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September 27, 2006 16:50:09

Andahuaylas - Peru's hidden plains

map for Andahuaylas - click hereCourtesy of
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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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