Andes Mountains Peru

At 7200 km, the Andes – the longest mountain chain in the world, forms the backbone of South America. The range stretches from Colombia down to southern Chile and Argentina and is made up of dozens of parallel mountain ranges known as cordilleras. In Peru, these ranges cluster together, providing trekkers with easy access to some of the world’s highest peaks outside the Himalayas.

Except for the most rugged and remote areas, the Peruvian Andes are not altogether untouched wilderness. Every single piece of arable land is farmed by local campesinos.

The formidable Peruvian sierra, or mountainous region, was conquered by the Incas, whose terraced system of agriculture enabled large areas of steep yet fertile land to be cultivated. This ancient system is still employed in some areas, and countless remains of ancient terracing give an insight into the productivity achieved by this civilization.

Passing through these remote, yet populated areas is a bit like stepping back into the past. One or two room huts constructed of crude adobe bricks and topped with ichu grass have changed little in design since Inca times. There is no electricity and water is drawn from a nearby stream. Small courtyards house chickens and cuy or guinea pig, considered a delicacy in the sierra. Corn and other grains can often be seen drying in the midday sun.

Trekking in the Andes – Tips

One of the best places for trekking information is the South American Explorer’s Club in Lima. Membership fee is USD40. Their office at Avenida Portugal 146, Brena , keeps reports of trails, maps and books. Another good place for trekking advice is the Casa de Guias in Huaraz.

Bring down jacket and plenty of warm clothes for very cold nights at 4000 meters and above. A tent and a good sleeping back are essential. To be certain of good quality equipment, it is best to bring your won, but it can be hired in the major trekking centers. Check the quality of what you hire, since items are often the worse for wear.

Before setting off, spend a couple of days getting used to the thin, high-altitude air around Cuzco and Huaraz or you will quickly become exhausted. It you are trekking independently (no longer possible on the Inca Trail), stock up on food, you won’t be able to buy anything on the way. A stove for cooking is essential – there is no wood for fires at higher altitudes and using up scarce reserves at lower level only adds to the serious problem of soil erosion in the areas. And of course no litter what so ever should be left behind. A guide who knows the area well can be invaluable – ask around, as competence varies.

Virgin Australia