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In the Heart of the Andes

Village of Ahuac, Huancavelica, Peru

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Village of Ahuac,in the charming Mantaro Valley, seen from the Arwaturo archaeological site.

(LIP-wb) — This story takes us along the backbone of Peru, from the bucolic to the commercial, through the Mantaro Valley, then on the Macho Train to forgotten Huancavelica and its sacred mountains, old colonial mines and scissor dancers.

Our adventure ended, via the Liberator highway, with the blessing of the Beatita de Humay, close to the ocean at Pisco.

You could say that history literally crossed our path, because the Mantaro Valley is essentially a cattle area and we had just left the Santa Ana hacienda, which survived the rigors of the years of agricultural reform and terrorist incursions, and is now a peaceful guesthouse.

And history crossed our path because a crowd of people and bulls appeared suddenly on the road, causing our driver, Valois Llanos, to brake sharply. This was the Chupaca fair, an old cattle ranching tradition.

We took the opportunity to check out prices: bulls for 2000 soles, horses 500, donkeys 200, pigs 100, and sheep for as little as 20 soles.

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Ancient cedar tree known as the The Grandfather

enlargeAncient cedar tree known as the The Grandfather, more than three metres in diameter and forty metres tall, in the heart of Pampa Hermosa.

LIP-wb) — After years of struggle, Pampa Hermosa has been declared a Reserved Zone by INRENA. It is to be hoped that the ancient cedars and elegant cocks-of-the-rock, together with the human inhabitants of the region, will benefit from this measure.

If a serious eco-tourism project is to be proposed – one that would bring benefits without destroying resources – then it would surely flourish. Who wouldn’t want to visit a virgin forest just six hours from Lima?

The branches scraped and clawed at our clothes as we climbed to Pampa Hermosa among dripping trees that stood erect, defying the steep slope that was in places vertiginous. The creepers and lichen danced in our faces as our guide Elmer Mapelli stood in front of what appeared to be the long tails of dinosaurs. We raised our eyes to face an enormous tree. The dinosaur tails, higher than our heads, were the colossal roots that fixed it to the earth.

“This is the Grandfather, it is a cedar more than six hundred years old, but a logger could fell it in less than three hours”. That is what Elmer said eight years ago. But I remember it as if it were yesterday.

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The Sea Of Lost Time

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LIP-wb) There are two places in Peru where pleasure rubs shoulders with history: Colán and Cabo Blanco. The coastline that borders the desert department of Piura is a scenery of serene beauty.

Pure white sands, solitary beaches, a balmy sea, epic sunsets, fishermen about their tasks, local cooking based on seafood, and a sense of tranquility not to be found on beaches anywhere else on Earth: these are sufficient arguments to explain the fascination that those in the know feel for these shores, the only ones in Peru that enjoy a tropical climate.

What is more, Colán and Cabo Blanco are two spots in a region that hide a great deal of history.

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Sipán Museum

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(LIP-wb)– The November 2002 opening of the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum, in Lambayeque, marked an important step for the conservation of the almost two thousand pieces which traveled around the world before finally finding a home in this building conceived in the style of the mausoleums of the ancient Mochica culture.

The story began in the summer of 1987, when the Chiclayo police force arrested a gang of thieves who had sacked a Sipán tomb and confiscated several pieces, including an important gold mask. This incident alerted Walter Alva, who immediately organized an emergency plan aimed at combating the constant threats to the region’s archaeological remains.

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Paracas

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LIP-wb) The goal: to walk the entire Paracas Peninsula, but not in the style of other walkers. Our aim was to literally walk around the headland, climbing every hill and dune, from the beach known as Atenas to the fish restaurants of Lagunillas. Forty-one kilometers with the Pacific to our right and the desert to our left…

Text: Stephen Light.
Photos: Victor Villanueva.

The tracks of foxes, of barefoot fishermen, of fishermen’s motorcycles. Red ochre, yellow ochre. A blue, infinite sky. Sweat and the breaking of the waves. The wind lifting the sand that absorbs one’s every footfall and erases the line between land and sky, sea and sky.

Such are the impressions gathered by the walker’s senses as he treks around the Paracas coastline.

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Leaping from the highlands to the jungle in just one hour

Tarma and the Chanchamayo Valley

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(LIP-wb) Accompany us on a journey by road to two of the most beautiful, and most frequently-visited, destinations in the central highlands. Tarma, an enclave of flowers and fertile fields, and the Chanchamayo valley – all the beauty of the central jungle region within easy reach. Fasten your seatbelt and join us!

Tarma, “The Pearl of the Andes”, is located just 56 km from La Oroya. It is reached along a descending, serpentine road that passes through some of the most beautiful farmland in the country. This famous landscape of mountains and rolling fields is a patchwork of different-colored crops – vegetables, barley and especially the multi-colored flowers grown to supply Lima’s markets.

Among the smallholdings, great eucalyptus trees rise majestically, and full-bodied weeping willows accompany the river as it meanders through the valley. Many of the houses are still roofed with red tiles, conferring added charm to the area. Tarma was founded by the Spanish in 1538, but it wasn’t until the government of General Odría – a tarmeño in love with his homeland – that the city began to develop.

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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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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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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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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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