Peru

THE HERITAGE OF THE INCAS

Situated on the Pacific Ocean coast, Peru is bordered by Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, and Chile. The name Peru is derived from Biru, the name of an Inca chief who lived near Panama, the northernmost frontier of the Incas. When his possessions were visited by Spaniards in 1528, they came to be designated Biru or Peru.

Machu Pichu Peru

Peru is famous for being the land of the Incas. Before them, many civilizations lived in Peru area: Machicas, Chimus, Aymaras, Nazcas (who traced the famous lines), Quetchuas… Today, Quetchuas and Aymaras form almost the whole of ethnic Indians. The Incas were a small Quetchua tribe, among many others. Inca means “ruler” or “chief” in their language. Despite the fact that they left as heritage hundreds of monuments and cities, they ruled over their territory for ONLY one century (from early 15 th to 16th centuries, that is just before the Spaniards arrived). The Inca Empire was the largest in pre-Columbian America, including large parts of the Andean mountain ranges, modern Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Colombia.

The Incas revealed their genius in territorial administration management. They built up roads throughout all their empire. Thanks to a special system of communication, it took 5 days to a message to cross the 2,000 km of the Incas extension. They proved themselves very skillful in architecture. They built their strongholds with megalithic stones. They have an irregular polygonal shape, like a puzzle, and fit into each other with great precision. You cannot introduce the blade of a knife between them. Another talent of the Incas is agriculture. They used a complicated system of astronomical calendars, advanced scientific and engineering knowledge to cultivate their crops in difficult conditions. Culture on terraces is one of their best achievements.

Inca terraces had many functions: first, to allow horizontal cultivation on steep mountain flanks; the vertical walls were exposed to the sun, acting as natural heaters, thus favoring growing of crops. Terraces adjoining fortresses served as defensive walls. The terraces have a structure made of slightly sloped layers of stones, sand and clay that worked as an inner irrigation system. This method allowed Incas to grow crops on top of mountains, like on the Machu Pichu! Many varieties of crops were grown by Incas: 35 varieties of corn, 15 species of tomato, 350 varieties of potatoes. Today, Peruvian markets still show an impressive variety of these crops. Archeologists have even found traces of Incas’ pop-corn!

Arequipa Market

Peru is one of the biggest biodiversity in the world, as a big part of its territory is the Amazonian forest. Condors and pumas are traditional symbol of Peru. Llamas, living in the Andes, are of the same family as camels. The name llama comes from Quetchua, even if Spaniards wrote it like in the sentence “¿Como se llama?” (what’s the name for this?). They are extremely affective animals, like dogs. Hummingbirds are also very common.

Andean Llama

The first day in Peru, after my 30-hour journey from Moscow to Cuzco, I ended up in hospital. I was victim of Soroche, or altitude sickness. Cuzco is situated 3400 meters high. The difference of atmospheric pressure and lack of oxygen can give you horrible headache. The only remedy is rest, inhaling oxygen or chewing LOADS of coca leaves. After a few day of acclimatization, you can easily go up to 5000 meters high or more. You can avoid Soroche by going higher only progressively, up to 2000 meters the first day for example. One of the most elevated territories in Peru is near Bolivia;

Lake Titicaca. Culminating at 3800 m, it’s the highest navigable lake in the world. The name comes from Aymaras language and means “grey puma”.

lac titicaca

Ceviche is to Peru what sushi is to Japan; A culinary symbol. It is made of raw fish marinated with lime juice and red onions. Its is absolutely delicious, especially with a Chilean Sauvignon blanc, such as Castillo del Diablo. Peruvian cuisine is truly one of the best and the most various in the world. Another traditional dish from Peru is the cute guinea pig. This animal is easy to breed in any condition for mountain peasants.

The last thing is good news: a new air connection has just been launched from Paris to Lima. It makes 3 cities, along with Amsterdam and Madrid with a flight to Peru. Let’s hope it will make air fare lower.

Peru salt

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  • © Sebastian Zelechowski, Moscow 2011
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