The exuberant forests of the Amazon are not visible from Ayacucho but you can feel their presence. Coffee, cocoa, coca, bananas, papayas and many other tropical products travel from the warm and humid valleys that exist across the mosaic of ecosystems extending east of Ayacucho and adding color to the city markets.
On the afternoon of January 26 we travelled in a pick-up truck across these ecosystems and reached the jungle town of Pichari, on the Apurimac river valley at 600 m elevation. In just a few hours we traversed chaparral-like forests of mimosas and cacti, cultivated fields where campesinos were harvesting onions and beets, and cold grasslands of the Andean puna, to descend into the cloudy and evergreen slopes of the Amazonian versant of the Andes.
When I made this same trip in 2008, the road was unpaved. Today a brand new pavement—only interrupted by occasional landslides during the rainy season— extends all the way from Ayacucho to Pichari. The Amazon is changing rapidly.
Dr. Padial and his team of researchers are on an expedition traveling from Pittsburgh to the Vilcabamba mountains in Peru in the pursuit of biodiversity research.