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Article and photos by Niko Kyriakou

Rafters departing from Nauta

enlargeThe Great Amazon River Raft Race takes off last Friday from the village of Nauta, 52 miles south of Iquitos by road.

(LIP-nk) – Late last Friday afternoon, over a hundred miles from any  city, a Peruvian Coast Guard boat lay with its nose plunged into the banks of the Amazon River. Under its white awning, a few officers dozed soundly, their radio blasting Latin tunes through the strangely calm afternoon.

Suddenly, the captain was awakened by two foreigners. Somewhere upstream, on a wooden-raft, a group of four Americans was missing, they said, and pointed towards an oncoming wall of black storm clouds.

Far upriver, the deluge had begun. Waves appeared on the surface of the river, and Micah Cantley, a 29-year-old from Dallas, Texas, began to worry.

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for map of the area - click here -Courtesy of
RUMBOS

Hatun Xauxa

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(LIP-wb) In primitive times there existed a great inter-Andean lake in the Mantaro Basin which, following a tectonic catastrophe, gave way to a ravine to the south forming the River Mantaro. Traces of this event still exist, one of them being the beautiful lagoon of Paca, in whose innermost recesses a series of precious treasures belonging to a mythical world silently endure. Overcoming the disaster, the Xauxa people settled in the new valley developing agriculture, livestock and crafts.

It was a culture devoted to the worship of the dog and, however paradoxical it may seem, it is known that after being idolized the animals were eaten, drums were made from their skins and with their heads bugles were contrived to carry to war.

Later this civilization suffered under the impact of Incan penetration; Pachacutec, a born warrior, demarcated the borders of the empire and Jauja was included in the territories of Chinchaysuyo.

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map for Andahuaylas - click hereCourtesy of
RUMBOS

Andahuaylas

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(LIP-wb) — Inhabited by the warring Chanka tribe 500 years ago, Andahuaylas is a rich farming area, producing what some call the best potatoes on Earth. Stirring landscapes, plains populated by shepherds at an altitude of 4,000 meters, fertile valleys and natural constructions rise to the sky to reveal themselves in their entire splendor.

After an hour’s tough going in the climb up to Lake Parccococha, in the highlands of San Jerónimo, the truck jolts to a halt, stirring up clouds of dust. A small calf weighing some 80 kilos is standing in the middle of the road, from where it stares at us innocently. The driver leans on his horn, but the animal does not bat an eyelid, but rather, its sleepy eyes invite us to sunbathe and chew on some grass. In the middle of a vast plain populated only by shepherds, at 4,000 meters, where the hours of sunshine are the animals’ only ally to ward off the perishing cold that pervades these desolate wastes.

We are in Andahuaylas, the second largest province in the Apurímac department. We have traveled more than 800 km by road from Lima. Given the solitude of this countryside, we have frequently come across horses, cows and sheep standing in the middle of the road. Usually a blast of the horn does the trick, but sometimes, like on this occasion, our city method of transport has come up against the horns of our unimpressed companions.

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for map - click here -Courtesy of
RUMBOS

Ayacucho - Where Art Is Life, Peru

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(LIP-wb) The years of terror were incapable of crushing the fervor for Ayacucho folk art, which thrived despite events, the faithful descendants of the Wari tribe. But today the battle to keep their traditions alive rages on another front: the market and demand. The master craftsmen can survive on their talent and the beauty of their work, but the others will have to give into the market or be crushed.

The hands of these master artisans have overcome the ravages of time, vanquishing the years of political violence and the tears that marked their lives like a red-hot iron brand. The wounds left by more than a decade of terrorism have almost healed, and today the folk artists of Ayacucho ban boast of having survived two daunting threats: the tendency for their art to fall into oblivion in the middle of the last century, and a vicious insurgency that drove them from their communities and scared tourism away from their lands.

But today, these creators who have earned international acclaim face a fresh challenge: the hard times their art is up against due to the impositions of today’s market. Not all, but a sizable number all the same have had to swap objects meant for contemplation for those of a more utilitarian nature, which enjoy more demand in a squeezed market.

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