Peru - Chivay

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March 23rd 2017
Published: March 25th 2017
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David here...

Our next stop in Peru was Chivay. When we looked at places we wanted to go, Colca Canyon was high on the list, next after the Sacred Valley. On a map it looked a straightforward onward journey south from Cusco. However our research showed that the route was not 'normal' in Peru, most people going the other way round or going via Arequipa, which would mean back tracking. We found one tour company - 4M Express - that offered the Cusco to Chivay route on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (with the Chivay to Cusco journey going on Monday, Wednesday and Friday). We booked the journey with 4M about a month in advance at a cost of $60 each, so quite expensive. But this was a tour and not direct transport so you got a guide and some stop-offs thrown in. The company even rang our hotel the day before we were due to be picked up to confirm that everything was fine and to confirm the pick up time.

We were up and about at 05:30 and had breakfast at 06:00. We packed up and were downstairs waiting at 06:45 when a strange man poked his head through the door and said 'Da-veed'? I said 'Si', as you all know I'm pretty much fluent now. He then said 'Da-veed Bon-dare'? Too which I replied 'Si', again. He smiled and said, 'the bus is just round the corner' in flawless English. The bus turned out to be a mini-van but we were the only people making the trip to Chivay so had the whole van to ourselves. Lejeandro introduced himself and the driver, Raphael and we were soon on our way.

Lejeandro gave us leaflets, explained the route and what was going to happen and then left us to ourselves for a few hours. The scenery as we left Cusco was stunning, though being the only people on the tour was a bit intimidating to begin with. After about 90 minutes we pulled up at a checkpoint and Lejeandro bought us some sweetcorn and cheese to try, it was amazing, or should that be amaizeing? The corn on the cob being one of the biggest we'd seen and it was so sweet. We even got a box of snacks for the journey which was appreciated.

Once the morning wore on we got talking to Lejeandro more and we stopped at a few places enroute, a lagoon, an alpaca herd, that type of thing. We actually began to really enjoy ourselves and feel we'd booked a bargain. We had not booked lunch so we stopped off at a shop and bought bread, fruit, tuna and butter and had lunch in the van on the move, though tuna may not have been the best idea as we were flinging it everywhere as we'd hit an unsurfaced round, but it was tasty.

The journey was around 9 hours in total but felt much shorter. Lejeandro was great to talk to, telling us of where he had come from (Buenos Aires) and how he ended up living in Colca Canyon and his plans for the future. He asked us lots of questions about where we were from (he knew of Nottingham Forest), our travel plans and about ourselves. I even introduced him to Southampton FC and Matthew Le Tissier, and he promised he would watch YouTube videos of the footballing genius.

As we got closer to Chivay we stopped off and were given a coca tea drink to help stop altitude sickness as we were about to hit roughly 5,000m, the highest we'd ever been in our lives. As we progressed the fog hid the landscape, which became covered in snow, before we descended into Chivay. We really enjoyed the journey. We felt that we learnt lot from our guide and saw a different route to most people, passing through some quite lovely scenery and some very industrial areas of Peru. This is a fairly new route but I suspect that 4M have found a gap in the tourist market as I think this could be a winner for them. We found the company and staff to be very friendly and professional, highly recommended.

We were dropped off at our hotel door in Chivay, Lejeandro being friends with the owner of the Kollawas Home Inn. We were welcomed and shown to a twin room that was bright, clean and comfortable. We spent a couple of hours sorting ourselves out and doing some research before freshening up and heading out for food. Da Casa de Anita had been recommended for cheap traditional food and that was where we ended up. We both went for a 17 soles menu which included a soup, main course and a soft drink, though we ended up buying beer instead. The food was very good and the bill for both of us came to around £15. With a bit of colour to the walls and tables this could be a very good restaurant. Currently it feels a but canteen-y, but was tasty and good value.

We were woken up around 05:00 by a group of people leaving for the full day hike to the bottom of the canyon. This is the thing to do in the area however we'd decided that we weren't too fussed with it and just wanted to spend time in the villages around the canyon, seeing it from above. We eventually got up for breakfast at 08:00 and it was the normal stuff except for a yogurt and slice of cake that made a real change.

Our plan for the day was first to head out of town to a viewing point that was marked in the Rough Guide. Then head out to the thermal pools on the edge of town after 2pm when all the tour groups had left, more advice from Lejeandro. We first stopped off at Aromas Cafe on the main square for a lovely Cappucino each before walking out of town. We came to the Colca River and crossed over the bridge before climbing the stairs to some ruins. The view was spectacular in every direction you looked with lots of terraces, mountains and burial chambers (we think), we just could not take it all in. There was even a beautiful little square in the outskirts of the town below. Surrounded by the usual ramshackle houses, it looked very out of place. We had the whole area to ourselves too, apart from the occasional shepherd way below us.

Suzanne then surprised me by suggesting a beer, as we had passed by a few little shops on the walk. So I ran down the stairs and grabbed us a beer each. I then made the mistake of running back up the stairs. By the time I was at the top, I could barely catch my breath. I think it is the first time I've been impacted by the altitude and it took me a few minutes to recover. I really do not want to experience that again. We drank our beers and as it approached the time we should move along to the thermal pools we decided that the weather, view and experience of what were doing was too good to miss, so I walked back to the shop and bought us 2 more beers each and some crisps. I made sure that I took my time heading back up the stairs but I was still out of breath back at the top.

We stayed up there, overlooking the town, for a good few hours, watching storms raging far in the distance and enjoying the scenery. Eventually it was time to head down and back to the room to relax for a bit before heading out to dinner. This time we went next door to Anitas, to Yaravi, which was nice but maybe not as good as the previous evening. We finished the evening with a beer each at Aromas Cafe before heading back to the room for the night. In the night I experienced my second altitude related issue as I woke up with a really bad headache. I think it was made worse by the drinking that day. However I'd certainly not had enough to give me an issue under normal circumstances, so think it was altitude related. It took me a while to get back to sleep but by the morning I was feeling pretty much alright again.

Chivay is a nice little town that really hasn't yet made the most of what it has to offer. People arrive, hike to the canyon and leave. The area around the town has some great scenery, and hiking, in it's own right. Why this is not made much of in the town or in the guidebooks is a mystery to us. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here and can recommend spending a bit of time here to fully enjoy what the town has to offer.

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27th March 2017

I agree, Chivay was a really great little place and underrated! I was there for a couple of days so I got to hike in the surrounding areas and stay in a homestay. I tried to run up a few flights of stairs in the hotel and it freaked me out when I was completely out of breath, such a strange feeling.
27th March 2017

Hi Andrea, thanks for the comment. Chivay was a lively little place, as was Yanque and Cabanaconde. Still a shock when you get out of breath doing the simplest things at altitude. Takes some getting used to taking things slower.

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