Potatoes, Paddington, cocaine and pisco: things football fans should know about Peru

Paddington Bear is so famous in Peru, they build statues to him.
MARIANA BAZO/REUTERS

Paddington Bear is so famous in Peru, they build statues to him.

Looking to visit Peru for the All Whites away World Cup qualifier next month? Here's a few handy hints:

* Stretching from the Pacific coast to the Andes mountain range, Peru is the third-largest South American country, after Brazil and Argentina. It has a population of around 32.5 million; about a quarter of them live in Lima.

* Peruvians speak Spanish; after the heavily armed Spaniards arrived in 1530 to execute the Inca Emperor and consign the natives to the sidelines. The official languages are Spanish and, wherever they are predominant, Quechua, Aymara, and other native tongues.

A woman in Lima sells potatoes next to electoral signs of Peru's presidential candidates.
MARIANA BAZO/REUTERS

A woman in Lima sells potatoes next to electoral signs of Peru's presidential candidates.

* Even though Peru must beat the All Whites to reach the World Cup, they are ranked No 12 in the world, one place behind Spain.

* Winning in Lima might prove scary - the world's worst football riot occurred at  Estadio Nacional in 1964 after a Peru equaliser was disallowed against Argentina. In all, 328 fans are known to have died.

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Machu Picchu in Peru is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
BELIKOVA OKSANA/REUTERS

Machu Picchu in Peru is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

* They have a checkered and scandal-tainted World Cup history. They have been to the finals four times - 1930, 1970, 1978 and 1982.

* Brazil with the great Pele saw them off in the quarterfinals in 1970. In 1978 they humiliated Scotland, then were at the centre of cheating allegations, losing 6-0 to Argentina, when the hosts had needed to win by at least four to eliminate Brazil.

Octavia Ccahuata and her family prepare a guinea pig for cooking.
MARIANA BAZO/REUTERS

Octavia Ccahuata and her family prepare a guinea pig for cooking.

* Peru was in 2013 declared by the UN to be the world's largest producer of cocaine, an illegal recreational drug. Its history in Peru dates back to ancient times when people used the coca leaf.

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* Peru has an estimated 3800 varieties of native potato and is in a pavlova-like dispute over whether it or Chile is the birthplace of the humble spud.

* In Lima, Museo Larco and its Erotic Gallery is devoted to sculptures from more than a thousand years ago celebrating sexual congress.

* When in Peru you must drink pisco, a fiery, brandy-like elixir that is a distillation of crushed grapes with a dragon-breath quality.

* The famous Inca Trail to world wonder Machu Picchu consists of many stone stairs, one flight known as the "Gringo Killer", thanks to the number of westerners they have killed. Watch your step.

* Peruvians eat about 65 million guinea pigs a year, there's an awful lot of coffee in Peru, as well as many corn and orchid varieties.

* Cotahuasi Canyon at 3354m deep, is almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.

* Children's favourite Paddington Bear is from "deepest, darkest Peru".

 - Stuff

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