Canyons, Condors & leaving Peru...

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July 29th 2008
Published: August 1st 2008EDIT THIS ENTRY

Our journey to Arequipa was another one we won´t forget in a long while....

We had opted for the cheapest bus we could find and we suppose that we should have guessed that you always get what you pay for! The bus stopped at every opportunity along the way to get more and more people on until it was full to bursting point. It also didn´t have a toilet for the 6 hour journey which wasn´t great when it was boiling hot inside and we didn´t dare drink any water in case we needed to go!

A few hours into the journey the bus stopped at a police checkpoint and a group of men got on to inspect the passengers and it´s contents then a really strange thing happened... the police found a lot of bags that belonged to the woman behind us and they prompty threw them all our the window with her pleading for them to stop. They continued to find more bags and thew them all off with her rushing out to follow.. then the bus just left without her! What we think happened is that people try to smuggle various goods through the country and it´s luck if they get caught or not.. we still don´t know what was in the bags but we don´t think it was drugs or anything too exciting as the bags were HUGE and we can´t think they would be stupid enough to move that amount on a bus!

So in the end we got to Arequipa in good time and on entering the city centre immediately knew we were going to like it here. Arequipa has the 2nd largest amount of colonial buildings outside of Cuzco and many of it´s buildings are made from sillar, a white volcanic rock which is where the name ´The White City´comes from. The views from the city are amazing because it is surrounded by 3 volcanoes; El Misti at 5822m, Chachani at 6075m and Pichu Pichu at 5571m. The only active volcano is Misti and we found out that they have daily tests to record the activity so they can evacuate the city in the event of a future eruption.

We had arranged to meet up with Joe & Anna here too and it was nice to yet again have some company to share our experience with. We had all learnt about the mummy Juanita from Fredy while on the Inca Trail and were all keen to see her in real life. To give you a bit of history Juanita is one of the world´s best preserved mummies and was found on the local volcano Ampato in 1995 after being sacrified to the Inca Gods over 500 years ago. In the museum we learnt all about her story and that of the other mummies found in the local area and it gave us all a huge insight into what the Inca people went though in order to please their gods. There were lots of other artifacts that were found as ceremonial sacrifices like cute little gold lamas and sun and moon dolls that would have made perfect souveniers! The final room contains Juanita herself still frozen to keep her perfectly in tact, it´s a little hard to think that she was the most beautiful girl of her time but you can see each feature so well it´s quite scary to see! Unfortunately for you people at home there are no photos allowed so you will need to google her if you want to have a look!

With Joe & Anna
Colca CanyonColca CanyonColca Canyon

This is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon
leaving us the following day the evening was spent making the most of the happy hours around the town.. the best we found was a little local pub with 2 mojitos for only 10soles (£1.70) bargain. With an emotional goodbye we went our separate ways... What a great couple and we can´t wait to see these guys again on our return to the UK.

After some discussion on the activity we wanted to do here we both decided that a 3 day trek to Colca Canyon was the top of our list so we booked a trek leaving on Wednesday. The Colca Canyon is the world´s second deepest canyon alongside it´s sister canyon the Cotahuasi Canyon (the 1st deepest). Both of us had imagined that this trek would not be too strenuous when compared to the Inca Trail but we could not have been more wrong....

This trek was very different from our previous Inca Trail experience, mainly because we were the only 2 people on it so it provided a much more intimate experience.. well it would have been if our guide hadn´t been constantly about an hour ahead of us each time we were walking!
Anna, Joe, Dale & SophieAnna, Joe, Dale & SophieAnna, Joe, Dale & Sophie

yummy mojitos and s**thead!

The first day is relatively easy because you are going down into the Canyon and although this is hard on your knees it´s quite a nice walk along the local path. Most of the path is large rocks that have eroded from the cliff face above you so we were glad of sturdy walking shoes although as per usual the locals do this in sandals!

The real treat for this day was our first sighting of the famous condor and it could not have been better. Eagle eyed (get it!) Sophie spotted this huge bird sitting on a rock just in front of the path after both Dale and our guide had missed it. Stupidly she asked ´what´s that huge bird´ and the guide (who was with us at this point only!) confirmed that it was a condor and that never in his experience had he witnessed one so close up. It was apparently only a baby one at 1 or 2 years old so we dreaded to think how big the adult ones were. It stayed in place for so long and only started to swoop around once we´d continued on our way. Up in the air you can really appreciate how big it is, particularly when it´s shadow goes over you and it´s double the size!

We made it to the bottom of the canyon in about 4 hours and this is where we were to stay for the evening. There are 3 small villages with about 200 inhabitants in the bottom of the canyon which is amazing as their only way to get in and out is to walk or ride a mule or donkey to the top! Our ´hostel´was a group of small mud huts in the heart of the canyon and the views that this village gets to appreciate is amazing. We were also quite excited about our first mud hut sleeping experience which was very pleasant despite the bed feeling like it was made of bags of feathers and the floor was just mud!

We set off again the next morning for our most difficult day of trekking and boy was it a hard one. We began by walking round the canyon though the other 2 villages, one of which had a 300 year old mud brick church, with our lunch stop off being the oasis we´d seen from way up above the day before. The oasis is made up of a few hostels all complete with their own swimming pools built into the rocks at the base of the canyon, it´s a fantastic place to chill out for a few hours before the long trek back up the canyon. We wished that we had been able to have a night there but after lunch we had to make our final ascent to the top of the canyon and back to the village for the night.

Sophie had not been looking forward to the walk back up, especially as it felt like it was 50 degrees in the pure sunshine. Dale had not been too worried but this soon changed as soon as we started walking! It is a 10km walk (or 1500m vertically) but it felt like the neverending path because as soon as you got to one ridge and thought you were near the top you saw another ascent and it felt like we´d never make it! We had to stop at every shady part to rest and with Dale not feeling great we soon wished we´d cheated and hired a mule to get us there! We had also underestimated the heat and having only took 2 bottles of water with us these were soon run dry and we were only 1/2 way up, at this point we got seriously worried... but never fear... there was a random lady selling water just round the corner and we could not have been more grateful to see her even if the water was 4 times the normal price!

Eventually after many rest stops and nearly on our knees we made it to the top and it had only taken us the 3 hours we were told it would take... it seemed like a lifetime though! What we also found out is that they hold a marathon each year for the local people with 5,000soles as the prize. The marathon takes the same path we´d taken the last few days and the current record is.... 3.5 hours! How on earth he did that we just don´t know, especially when they do it in sandals and in the heat of the morning. We wondered how the olympic marathon runners we all hold in such esteem would cope with that!

After a stop over in the village we set off for the famous condor spotting point the following morning. This is main tourist point overlooking the canyon and many condors can be spotted from here.. and people flood in to see them. We had´t seen so many minibuses, buses and cars in a long while... we only had 1/2 hour to wait there and as we were due to leave at 08.45 the huge birds decided to make their entrance. In total there were about 6 of them and they are quite something to see as they glide though the canyon.

After a quick stop in Chivay for some lunch and to witness yet more school parades we made out way back to Arequipa with another trek under our belts.

We were glad to get back to Arequipa and have a rest for the next few days just chilling in the town, doing a spot of shopping and even making a stop to the cinema! We did venture out the centre on one occasion though to the mirador on the edge of town, from this you get fantastic views of the 3 volcanos.

From Arequipa we decided on an alternative route to Bolivia, first taking in Moquegua, a very small town a bit off the tourist trail. This town enjoyed sub tropical temperatures so we thoroughly enjoyed the heat of the sun for a few days before we had to venture back into the cold! Dale enjoyed a trek to a table top mountain called Cerro Baul and Sophie caught up on her book in the sunshine.

We were a little unsure about our passage into Bolivia because Footprints was very vague so we just hoped for the best that our bus ticket would get us there. Luckily the bus company gave us some good advice to get off at Chacachaca (we think that´s where it was anyway!) and from here you could get a taxi to the border and then over to Copacabana. Unfortuantely for us we´d timed using up our soles really badly and this combined with completely mis-understanding the taxi driver meant we had no money to pay him when we got to the border! After a few minutes of panic Sophie remembered the Australian Dollars we´d been given as a present so managed to change a small amount into to Soles and pay him! Thank you Robert Horne for saving our skin with
Mud hutMud hutMud hut

It was better than some hostels we have stayed in...
this present from Dale´s work!

We were quite sad to be leaving Peru after enjoying every place we visited but are looking forward to our Bolivian adventure and what may lie ahead.....

Additional photos below
Photos: 44, Displayed: 30


Dale, Joe & AnnaDale, Joe & Anna
Dale, Joe & Anna

In the Irish Bar
Dye from the cactus parasite Dye from the cactus parasite
Dye from the cactus parasite

Used to dye the fabrics the Andian people wear

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