By Hannah Stevens @Hannahshewans

HIGH-UP in the mountains of Peru an isolated cluster of villagers produce world famous homemade textiles woven from alpaca wool

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The Quechua people live at an altitude of around 4000 metres

The occupants of Lares Valley, in the eastern Urupampa mountain range, are world renowned for their vibrant textiles but live on an extremely limited diet because little vegetation grows at the high altitude.

Photographer Christopher Roche hiked to an altitude of 4200 metres to meet the isolated Quechua people.

He set off on his trip in partnership with Apus Travel, who support the communities of the valley through their Threads of Peru project, which sells handmade items from the region online.

The communities are famed for their handwoven textiles made from alpaca wool

Christopher said: “I try during each trip to contribute to a local charity with my work.

“The trek along Lares Valley was wonderful. We did not meet any other travellers, just the local communities - potato growers and hand weavers living in thatched cottages - and many, many llamas.

“The landscape was wild and just stunning.”

Photographer Christopher Roche travelled to Lares Valley to support the Threads of Peru project

Christopher travelled deep into the valley to capture the mesmerising colours of the communities clothing, but the altitude proved to be a bit of a challenge.

He added: “We walked slowly to compensate for the altitude and had to spend a couple of nights in Cusco getting used to it beforehand.

The weavers, mostly women, have little or no access to education close to home and rely heavily on their husbands to support them

“I didn’t sleep at all the first night due to the altitude and headaches, but this passed by the second day.”

Everyday life is harsh for the villagers of Lares Valley and the communities live on a limited diet of mostly potatoes as they are one of the few vegetables capable of growing in such harsh conditions.

More accessible roads are being built in the area as the modern world begins to encroach on the isolated valley

But Threads of Peru hope to improve their quality of life by encouraging Quechua men and women to take pride in their cultural heritage and pass their traditions along for generations to come.

The project works with weavers, mostly women, who have little or no access to education and few economic opportunities close to home, to help them earn an income independently from their husbands.

Increasing connection with the outside world is benefitting the villagers in some ways, including waterproof roofing for their homes

According to Threads of Peru, international development studies have shown that when women receive their own income the health and well-being of their children improves at a faster rate than when men have complete control over the family’s money.

Occupants of the valley endure a restricted diet because little vegetation grows at the high altitude

Increasing coverage of the Lares Valley has made it a popular alternative to the Inca Trek and the outside world is slowly creeping in.

Roads are being built to provide easier access to the area and villagers are enjoying waterproof replacements for their thatched roofs.

The Lares Valley is situated in the eastern Urupampa mountain range in Peru

Christopher said: “I believe they probably have mixed feelings regarding a greater connection with the outside world. “The older villagers may want to protect their traditions but younger ones may be looking for potentially greater economic rewards and the comfortable living that the connection could make.”