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Most of Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, and parts of Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela, are in the Andes. The Andes are the second-highest range of mountains in the world. Only the Himalayas in Asia are higher. North America has a peak. Mount McKinley in Alaska, that is 20,300 feet high, but there are seventeen peaks in the Andes that are higher than that. The highest of them, Aconcagua, is about 23,000 feet high. (See the article on ACONCAGUA. ) The highest lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, is in the Peruvian Andes. The Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro and his men reached the Andes more than four hundred years ago. They found beautiful Indian cities but they destroyed most of them. Most of the people who live in the Andes today are a mixture of Indian and Spanish. They are farmers, miners, and herders of sheep and other animals. Most of them are very poor. Their farms are high in the mountains. You would find it difficult to breathe, so high in the Andes, because the higher you go the thinner the air becomes, but the natives are used to it. Their lungs will hold much more air than ours will. The Andes run through tropical country, but for the most part the climate in the mountains is cool or cold. The high peaks are always covered with snow. It is very difficult to cross the Andes from east to west. Only two rail-road lines cross the Andes, and parts of these lines run through long tunnels. Most of the people who cross the Andes must travel along narrow, winding footpaths. The travellers use narrow footbridges to cross deep ravines. Some of the bridges are nothing but saving spans of rope. The people either carry loads on their back or use pack animals. The Indians use the llama as a beast of burden. The llama is a member of the camel family. The mule also has become an important beast of burden in the Andes. The Andes vary in width from forty miles to more than four hundred miles. They rise almost straight up, in many places, from the shores of the Pacific Ocean. The eastern slopes of the Andes are not as steep as the western. Because the eastern slopes catch more rain, many great South American rivers, including the Amazon, begin there. There are still active volcanoes in the Andes. The best known is Cotopaxi which is more than nineteen thousand feet high. The Andes Mountains are rich in metals. There are great silver mines in Peru and Bolivia. Much copper and mercury is found in the mountains. Bolivia has some of the largest tin mines in the world. There are also gold mines in the Andes. There are many wonderful things to see in the Andes Mountains. First, there are the high, snow-covered peaks. Then there are lovely lakes and waterfalls. Some of the cities high in the Andes are among the most beautiful in the world. Some ancient Indian buildings still stand, and the ruins of others are very interesting. More than a thousand years ago, long before the white man came, the Indians living in the Andes had built great temples, aqueducts to carry water, paved roads, and other things.
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