Flight of the Condors

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South America » Peru » Arequipa » Colca Canyon
November 13th 2014
Published: November 14th 2014
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Wednesday morning and it was time to leave Arequipa for a couple of days. We were picked up by a minivan and headed north towards Chivay. It took a bit of time to leave Arequipa because of the traffic, but it wasn’t as bad as the night we had arrived. As soon as we left the city, the road started climbing.

Our first stop was on the side of the road where we saw some vicunas. Like llamas and alpacas, vicunas are a South American camel. There is a fourth type, the guanacos, but they are harder to see in the wild - vicunas and guanacos aren’t domesticated. The vicunas were peacefully eating away, and we stopped for a couple of minutes to take some photos. Then we continued climbing.

The next stop was a roadside café where all the tourist buses stop. The main reason to stop is to have a coca tea, which is good for dealing with the altitude. I was the only one of our group who had a tea though. There were also some domesticated llamas and alpacas there. After the short stop we jumped back into the van and continued towards Chivay.

Our next stop was the top of the mountain pass at an altitude of 4,910m – the highest I’ve ever been on land. Our tour guides, Cristina and Maria, warned us to take it very easy outside for obvious reasons. Barry and I wandered around, taking photos and such. Apparently Carol didn’t feel too well and had returned to the van. Cristina provided some care for her because apparently her lips were blue when she hopped back into the van. Fortunately I suffered no more than a slight shortness of breath, but there wasn’t a lot to see or photograph so I soon headed back to the van and we were on our way.

From there we started to descend again and headed to lunch in the town of Chivay. Fortunately Chivay is only at an altitude of 3,600m so Carol felt a bit better. Apparently most of the restaurants in Chivay are buffets, which is what we had. It was alright and we then headed into the main square. There was not much to see though, so after buying some more water we returned to the van and headed to
Here I am at 4,910m above sea levelHere I am at 4,910m above sea levelHere I am at 4,910m above sea level

Yes, that is a smoking volcano in the background
our overnight destination in the nearby town of Yanque. We arrived at about 3pm, checked in and organised to meet in the restaurant later. During the rest of the afternoon I went for a walk around Yanque, although there wasn’t much to see. It was interesting walking around a rural Peruvian town though, and I took some interesting photos. I headed back, we had dinner and then it was an early night because we had to be up early to go see the condors.

As November is the mating season for the condors, apparently the early morning is the best time to try and see them. For this reason, every other tour bus in the area was also heading out to the Condor’s Cross in the Colca canyon. To get there we had to travel along an absolutely terrible road through the Colca valley. It was unpaved, extremely bumpy and we travelled pretty much the whole way in a cloud of dust. Before that, however, we stopped quickly in the main square of Yanque to watch some local school children dancing in traditional costume. I tipped them 2 sols because it was quite good and the money goes towards their school.

We arrived at Condor’s Cross at about 8:00am and saw a condor straight away. He (or she, to be honest I have no idea which) was sitting on a rocky outcrop just below the cross. We stood there waiting for half an hour before he finally decided to move, spreading his wings and gliding out onto the thermal currents in the canyon. It was tough to get good photos because he didn’t come any closer to us. He was soon joined by another condor, which looked smaller but could have been his mate. Apparently condors mate for life and have even been known to commit suicide after their mate dies. We spent a bit more time and might have seen a couple more, or it could have been the same two. It was hard to tell.

We then headed back towards Chivay. We stopped a number of times along the way to get some great views of the Colca valley. The scenery in the canyon and the valley was absolutely awesome. We also stopped in the town of Maca to look at the church. There wasn’t much to do there. We could have had our photos taken with some eagles from the area, but our guide Maria said it is not recommended because it would encourage others to capture birds for that purpose. Soon we headed back to Yanque to pick up Cristina who, being pregnant and having a chronic kidney problem couldn’t travel on the terrible road. We headed into Chivay for lunch before heading back to Arequipa. Unfortunately Carol got a bit ill on the way back due to altitude but was feeling much better by the time we arrived in Arequipa with a much more agreeable altitude. I am counting my blessings that so far I am the only one of our tour group not to have health problems here in Peru… I hope it continues!

Tomorrow is an early start as we fly to Cusco.

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


Condor taking offCondor taking off
Condor taking off

Condor's Cross, Colca Canyon
Condor in flightCondor in flight
Condor in flight

Colca Canyon

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