged area of high peaks, plains, deep canyons, vertical crags, enormous caves and lush vegetation.

Divided into two distinct ecosystems – humid and very humid lower mountain forest – the park is home to diverse species of fauna.

The captivating oilbird

We decided to visit the Cutervo National Park in order to find out for ourselves how Peru’s first conservation area is doing after its first thirty years of life. From Cutervo, the eponymous provincial capital, a rough road leads to the district of San Andrés, some three spine-jarring hours away.

We are expecting to find a strange bird which only emerges from its lair after dark: the guácharo, or oilbird (Steatornis caripensis), which is popular with all visitors to the park.

Cajamarca 0

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Text and photos by Daniel Saenz More, Peru
In Cajamarca, nature’s splendor is close at hand and readily accessible to visitors seeking the charms of this beautiful land.

(LIP-jl) — In 1532, when 160 Spanish soldiers led by Francisco Pizarro arrived in Cajamarca, fatigue and greed limited their profits: one room of gold and two of silver.  The rooms were never truly filled because the Spaniards made the mistake of executing Atahualpa, the last sovereign of the Inca Empire before his servants had delivered as much ransom as had been promised.

Nevertheless, this land still holds its true treasures, some deep within its memory, but most readily available.

Cajamarca is colored green in my memory. This beautiful north Andean valley seems to retain the moisture from an earlier era when it was a big lagoon. One by one, the valley´s hillsides and meadows slip through my mind in a palette of colors scattered with yellow broom flowers. Small white clouds only intensify the clear blue of the sky, and the sun shines as radiantly as when he was once worshipped.

But I must not forget that the sky is overcast during the first months of the year and Catequil, the God of Lightning, thunders in the heights and anoints the inhabitants, the crops in the fields, and the livestock with rain. In Cajamarca, the splendor of nature is, indeed, close at hand and readily accessible to visitors seeking the charms of this beautiful land.

Ica 0

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(LIP-wb) — Chincha is an enclave of Afro-Peruvian culture, the home of hospitable and joyful people who have managed to conserve the traditions and customs of past generations and disseminate them through their music. They say that they have a secret in heaven, which they guard jealously here on Earth.

The Mysterious Don Amador

To wander through the dusty streets of El Carmen in Chincha at midday can be an invigorating experience. An unsuspected luxury. Heat without thirst. And a mystical air which permeates everything without tiring anyone.

The children of Carmen run barefoot, their faces wreathed in smiles. They are happy, for they learn the secret of El Carmen at an early age and keep it from their nieghbours from nearby communities. Throughout the year, during hours stolen from their playtime, Chincha’s children practice traditional dance steps to the delight of the image of the Holy Virgin of Carmen.

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Text & photos by Renzo Uccelli

(LIP-jl) — Mountains continue to fascinate those who live in – and those who visit – this country of contrasts and unique beauty. The following article by the Peruvian mountaineer and photographer Renzo Uccelli introduces us to the ascent of Alpamayo, considered by many to be the most beautiful peak in the world. Prepare yourself to visit the roof of the world.
Peru’s most beautiful peak.

“If in reality there is no rock, no block of ice, no crevasse waiting in some part of the world to halt my advance, then one day, old and tired, I will find peace among animals and flowers. The circle will be complete, and at last I will become the simple shepherd I longed to be when I was a child.”
Lionel Terray, 1961.

The Huascarán National Park (HNP), in the department of Ancash, was established by UNESCO in July 1975, and was named a World Heritage Site in 1985. The HNP covers an area of 340,000 hectares and lies between 3,500 and (at the summit of Huascarán) 6,768 meters above sea level.

The geology of the Cordillera Blanca and the Callejón de Huaylas has created a territory of varied and rugged landscapes. This in turn allows a wide variety of plant and animal life to thrive within the borders of the park. The landscape of the HPN is dominated by the Cordillera Blanca, below which narrow canyons abound, as well as wide plateaus and several lagoons. It is estimated that in the Santa Cruz river valley alone there exist some 265 lagoons of great beauty.

Cajamarca 0

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Text by Gabriela Wiener
Photos by Deborah Paredes, Peru: The Model Farm
Porcon in Cajamarca, Peru: The model farm
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(LIP-wb) — Some 30 km from Cajamarca, in the middle of a landscape flanked by pine groves that provide shade for plump dairy cattle and skittish vicuñas, the Granja Porcón farm gives visitors the chance to hike through lovely countryside and take a hand in the day’s chores down at the farm.

It is 5 a.m. when Héctor wakes us mercilessly from our dreams. At that hour, the cold gets into our bones, but a warm parka and the determination to help milk the cows convince us to set off into the darkness on the edge of dawn in Porcón.

Like us, the cows in the corral shake themselves awake at the farmer’s call. Vitalicia, Pichona and Diplomática amble out obediently, used to hearing their names since they were calves. Segunda and Manuel, who are experts at milking, squeeze the pink teats which squirt streams of warm milk into the pails.

All the cows in Porcón have a name, an effective and yet affectionate way of organizing the milking process. It is the turn of Turista, Senadora and Mariela, as large as the others, which fill a 12-liter canister each. “Do you want to try some?” asks Segunda. I have a go at squeezing one of Turista’s teats, down and up. The cow gives me an odd look, no doubt wondering when I’m going to let go of her udder.

Arequipa 0

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Text by David Rocca
Photos by José Luis Bustamante & Walter Wust enchanted villa: Arequipa through the ages
The enchanted villa: Arequipa through the ages
© LivinginPeru

(LIP-wb) — Nearly 500 years after co-habiting with the smoke of volcanoes, successive earthquakes and reconstructions and countless revolutions, the people of Arequipa in Peru have preserved an odd blend of haughty native pride and provincial innocence, where courtly manners, kindness and mood swings are expressed without the slightest problem or contradiction.

The city, which is not a big one as cities go, lies in the middle of some of the prettiest countryside, and yet is solid in its magnificence, good taste and history. Some may feel UNESCO’s decision to declare Arequipa a Mankind Heritage Site a little late in coming, as Villa Hermosa de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Arequipa has long been a monument to all things Peruvian.

Rows of recently-built houses receive visitors along a well-kempt avenue. Nothing is particularly striking about the town until visitors come to a superb bridge. The Bolognesi bridge, built during the Republican era, leads directly from the district of Yanahuara to the main square in downtown Arequipa.

San Martin 0

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Text by Juan Puelles Urraca and Luis Vega Garrido
Photos by Juan Puelles Urraca, a mystery in the clouds
Kuelap, a mystery in the clouds
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(LIP-wb) — The colossal walls rise, imposing, defiant and superb. They seem to know that they are part of the great legacy of those mysterious lords of the clouds, those people who dominated the precipitous peaks of this mountainous region long ago.

We begin the ascent at eight o’ clock in the morning. Restless clouds try to hide the sun, but its warmth and brightness soon start to break through. After just fifteen minutes our breathing becomes labored and some of us begin to gasp for air. We are at three thousand meters above sea level.

The altitude takes its toll on us, but it is worth the effort. The brilliant light of the emerging sun bounces off the great wall, and we stand there for a long time, transfixed by the sight.

This is Kuélap, the marvelous legacy of the Chillao people, one of the many autonomous clans that rose to prominence in northern Peru and formed part of the Chachapoyan nation.

Ollantaytambo 0

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Text and photos by Benjamín Collantes

A golden orchid in the highlands of Ollanta, Peru

enlargeA golden orchid in the highlands of Ollanta, Peru.

(LIP-wb) — This is the colorful description of a journey into the heart of the mountains around Ollantaytambo in search of a magical orchid which for many years was hidden from Western eyes. Biologist Benjamín Collantes led the search and brought us this account, which all those who love nature and believe in its conservation will enjoy…

“You, who are in search of orchids, look higher and imagine what you may find in the heights of my temple, there where the condors fly swiftly. If you can’t see me, then you will at least see my golden tears in the form of golden orchids spread across the Andes.

They are tears of joy, not of sadness, because in these places my subjects preserve the ancient traditions and maintain my garden – a sanctuary which nobody enters or despoils”. I heard this ancient call in my dreams whilst in Ollanta, one of many remote corners in the Urubamba Valley.

In this way my restless urge to find the Orchid of the Sun was born, which I called Qoriwaqanki (“the wakanki of gold” – due to its similarity to the Masdevallia veitchiana – the orchid which is the symbol of the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary). One might think that the Qoriwaqanki is just a fantasy, but in fact it actually exists. Its botanical name is Masdevallia davisii, and it was discovered by Walter Davis in Cusco in 1873.