Colca Canyon, condors and Chivay


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South America » Peru » Arequipa » Colca Canyon
April 22nd 2011
Published: April 22nd 2011
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There has been a bit of time since my last blogg because we have just returned from my treck on the Lares Track and our visit to Machu Picchu (which I will blog about later). We are back in Cuzco at present so you might get a back-to-back blog re the above. Hope you are all going well.
Pam

Chivay and Colca Canyon and the Condors - 13 & 14 April 2011

We left Arequipa for a 2 day tour to the Colca Canyon and to see the famed Peruvian Condors. On this trip we were led by a local guide Ruth. This trip took us north from Arequipa winding the way up the mountains around the back of the snow capped peaks visible from the city. We entered a national park and early on came across the wild Vicunas. This is the national fauna of Peru and is a pretty and delicate looking animal similar to and a little smaller than the Alpaca. The vicuna is also part of the national emblem on the Peru flag/coat of arms. It is generally of a tan colour. They are not allowed to be kept in captivity, unlike the Llamas and Alpacas which we saw frequently, herded by their owners along the road side.

We stopped along the way for a drink and most of us had the Coca tea, which is recommended to avoid altitude sickness. Despite that, when we reached the top of the range (4,900m) one member of the group was in severe distress, and so the leaders stopped to administer oxygen to her. This helped considerably, and was facilitated by driving on down the other side of the mountain. Pam had a bit of a headache which didn’t last too long after we descended. We are both taking the altitude tablets, Diamox. It was a steep, very windy, and rapid descent, virtually straight into Chivay.

At the highest point, we stopped at an Inca site where they and the more recent people come to pile up rocks, one on top of each other and as they lay the stone down, they make a wish to the Sun God. There was plenty of choices of rocks as the area is very volcanic as well as shale.
Chivay is a town in the Colca valley, capital of the Caylloma province in the Arequipa region, Peru. Located at
Gates to townGates to townGates to town

The Spanish designed towns always have an archway through which you enter the town, along with a Main Square and Cathederal
about 3,300m above sea level, it lies upstream of the renowned Colca Canyon. It has a central town square and an active market.

Thermal springs are located 3 km from town, a number of heated pools have been constructed. A stone "Inca" bridge crosses the Colca River ravine, just to the north of the town. Most members of the group hiked the 3 km out to the pools, and a few of us actually had a warm bathe. The water was hot enough for us only to stay in the water for about 15 minutes in both the inside and outside pool. We took the bus back into town rather than another hike.

That evening we went to dinner at a local restaurant and were entertained by some dancers. They did draw upon us to dance with them, and both of us were persuaded onto the floor. Tom was dressed up in local costume which looked more like a woman’s clothing than he would have liked. This was traditional as it enabled masked young male suitors to court and dance with the young ladies in the presence of watchful parents in the belief they were actually female dancers.

The town is a popular staging point for tourists visiting Condor Cross or Cruz Del Condor, where condors can be seen catching thermal uplifts high above the canyon, which is the deepest canyon in the world. So in the morning we left early and drove for 2 hours to arrive at Condor Cross by 8.00am. We hiked the final km, so as not to scare any condors, but it didn’t really matter. There were already about 400 tourists present, and at least 20 condors gliding around. The tourists gathered at a rocky outpost, just near where the condors had a small eyrie, with 6-8 perched on it at any one time. We were so lucky to be only 20m from them and were able to observe them closely. While the condor is not a pretty bird they did look very majestic as they soared around this point, and we took some good photos.

We returned to Chivay for lunch, and drove back to Arequipa in the afternoon, checking into the Los Andes hotel again. Fortunately there were no problems with altitude sickness this time.



Additional photos below
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A 12 Century plan of agricultural terracesA 12 Century plan of agricultural terraces
A 12 Century plan of agricultural terraces

This plan was etched on a rock and the terrace system designed then, stands today
Road side saleRoad side sale
Road side sale

No matter where we parked, including out in the middle of nowhere, local ladies would soon find us an lay their sales 'table' out for us
Mistii MountainMistii Mountain
Mistii Mountain

Inactive volcano
Vicuna in the wildVicuna in the wild
Vicuna in the wild

A protected animal. Llamas and Alpacas are domesticated


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