Internat ional Year of the Potato el s of the Incas so much that the potato is no longer doing very well and a variety of diseases such as Phytophthora are able to manifest themselves. In the local vernacular of the Peruvians, the Quechua, the highest parts of the mountains are called ‘the June’. One level down, from 3,500 to 2,000 metres, the mountain is called ‘the Q’ueswa’. Cereals and maize are grown here. The lowest areas of the mountain, ‘the Junka’ is used to grow crops such as coca. The leaves of this crop are used by the people in the high mountains as a preventative against altitude sickness. The mountain dwellers make tea from the leaves and when they have to carry out heavy manual labour, they chew the leaves like tobacco. I can now tell from my own experience that those leaves can help you enormously in reaching the top at over 3,500 metres without too many serious difficulties. In addition to coca leaves, the Peruvians eat a lot of potatoes, which they have been doing ever since the Inca times. Partly thanks to those potatoes, the Incas were able to work very hard. That is also what the Spaniards noticed when they arrived in Peru in 1524. The Conquistadores took the potato with all its strong points back to Europe. After a four-day’ hike and eating and sleeping like an Inca, in the home of the potato, I arrived at Machu Pichu so much more experienced. Inspired by the authenticity of the landscape, the pureness of the genetic source of the Papa, I embark on the following stop in my Peruvian adventure: the Potato Valley. Potato World 2009 • number 1 27 Pagina 26

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