THE ANDES´ CROSSING ROUTE
THE ANDES: Etymologically, the word “Andes” could have its origin in the Quechua word “anti” which means “mountain top”, or in another, which is “Antisuyu”, and means “Region of the Antis”, as the Antis were jungle native ethnic groups, allied to the Incas. There also are other theories regarding the etymology of “Andes”, but, the above-mentioned is the most accepted one.
The Andes´ Cordillera is a mountain range system situated between 11° and 56° of North and South latitudes, and runs through Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and part of Venezuela. Its average altitude is of about 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) above sea level, with numerous summits that surpass 6,000 meters (19,695 feet) above sea level, and is the longest mountain range system in the world, as it extends, from South to North, on a distance of about 7,500 km (4,660 miles), along the Pacific Ocean´s coast.
Geologically speaking, it was formed at the end of the Cretaceous Era, due to the Nazca Plate´s subduction or under-lapping movements, as it exerted great pressure underneath the South American Continental Plate. Thus seismic movements and, later on, volcanic activity, as well as erosion have configured its relief. So, in its present morphology, there are elevated mountain ranges, extensive high plateaus and deep valleys, as the Andes´ Cordilleras become wider, in their central section, to form an elevated plain, known as the High Plateau, which is shared between Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru.
In Southern Peru, the Andes´ Crossing Route precisely runs from West to East or from East to West, across those mountain ranges, high plateaus and valleys, where ancient cultures have developed and, today, Andean populations, that display singular and interesting characteristics. There, the high plateau stands-out for offering the adequate conditions for raising South American camelids, such as the vicuña, huanacu, alpaca and lama that you´ll have opportunities to observe and take pictures of, as we go through these places.
“THE ANDES´ CROSSING ROUTE”
Paracas, 250 km (155 miles) South of Lima, was an important pre-Colombian civilization that developed between 700 b.C. and 200 a.D. The Paracas stood-out for their high quality wool and cotton textile works, as well as for their decorated ceramics and quite elaborated basket weaving works. They also used to perform trepanations, the aim of which is still being discussed.
The Paracas National Reserve was created on September 25 of 1975, in order to conserve a portion of Peru´s Sea and desert, as it protects wild species of flora and fauna that live and develop there, such as sea lions, penguins of Humboldt, dolphins, flamencos or “parihuanas” and other birds.
The Candlestick is engraved in cream-colored rock which is mainly covered by sand, in such a way that the sand never gets to completely erase the Candlestick´s shape, due to the fact that coastal and oceanic winds constantly sweep the excess sand out of the engraved canals. Up to present days, it is believed that Paracas´ Candlestick is related to Nazca´s Lines and Geogliphs.
The Nazca Culture developed in the Grande River Valley, in the middle of the desert, in today´s Province of Nazca, and had its main urban center in Kawachi which was discovered by Max Uhle, in 1901. There, they managed to develop agriculture, thanks to the construction of numerous subterranean canals and aqueducts that allowed them to rationally take advantage of underground water reserves, as well as of water springs and the rivers´ water current, when these were high, and some of these ancient hydraulic works are still used by present-day farmers.
THE NAZCA LINES, situated between kilometers 419 and 465 of today´s South Pan American Highway, extend over an area of 350 km2 (135 miles2), and are huge lines and designs that can be observed from a plane, the nearby hills or, even, from an observation tower that was built for that purpose, by the edge of the road.
The Inter-Oceanic Road is the Andes´Crossing Route that connects Peru with Brazil, from Brazil´s Atlantic coast, to the Peruvian Pacific coast, and allows the crossing of the whole central part of South America, while, in Peru, it runs from San Juan de Marcona, near Nazca, to Inhapri (Iniapari), on the border between Peru and Brazil, and passes by Cusco.
The three longitudinal regions, from the North to the South of Peru, have a biogeographic correspondence related with the country´s climate and biodiversity, given that the coastal region stands-out for being of subtropical desert-like climate, as it is part of the South American Pacific Desert, while the mountainous region constitutes the central part of the territory, and is formed by the Andes´ Cordillera. Therefore, it has a mountainous climate that ranges from subtropical, in high jungle regions, for example, to cold, in altitude.
The region we are going to cross is precisely located between 1,950 m. (6,397 ft.) and 4,200 m. (13,779 ft.) in altitude, which will allow us to observe impressive mountainous landscapes, as well as valleys, snowcapped summits and lagoons.
Pampa Galeras is located 2½ hours from Nazca, at an altitude of 4,000 m. (13,123 ft.), going up the “Cuesta del Borracho”, to the Andes´ largest vicuña reserve, with about 40,000 animals, on 6,500 hectares.
Puquio is land of harpists, scissor dancers and “toreros”, with its corrugated metal sheet roofs shining on the horizon. From that inter-Andean valley to the Negro Mayo Puna (Altitude) area, at 4,200 m. (13,123 ft.) above sea level, we´ll be going by shepherd communities and colorful lagoons´ water mirrors.
Chalhuanca is situated in Peru´s Central South, at 2,897 meters (9,504 feet) above sea level, on the Oriental slopes of the Andes´ Cordillera and Crossing Route, on the right bank of the Chalhuanca River, and has a population of nearly 28,000 inhabitants, mainly dedicated to agriculture, livestock breeding and raising, and mining activities. So, this is where we´ll spend the night, at the TAMPU MAYO HOTEL.
118 km (73 miles) from Chalhuanca, traveling along an inter-Andean valley, we´ll get to the city of Abancay; capital city of the Department of Apurímac, at 2,377 meters (7,798 feet) in altitude, with its mild and dry climate, which is currently the center of activities of important mining companies that process gold, silver and copper, and impulse the local economy.
Abancay conserves a long tradition of haciendas that made history with beauty, pain, artistic expressions, resentment and progress. Some of these haciendas have their origin in the early Spanish Colonization period and, others, in the last two centuries´ regional developments.
In that history, it is worth highlighting what is called “gamonalism”, when, once the Colony´s time period over, important farmers exploited the natives and mestizo peasants, as they took possession of their land, and disposed of their work. These were the “mistis”, gentlemen farmers or bosses; that is to say, the “gamonales” who would mark their colons with a red-hot iron, and made the natives fear their whip, or those who would feel compassion, and would get drunk with them, in their festivities.
Once again, we´ll start going up in altitude, on the Andes´ Crossing Route, alongside snowcapped Mount Ampay, to get to Saywite; a mysterious granite monolith, of 4 meters (13 feet) in diameter, and 2.30 m. (7 ft.) in height, with its upper part, completely sculpted, that displays animals, plants, benched terraces, corridors and houses, as though it were a scale model of the surrounding region.
Curahuasi is an Andean locality, where Peru´s best anise and linen are produced. Then, the Apurímac River appears, winding its way amidst the mountains, as it sets the boundary between the departments of Apurímac and Cusco.
Lima Tambo is the next town, on our journey, in the Limatambo Valley, where the archaeological site of Tarawasi is located, in which three beautiful two-floor high Incan walls stand-out, as well as some haciendas, on the way, that are surrounded by characteristic palm trees.
Then, a little further along, on the Andes´ Crossing Route, the Pampas de Anta are Cusco´s agricultural stock area, and Zurite conserves one of the country´s largest set of Incan benched terraces, as well as the magical site of the Temple of the Moon or Quillarumiyoc, in Quechua.
Cusco is the capital city of the department that bears the same name, with a population close to 500,000 inhabitants, and is officially recognized as Peru´s Historical Capital City, given that, in Incan times, it was the capital city of the Tahuantinsuyu (Incan Empire). Then, during the Vice-Regal period, Cusco was one of Peru´s most important cities, because, once in Spanish hands, it was sown with Baroque and Neo-Classical churches, palaces and squares which ended-up converting it in present-day Peru´s main tourist destination, as it was declared as World Cultural Heritage Site, by the UNESCO, in 1983 and, today, it WELCOMES US, as our final destination, at the end of our unforgettable trip.