Deepest Darkest Peru

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One of my touring favourites is Peru. When it comes to a culture change, this country is in a league of its own, the people, food and the geography is second to none.

Peru has very diverse geographical regions. From north to south the coastal area is desert or semi desert. Only where rivers coming down from the Andean range bring sufficient water to flow through to the sea are lands cultivated. Invariably the coastal cities grew around these rivers. To the East of this desert strip (40 kilometers wide on average) is the sierra of the Andes.
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Carole & I have traveled 1000’s of miles in this vast country, from Lima, north to the Cordillera Blanca, Yun gay, Huaraz and Cajamarca where David Groves (Adventure Peru Motorcycling) has a House 10.000 feet high in the Mountains. The mountain’s and scenery are stunning. The Arequipa Cannon is also called the valley of the Condors. To watch these amazing creatures flying below you & around you is a must for anyone who is entranced by a once in a life time spectacle like this. Also to bike to see the great Glacier near Huaraz is a must. To see & walk on that magnificent ice flow is amazing.
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You can access the coast riding in a day from Chiclayo down the Pan Americana to outskirts of Lima. The road transits desert and great beaches. So many historic sites to see, all so different. From the mountains, to the beaches & the jungle. Each with its’ own uniqueness.
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South of Lima there is some fabulous riding From Asia on the coast across to the famous Nazca Lines, Lake Titicaca , Cusco, and of course Machu Picchu, not forgetting Arequipa with its fantastic desert and volcanos. If the excitement from biking is not enough the flight over Nazca will get the bloods flowing & the coach ride to see Machu Picchu skirting the edges of the mountains just might.
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The highest mountains are located in the department of Ancash although in the south of the country there are also many high peaks. The Cordillera Blanca of Ancash is the highest tropical mountain range in the World with 27 snow covered peaks over 6,000 metres in height.
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Further to the East the mountains diminish and become the area known as the Selva Alta - a lush warm area ideal for the cultivation of cocoa, coffee, and coca. To ride through the cloud forest in the area of Celendin & Chachapoyas is indeed an experience that you will never forget. To know that you are above the clouds looking miles down into the vallies is just incredible. Finally to the East and in fact half of Peru's territory is the jungle. Only 10% of the population of Peru live in this region. Transportation here is largely by river. Air transportation also is important to this area.
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Motorcycling here is breathtaking. Riding over the mountain passes is not for the faint hearted.
The roads are similar to Bolivia, one minute you are in a valley and the next along a ridge with a thousand foot drop, trying to pass trucks and busses on a road just wide enough to take one vehicle. That keeps you wide awake and you know the wife’s on the back because you can feel the grip getting tighter. All in all it makes the ride exhilarating and wanting more. The country is so diverse with a lot of poverty. This though means that a lot of the country has not changed. So much traditional clothing is still worn in the country. Along with this comes fantastic colors’ & handicrafts.
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Traditional farming & housing adds to the culture shock & joy. Some of the remote towns are like going back to the middle ages still. When we travelled many of the roads were still gravel & untarmacked. With each year more roads even in the remotest areas are being covered. In some ways this has taken away some of the fun. But to many riders this improves their enjoyment.
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Being entirely within the tropics one might suppose that Peru maintains high temperatures throughout the year, but in fact various factors contribute to give regions very different climatic conditions. The northern coastal area receives little rain and in the south virtually none. The cold Humbolt Current keeps all but the extreme north relatively cool along the coast (55-80 degrees F.) The sierra has a rainy season between October and April and the temperature is directly in relation to the altitude. A town situated at 3,000 mts above sea level would have an average temperature of around 70 F during the day, dropping to perhaps 40 F or lower at night. In the jungle area it can rain at any time and conditions are of course usually hot and humid. Peru is perhaps unusual, but not unique, in the sense that one could find a location between these climatic extremes that be ideal for any personal preference at any time of the year.
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The main national highway is the `Panamericana´ which was completed in 1941. The entire route of 2,700 kilometres between Tumbes (frontier with Ecuador) and Tacna (frontier with Chile) is asphalted. Roads of the sierra however are far more difficult to maintain because of the climatic conditions and for the difficult terrain. It can be dangerous to travel on certain routes during the rainy season due to landslides and rockfalls. According to the Direcion General de Caminos the road system totals 73,766 kms of which only 12% is asphalted.
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There are two official languages in Peru - Castellano (Spanish) and Quechua (the Inca language).The latest consensus establishes that 80% of the population speak Castellano as the mother tongue, 16% Quechua, and 4% other languages such as Aymara and tribal languages of the Amazonian jungle. The country's religion is predominately Catholic.
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Peru is one of the top five countries in the World for biological diversity. Within its territory exist over 40,000 species of flora, of which only 20,000 have been scientifically registered. Peru has a variety of 1,700 bird species , 362 different mammals and 296 kinds of reptile.
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The Peruvian people are usually friendly and interested in other cultures . Many families have a relative or two living abroad. The main motive for this is for economical advancement although many young people are studying abroad with the intention to return on completion of their course.
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I have been involved setting up tours and exhibitions working with some fantastic people over the last 11 years, dealing with interested parties who wish to enjoy the pleasures of Peru has been a joy in every sense.

Mark Stone.
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