I hadn’t seen glaciers like these since I left my home in South Georgia. My friends and I went on several expeditions with horses and donkeys, guided by local people, to some rarely-visited mountains. In a range of mountains called Nevados Jacabamba (‘Nevados’ means ‘snow-covered peaks’ – like the Sierra Nevada in California), I climbed up very high. I reached 5,300 metres (well over 17,000 feet) which is really cool for a penguin, don’t you think? It was a little scary and I got very out-of-breath. The air is thin at these heights and people who aren’t used to it suffer with mountain sickness (called sorroche). But because the air is thin and clean, you can see for vast distances. And at night, it’s freezing cold (lovely!) and the starry skies are fantastic fishbecause the air’s thin and there’s no light pollution from towns. The Milky Way is like a bright glowing band right across the sky. There are also delicious fish (trout, truchas in Spanish) in the streams so I had plenty to eat.
On the way to the Cordillera Huayhuash, I vifierce puma carvingsited some remote Inca ruins called Huanuco Viejo. This used to be a town and fortress on one of the long highways which connected the Inca empire. (You’ll find out more about the Incas and how the invading Spanish conquistadors destroyed their empire when you go to the ‘Cuzco and the Incas’ page of my slide shows.) Then I went on a really big expedition with my friends and some local people to the beautiful valley and mountains of Jacabamba in the eastern Cordillera Blanca.
Click here to see my slide show (16 slides)
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Ice and food
I’m sorry to say that not all is well in these beautiful mountains. It’s because of global warming. The ice and snow are melting faster than they’re forming. This means the glaciers (a glacier is a ‘river’ of ice which flows very slowly down from the highest mountains into the valleys below) are getting smaller. So what? you might wonder.Well you see much of Perú’s farming goes on in the fertile river valleys near the coast – where it never rains. The farmers need water to put on the plants they grow. Up until now, they’ve had a year-round supply which they could take from the rivers. But the rivers depend on melting snow and ice to keep them running all year. If there’s less and less ice, then there’s less and less water. The rivers may even dry up. No water, no crops, no food.
This is a big worry for Perú’s largest city: Lima. Lima is home to millions of people and it depends for all its water on the Rimac river. The amount of water in this once-large river gets smaller each year because there’s so little ice left up in the mountains. What will all these people do with no water? Millions of poor people live in terrible shanty towns surrounding the city. They have no running water and have to carry their water in tins or buckets from the nearest tap or buy from water-sellers. Can you imagine that? And things can only get worse for them.
To see my guide to global warming, click here.