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Published: January 18th 2009
I woke at 0100 to a rather enjoyable sound coming from the bar downstairs - a Peruvian cover band doing “Livin' on a Prayer” in Spanglish. I was a little disappointed to be awake at that hour but the humour value was worth it. The alarm went off at 0230 and our van collected us from outside the hostel, not before hearing 20 or so drunk guys singing along to Metallica “Exit Light, Enter Night, nah nah nah nah nah OFF TO NEVER NEVER LAND”.
I managed to get a little sleep before we arrived at Colca Canyon and the town of Chivay for a quick breakfast before following a road on the canyon rim. We had several stops on the way to the top, the first of which was a lookout over the terraces that had been built for crops. A few local women in traditional dress were selling crafts and some young kids led an alpaca around.
We had a few more stops at several heights until we reached the condor lookout point at 0800. We were told that we had until 0920 to spot a condor, which seemed like rather a long time after a murmur
went up from the 200 or so assembled gringos just 20 minutes after we disembarked. A condor was flying through the canyon a kilometre or so away. I tried to take a photo but it was too far away so Jo and I had a sit down and waited for time to pass. We were at over 4000 metres so even walking around was a bit difficult in the thin air. At 0910 the wait became well worthwhile with no less than seven condors flying right overhead - no doubt curious as to what all the fuss was about. The sight of these enormous birds flying overhead was something I wont forget in a hurry.
Unfortunately from that point on the tour turned into a “get-the-money-from-the-gringos-fest” with a stop at Maca, a local town that proves that tourism is not always good for a country. At the entrance to the village were alpacas, 2 falcons on a blokes arm with their legs tied to ropes and a bunch of kids in traditional dress dancing around. I barely left the bus. Where in the past these kids may have been tending stock or crops, their life now is singing and
dancing for tips from tourists - a real shame. My suggestion on the bus when everyone else got back on board that we should kneecap the guy with the falcons, tie him up and charge the locals S1 to take a photo went down like a lead balloon.
We were then taken to a “Traditional Peruvian Restaurant” - it must have been, it was on the sign - back in Chivay. I elected to skip and went in search of something traditional and Peruvian instead. Within a few blocks I found a room in which six or seven old women were sitting over pots. I didn’t know what they were making but I ordered one. The lady scooped up a huge bowl of soup with potato, meat and vegetables of indeterminable origin and signalled that it would cost S4 (NZ$2). It wasn’t great and I still don’t know what was in it but it was very filling. You can imagine my surprise when, as I thanked her, she served up a 1/4 chicken, potatoes and rice and planted it down in front of me. Two courses for NZ$2!
I caught up with the rest of the group at
Chivay's Plaza de Armas and we headed back, stopping briefly at a small town at and air-thinning 4800 metres. The van dropped us back to Plaza de Armas in Arequipa at 1600. We had an early dinner of enchiladas and burritos (along with a cerveza) at a local Mexican restaurant - a huge feed for S28 (NZ$14).
I was well asleep by 1930 and Jo read until 2100.
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