/ On the couch with 'Peru Guru' Andreas Holland
When it comes to learning about the best that South America can offer, Andreas Holland is your go-to person. He's Australia’s leading Latin American specialist, having lived in various parts of South America for the past 30 years and is arguably one of the world's most experienced and animated Latin America presenters.
We sat down with Andreas to find out more about his affinity to South America, learn about some of his greatest guiding moments and uncover some of Peru's best kept secrets.
How did you end up being a World Expeditions guide and Peru expert?
My wife Rachel and I had been guiding trips in the highlands and rainforests of Peru for a few years in the early 1980s when we were contacted by a company called Australian Himalayan Expeditions – one of Australia’s pioneering adventure travel companies.
Exploring the Cordillera Vilcanota range in the Peruvian Andes.
Within a few years the company changed its name to World Expeditions to comply with the greater number of destinations to which they offered adventure travel enthusiasts a huge variety of very original itineraries.
They were looking for someone to manage their operations. In Peru and since Rachel and I had lived in Peru since arriving in the late 1970s we had taken a great interest in both the remarkable culture and history of Peru and as former teachers were quite good at learning and remembering facts about this remarkable country.
Combined with our knowledge of trek routes and the fact we spoke Spanish meant we were treated as ‘experts’ and were asked to operate World Expeditions trips there.
What’s your earliest hiking memory?
My very earliest hiking memory was a camping trip along the Tepiricuay River in Paraguay where I had lived for many years. I was probably only nine or ten-years-old and was accompanying my older brothers and sister, which proved to be quite an adventure. It was a very wild country and I remember eating anything we caught and cooking it over an open fire with wild jungle sounds that made the nights an unforgettable cacophony!
What is it about Peru that attracts people?
Unquestionably its iconic sites like Machu Picchu or the Nazca Lines – but there is far more to Peru than that. It has such an incredible geography with superb desert coastlines, beautiful snow peaks, the longest range of mountains in the world and spectacular rainforests which makes up half of the country. Add to that the fact that it is becoming known as one of the best food destinations in the world – it has 3 of the 50 best restaurants in the world!
Glistening peaks of the Andes in Peru
Tell us about the first time you saw Machu Picchu?
In 1979, Rachel and I had been working on an archaeological dig near the start of the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and as a treat we decided to take a weekend trip with our first son Quino who was just two-years-old at the time down river to Aguas Calientes to soak in its famous hot springs (in those days still surrounded by cloud forest!).
The next day we had a free morning and headed up to that famous site about which we had read and heard so much and, despite feeling we knew it, we were absolutely stunned by its beauty not just of the perfect stonework in its hundreds of building and terraces but also its utterly unique and spectacular location surrounded by jagged forest covered peaks!
During the last 35 years, I have been to Machu Picchu many hundreds of times and it still has a huge impact on me – it is quite simply astonishing.
Beautiful views of Machu Picchu
For tourists, what do you think is Peru’s best kept secret?
I would have to say the north of Peru with its wonderful archaeological sites dating back to the earliest pre Inca coastal cultures like the Moche and Chimu and the mysterious Chachapoyas (or Warriors of the Clouds) culture with its magical sites like Kuelap in the Amazonian Region of Peru.
Travelling on high mountain trails on the Ausangate trek.
If I had a month’s holiday in South America where would you recommend exploring?
Trekking in the Vilcabamba Range in Peru and the Cordillera Real range in Bolivia plus time in Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Lake Titicaca.
Add to that a couple of days in Lima to try some of its brilliant seafood restaurants and a visit to the excellent Larco Museum and perhaps a 3 or 4 day extension to stay at one of the best rainforest lodges in south eastern Peru – Sandoval Lake Lodge.
I believe this would be a perfect itinerary for anyone keen on culture, walking, wildlife, food and adventure!
What’s on your hiking bucket list?
I’ve always wanted to hike in the Himalaya, most particularly in Kashmir. Why? Because the descriptions I have read and the pictures I have seen of Kashmir remind me of Peru.