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Published: March 14th 2013
I am hoping that the blog title will have captured your interest, because this was an absolutely amazing 2 day tour. For all of the internal freak outs I have had on this trip, my overnight trip to the Colca Canyon was absolutely postcard perfect. Pick up was at 7:30 yesterday morning. When the guide told me that it was a small group, I didn’t expect that it would be only 1 other person on the trip, and he was on a 3 day tour, so today I was the only person on the tour. For someone who doesn’t like crowds, this was an unexpected surprise. Both the guide and the driver were incredibly friendly and helpful. I swear, that driver had eyes like a hawk. He could spot a chinchilla resting on rocks beside the road. I don’t normally advertise hotels or tour companies, but I was so impressed that I am going to go ahead and just say it. I used Giardino Tours and would use them again in a heartbeat.
The road from Arequipa to Coporaque, where we stayed, went through desert and over mountains with cactus, scrub brush and rocks littering the landscape. In the distance
were snow-capped mountains and volcanoes. Not too far outside Arequipa we drove through the Reserva Nacional Aguada Blanca y Salinas area where wild vicunas, a member of the llama/alpaca family, live. These vicunas are protected by the government and have the most luxurious wool which is generally woven into very pricy blankets. We stopped to watch an alpha male chase off two smaller males. At times the vicunas would bound across the road in front of us. A little ways past that area, we saw natural springs with herds of alpacas grazing on the grass. I have been on tours when the destination was the whole point of the drive. This drive was about seeing the countryside, watching animals and wildlife. It was so enjoyable that I forgot to backseat drive for a while. Since Peru is just finishing its rainy season, the road was pretty thrashed. At places it was obvious that the road had been covered by a landslide. Potholes were everywhere, so we spent a good part of the trip driving British style, on the left side of the road. I wasn’t worried though. As I said, the driver was very good
We finally reached the
And yes, I asked them if they would please pose for the camera. For wild animals, they were most cooperative.
highest part of our trip at 4910 meters(16,108 feet) above sea level, where we pulled over and took pictures of the Valley of the Volcanoes. From this point it was easy to see El Misti, the snow covered volcano so close to Arequipa. I don’t know if you have seen in the news that a volcano near here is waking up, blowing out clouds of steam, causing earth tremors. We had a clear view of this volcano with plumes of smoke or steam (I am not really sure what it is up to right now, but something is coming out of it). The rest of the trip was pretty much the same. Up, down, around, bump, bump, swerve, up down and so on. I was happy when we reached Chivay, the largest town in the valley and stopped for lunch.
When we arrived at the hotel, it was obvious that we were the only people staying in the hotel. The town of Coporaque is very small and way off the beaten path. The hotel rooms were nice, but the heat was only turned on for certain hours, there was no phone, no tv, no internet. It was the kind
of place that had a llama on the back patio. I had hoped for some down time, but after only an hour we went for an hour hike up the dirt alleys, through fields to see some ruins. As we walked, we passed men and woman tending sheep and cattle, including a tiny baby lamb that was full of energy as it jumped and bounced around. It reminded me of when we used to raise sheep back on the farm. Even though I had really wanted to stay in the hotel and read, I thoroughly enjoyed the hike. When we returned, we went to a thermal hot spring for an hour soak. Now I know you are probably wondering if I took my camera and the answer is yes. But please rest assured that I am not posting any pictures. You can open your eyes and breathe easily. I wouldn’t subject you to that. The water was from a volcano and was so warm and relaxing that even I was able to relax and not stress over how I looked in my bathing suit.
The drive back to the hotel was so very different because there are no street
lights, only about half of the road is paved and it was pitch black outside. I had hopes of seeing a sky full of stars, but they were not readily visible. Since there were only 4 of us staying in the hotel, the driver and the guide joined us for dinner. I had a 5 AM wake up the following morning, so after dinner and 1 beer, I headed off to bed. Condors tomorrow if luck prevails.
Well, the morning started off a bit bumpy. There had been a problem with the water in the hotel, so I had no water in the shower and only a trickle in the sink. My hair was all wild and out of control from the thermal baths the night before, so I filled the drinking glass with warmish water and used that to wash my hair. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t the most glamorous look, but it served the purpose and to be honest, I really didn’t care. I was off to the second deepest canyon in the world to see condors. Not only that, but I was doing it on my own private tour. How cool was that? I had been
warned by other people as well as the guide that just because I was going to the canyon did not mean I would actually see condors. It is the luck of the draw and I accepted that.
It was a beautiful day as we bumped along the rutted dirt road toward the canyon. For a period there was a paved road, but it had several washouts and too many potholes and ruts to count. We stopped at a few small towns and lookout points to take in the beauty of this incredible canyon. The one town we visited is the one most threatened by the volcano. During its last eruption in 1991, the volcano and following earthquakes virtually destroyed the town. The ancient church had extensive damage and even now large cracks and fissures are visible in the mountainside. Finally we reached the condor view point. If you aren’t familiar with condors, they can stand over 4 feet tall and have a wing span of 10 feet. Ah-ha, I thought, if I wasn’t an Inca in a past life, perhaps I was a condor. Unfortunately, condors are so heavy they can’t take off by themselves; they perch on rocks
4910 Meters Up
The views from here were spectacular
and use the thermal currents to glide gracefully through the sky. Well, the word gracefully put the kabash on my condor past life theory. Graceful I am not.
Even the guide was amazed at how many condors were out today. He told me that this was the best day so far this year for watching them. I had lucked out. At first the birds were simply sitting on rocks. Finally they started soaring. It was absolutely amazing to watch these giants birds spread their wings and soar about the canyon. I took over a hundred pictures, but I also stood there and watched and took the sight in without worrying about the camera. I didn’t want to be so focused on documenting it that I forgot to see it. If you are planning on coming to Peru, please try to include this in your plans. It was something I will always remember and always feel fortunate to have been able to see.
After an hour, it was time to head back to Arequipa. We stopped at a restaurant in Chivay for lunch where I was finally able to sample cuy (guinea pig) and chicha. The cuy was similar
to rabbit in my mind. I was worried that had I not been able to try it I never would have lived it down. I have to say that it really wasn't bad. The guide ordered fresh chicha, a drink made from corn, and offered me some. Although this chicha was not fermented, it was still good. I will make a point to see if I can find some of the fermented chicha somewhere. Back in the van, I sat quietly and watched the landscape as we passed through the Occidental Andes Mountains. This is a whole different world, one that has a life of its own. All too soon we reached the city of Arequipa where the traffic snarled, horns blared and air was stagnant. I took some time at the hotel to relax and look back on the day. Two American women I had talked with while using the internet in the courtyard invited me to dinner with some of their coworkers. We went to a crepe restaurant and had a very nice time. I am finding that on this trip I am talking with more people, opening myself to new experiences and enjoying myself immensely. I hope
Volcano Waking Up
You can see the steam in the center
you have enjoyed today’s blog and will blog more about Arequipa when I have a chance.
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