SSoP Podcast Ep. 20 — Peru: Andes Adventures, Fusion Food, and Piles of Gold

SSoP Podcast Ep. 20 — Peru: Andes Adventures, Fusion Food, and Piles of Gold

Monday, 30 November, 2020

Peru is South America’s geographical triple-threat with beach-front desert on the Pacific coast, the Andes mountains (the second-highest range in the world), and dense Amazon rainforest. It’s also astonishingly beautiful with craggy peaks, lush greenery, lakes the color of aquamarines and sapphires, and so many very (very, very) cute llamas and alpacas.

The history and politics of Peru are as challenging as its rugged terrain. About 500 years ago, the Incas ruled a vast empire. But during a 36-year war, a group of just 168 conquistadors — lead by Francisco Pizarro — brought the Inca empire of about 10 million people to an end. Peru became a Spanish colony and, much later, finally won its independence, only to be bedeviled by presidents, coups, dictatorships, and internal terrorist attacks.

All of that aside, modern Peru is a mystical wonderland for travelers. There’s the aerie of Machu Picchu and the wonder of the Nazca Lines carved in the desert, plus night-time jungle excursions and tours on rope bridges amid the treetops of the Amazon. There’s also stunning architecture in the cosmopolitan cities of Lima, Cuzco, and Arequipa, where you can visit museums by day, then dine of world-class cuisine and sip pisco sours by night.

In this episode, we explore the history and culture of the country that naturalist Alexander von Humboldt called ‘a beggar, sitting on a bench of gold.’ And we recommend six books that capture the Peruvian magic: two memoirs that illuminate Peru’s enchanted landscapes, two cookbooks that explore the culture and fusion cuisine, a detailed account of Incas vs. conquistadors, and a gorgeous novel of friendship and adventure.


Read the full transcript of Episode 20: Peru.

The Last Days Of The Incas

buy | read review

Turn Right at Machu Picchu

buy | read review


buy | read review

The Fire of Peru

buy | read review

The Boiling River

buy | read review

The Bedlam Stacks

buy | read review

other books we mentioned


other cool stuff we talked about

  • Yma Sumac: Yma Sumac was a Peruvian coloratura soprano with a 4-octave range who was a descendent of the Inca emperor Atahualpa. She was one of the most famous singers of exotica music during the 1950s. Enjoy the vocal gymnastics.
  • Nazca Lines: These are a collection of enormous designs sort of etched into the coastal desert outside Cusco. There are more than 300 simple geometric shapes, including triangles, rectangles, spirals, arrows, and wavy lines. There are also about 70 animals, including a spider, hummingbird, a cactus, a monkey, a whale, a llama, and many more. In October 2020, a new glyph of a cat was discovered on a hillside.
nazca lines in peru
Nazca Lines in Peru. Photos courtesy of Fábio Hanashiro.
  • Rainbow Mountain: Rainbow Mountain is found in the Andes and has an altitude of 17,060 feet/5,200 meters above sea level. It’s about a 2-hour drive from Cusco, and to get in photo range, you’ll need to walk about 3 miles/5 kilometers. The colors are due to the mountain’s composition of various minerals. Here are 11 things to know before you visit Rainbow Mountain.
rainbow mountain in peru
Rainbow Mountain. Photo courtesy of Johnson Wang.
  • Chasquis: Chasqui is a Quechua word that means ‘mail’ or ‘person of relay.’ The chasqui was a young runner, considered the personal messenger of the Inca, that carried a message or message in the postal system throughout the empire. Read more about the chasquis.

  • Quipu: A quipu, or knot-record, was a method used by the Incas and other ancient Andean cultures to keep records and communicate information. It’s amazing. Ancient History Encyclopedia has a pretty good overview, and this video is great:

  • Los Saicos punk band: One of punk’s best-kept secrets, Los Saicos were the original Peruvian proto-punks. After storming onto the Peruvian music scene, Los Saicos rocked for only a little over a year but left a lasting influence on the sixties’ sound and future punk to come. Their big hit was ‘Demolicion.’
  • Poop coffee: As David explained, coffee passed through the intestinal tract of an animal is all the rage. Here’s an NPR story about the worlds’ most expensive, which passes through an elephant. And here’s the story on the coffee from Peru that passes through the raccoon-like coati.

  • Interview with Mark Adams: The author of our recommended book Turn Right at Machu Picchu gives his expert advice on visiting Machu Picchu. Also, there are 47 photos, so definitely click through. (And here’s the Men’s Journal list of 50 greatest adventure books.

  • Martin Morales: Martin Morales is the author of our recommended cookbook Ceviche. In this video, he takes us to his homeland of Peru to talk about Peruvian food.

  • The Boiling River TED Talk: This is the TED talk from Andrés Ruzo that led him to write our recommended book The Boiling River.



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Top image courtesy of Hans Luiggi.

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This weekend, why not go exploring in the snow-capped mountains of Peru? You'll be swept up in local folklore, face your greatest fears, and find your truest friendship. You might also get caught up in a gunfight!
Forget corn chips and margaritas! We're about to upgrade your snack time with irresistibly crunchy-salty corn from Peru, washed down with a tangy, zingy pisco sour. This is snacking, Peruvian-style. Cheers to you!
Feast your eyes on Peru's colorful, vibrant fusion cuisine and the mind-boggling beauty of its scenery. From Pacific beaches to the tippy-top of the Andean mountains, Peru is a destination to fuel your imagination.
The stir-fry dish known as Lomo Saltado is the perfect representation of Peru's fusion cuisine where East meets West, a flavorful, savory recipe that combines Peruvian chile peppers and pisco with Chinese soy sauce.
Dare you to not be enchanted by all that Peru has to offer. Friendly people, Incan ruins perched on mist-shrouded mountaintops, irresistible fusion cuisine, beaches and jungles and colonial architecture. And llamas.

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