So much of life is the result of a beer or two or more, and Matthew confessed to me that his first trip to Peru was one of those results. We met at the Royal Geographic Society where he was giving a talk on Peru, about which he is passionate. His book Inca Cola is regarded as one of the seminal travel tales about the country, it’s very funny, and he keeps llamas at his home in France, so what further proof is needed of his devotion? When I asked what exactly drew him to Peru, he explained that it was the extraordinarily diverse geography of the place, with the Atacama desert sands, high Andean plains, cloud forest, Lake Titicaca and of course, the Amazonian rainforest, all within a few hundred miles. He loves to get out into the untamed regions and explore, relishing the freedom and the magnificent scenery. When Matthew talks about Peru, it’s hard to imagine him cloistered in the chamber at Westminster.
I have always been curious about the Amazonian rainforest and Matthew suggested the best way to really experience it is either by flying in or taking a motor boat twenty or thirty miles up one of the tributaries and staying in an encampment, then taking hikes in the forest to see its utterly remarkable vegetation and wildlife. He finds the Andes exciting too, particularly the idea that there are areas of mountainside that have never been walked on by humans. He told the story of finding an Andean bear paw print but never finding the bear. I felt a Yeti moment coming on.
Lima has had a poor reputation in the past I commented and Matthew defended it, saying that it’s changed over the years from a rather run down city with poor facilities, to a more modern working capital where you can happily spend a few days in good accommodation, enjoying interesting museums and jolly good food, which is gaining an international presence too. What about safety and security I asked, and was briskly told that there is no need for excessive concern.
There are of course stunning, unique, world famous sites to enjoy alongside the geographical intensity, Machu Picchu, Sacsahuaman, Pisac, Moray and Cusco, the heart of the Inca Empire, for starters. Matthew has visited Peru many times and he told me he will keep returning as there’s just so much more to see. I just hope that after a few beers, high in the mountains, he does actually spot that Andean bear one day.
Listen to Matthew talking to Jennie.
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