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Peru is a country located in western South America, on the Pacific Coast, north of Chile. Peruvian territory was home to ancient cultures spanning from the Norte Chico civilization, one of the oldest in the world, to the Inca Empire, the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century and established a Viceroyalty, which included most of its South American colonies. After achieving independence in 1821, Peru has undergone periods of political unrest and fiscal crisis as well as periods of stability and economic upswing.

Links To Peel


One of the many tourist sights in Lima, the capital city of Peru

Peruvian, or Andean, music made an impact on Peel in the late 1960s, especially "Pescadores", a track from the album "La Flute Indienne Vol 1" by the Paris-based Latin band Los Calchakis, which became a favourite of the Night Ride era and was praised by Peel in his International Times column. (He revisited the track on the Peel's Pleasures show of 10 July 1982). The album also included the Peruvian tune "El Condor Pasa", later adapted by Paul Simon for Simon and Garfunkel's album "Bridge Over Troubled Water".

In 1988 on his Peel 090 (BFBS) show, Peel had a wish to visit South America, especially Peru. The Daily Telegraph journalist Michael Kerr interviewed Peel on May 2004 about his favourite holidays. Amongst his favourites were his family holidays in a chateau in Dordogne in southern France and his honeymoon trip to visit the pyramids in Egypt. After asking Peel where he would like to go next, he replied:

"South America, for new cultural experiences. But there's so much to see that it's rather daunting." [1]

Lake Titicaca

Puno, the gateway to Lake Titicaca

After the article got published, Kerr, decided that John Peel should perhaps go to South America for 2 weeks with the Telegraph expense to visit a country and write a travel article for them. After Peel agreed with the idea, he and his wife Shelia, decided to go for Peru. Peel at first was worried:

"I've got a bad back and diabetes ... I'm not the most robust of travellers. But I would like to see as much of the country as I can. Where do you recommend?" [2]


Ancient ruins of Machu Picchu

Kerr suggested the well known places of Machu Picchu, Cuzco, Lake Titicaca, the Colca Canyon. All of them, and several others, were on the final itinerary for Peel and his wife Sheila.

Peel was scared of flights and Kerr suggested three options for travelling within Peru, but Peel wasn't happy with the first two, as it involved many internal flights. He chose the third, involving a couple of flights and travel along roads containing many potholes: Peel preferred this to the flights, despite his bad back.

Travelling In Peru


Colca Canyon

John and Sheila arrived in Peru on Sunday October 17th 2004. After a couple of nights in the capital, Lima, they moved on to Arequipa, to see the condors soaring above the Colca Canyon, and then to Puno, gateway to Lake Titicaca, before catching a train to Cuzco, where they were to stay three nights, before visiting the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.

Death of Peel

John Peel's Last Request

John Peel's Last Request

John Peel speaking from his hotel in Lima, Peru on October 2004 asking for a request. Less than a week later, he died of a heart attack.

On the ninth day of the trip - two days before they were due to arrive at Machu Picchu - Peel and Sheila were in Cusco. They fell into conversation with an English couple who had recognised John, and who invited them to dinner the next night.  On the way to the couple's hotel, John and Sheila stopped for a drink. Suddenly, out of the blue, Peel mentioned his old friend John Walters. Like Peel, Walters was insulin dependent. When he died suddenly of a heart attack in 2001 at the age of 63, John had been devastated and told Sheila: 

"Oh, I do miss Walters. I was just thinking, it was so nice when he'd phone me up out of the blue and say: "Hey Fatso, turn the telly on; there's something good on." Nobody does that anymore." [3]

Influential British DJ dies on holiday, plus wife and doctor-0

Influential British DJ dies on holiday, plus wife and doctor-0

Video of Sheila, the doctor and the hotel where Peel died in Peru

At the hotel, they settled themselves in some comfortable chairs with their new friends. Sheila was examining the drinks menu and always ordered for Peel. And suddenly their English companion looked across and asked John if he was alright? Peel was having his heart attack and never regained consciousness. An ambulance arrived 20 minutes later, and he was pronounced dead. Peel was only 65 years old.

The next day was Sheila's birthday. Over the following couple of days their children were flown out to Peru. It took about a week to organise the body to be flown back to the UK.

Shelia never mentioned Peel's death on his biography. In an interview with Mick Brown of the Daily Telegraph in 2005, she told him it was a family decision to end the biography on a positive note:

"We weren't even going to refer to John dying at all, but to pretend that he isn't dead would be ludicrous. But we felt strongly that we didn't want to end the book on his death." [4]

The overwhelming public response to his passing left Sheila absolutely astounded. She had expected newspaper obituaries, and that BBC Radio One would do something, but when her children told her that it had been the lead on the news that night, she was speechless. The funeral took place at the cathedral of Bury St Edmunds in November 2004, where artists, broadcasters and members of his family and the public attended. 


(Tracks played by Peel from various artist (v/a) compilations featuring music from Peru. Please add more information if known.)

(CD - Huayno Music Of Peru, Vol. 1 (1949-1989)) Arhoolie

(CD - Huaynos & Huaylas: The Real Music Of Peru) Globe Style

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