Arequipa & Colca Valley

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October 14th 2015
Published: October 30th 2015
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2015-10-10 15.13.392015-10-10 15.13.392015-10-10 15.13.39

Plaza de Armas
Arequipa is Perus 2nd city & is also the most common base for starting treks or tours to the Colca canyon / valley.
The city is around 2000m & although I wasn't affected the Dutch group I was travelling with did feel the altitude a bit!

How I got there: Still travelling by Peru hop we arrived at 5:30am after our visit to Nazca. As usual we got dropped at the hostel.

Where I stayed: Flying dog hostel dorm was S/.25. 1st dorm had shower in the room 2nd had a shared shower. They ran out of hot water the 2nd time I had a shower but the 1st time it was hot. Wifi was ok, didn't work so well on 2nd floor in dorms but fine downstairs in courtyard. Beds comfy & had lockers for all beds. It was quite noisy from the street outside.

What I did:

Day 1: As we were too early to check in we chilled out in the TV room & I took a nap.

After breakfast we (the Dutch & I) went for a walk around the city. We headed to the main plaza & stopped at a coffee shop for drinks. Helena & Yvette then went off shopping & the lads & I checked out the local craft markets & churches behind the Cathedral. Marco, Rene & myself continued our city tour by going to the central market passing a few churches on the way. The market was large & busy it was a bit like being back in Ecuador & much better than the markets I'd seen previously in Peru. We then headed back as we were able to check in & finally able to take a shower! After an overnight bus hot water is an absolute blessing.

Day 2:

Colca canyon tour:

Not too early a start for us heading out on the 2 day tour instead of trek as we got picked up at 7am. The tour made its way to Chivay passing local sights on the way. Our guide was very informative on the way to the Colca Valley explaining points of interest along the route from the local cement factory, how you can effectively "Squat" to gain the rights to lands, how they are able to grow food whilst being in the middle of the desert & about the mummy "Juanita".

When we arrived at the nature reserve we stopped to check out some Vicunas (wild camelids) & then headed on to our 1st rest stop higher up the valley. Here we were able to get some Coca tea (much nicer than the stuff I had in Huaraz!), have a bathroom break & check out the local alpaca handicrafts.

We carried on up to the highest point of the Colca Valley, stopping for a quick llama selfie before reaching 4910m! It was freezing at this point so a quick look to appreciate the view of the mountains & some photos before jumping back on to the bus to get warmed up!

From here we descended down towards Chivay stopping at a couple of lookouts on the way. In Chivay we went to Qhapaq Nan for an all you can eat, buffet lunch S/.30. This included soups, alpaca stew, banana fritters, lomo saltado, salads, rice, quinoa & a selection of deserts.

After lunch it was check-in to the hostel (basic but clean with plenty of blankets - I had to take 1 off the bed! - & hot shower) & then free time to explore Chivay. However 1st we (Jorgen, Coen & I) took a nap... we thought we better actually have a look around before dinner so we headed out to get coffee - not happening after 4pm in Peru! - failed there & then walked out over the bridge to look over the town. Whilst we were there the local farmers started bringing there sheep down into the town for the night which was pretty cool.

We headed out to dinner in the freezing cold (I actually had to use my down jacket & almost wished I had taken gloves! The dinner was apprx. S/.35 including a drink for 3 courses & then after we had entertainment in the form of traditional music & dancing. I was the only one brave enough to join in with the dancing & although I only did about a minute it was hard work!

Day 3: An early start for our 2nd day of the tour as we left at 6.15am to head up to the Condor lookout. We were meant to stop at a few places on the way up to Condors Cross but when we stopped in the 1st town some of the Spanish speaking people on our tour got angry & wanted to head straight up to see the condors. Feeling sorry for our guide we agreed that we would head straight up to the cross. We stopped at one viewpoint on the way up to see the terraces (& the cutest little boy with his baby alpaca!) but otherwise drove straight up.

When we reached Condor cross all was quiet so it was a case of looking at the local wares on sale & getting a few landscape shots in. Luckily with about half an hour of our time left we were rewarded with an amazing "display" from the condors, when 7 came out including adults & young. No words can describe the presence of these huge birds when they fly above your head you feel like you could reach up & touch them!

On a high from seeing so many condors at once we made our way back down the valley. We stopped to look at some Inca tombs, unfortunately no longer accessible due to landslide, terraces with the "map/design" carved in a stone & a couple of stops in the small towns before we reached Chivay.

At one point in the valley there are 2 towns, 1 either side of the river, which are at serious risk of sinking if there is another earthquake in the region. We stopped in the one on our side of the river & it was an odd thought that the people there are currently building houses in a safer area whilst also carrying on with their daily lives!

Once back in Chivay we had lunch & then we made our way back to Arequipa. We got dropped off at our hostel at about 5:30pm.

The guys doing the trek had met a few people in other hostels nearby & so we went out for a couple of beers with them in the evening.

Day 4: After a busy couple of days, the last day was very relaxed consisting mainly of looking at the local crafts & picking up some snacks for the bus journey ahead of us. I showed the girls the central market & picked up some fruit for in the morning & we got a quick bite to eat from outside. In the evening we all went out for Pizza & ended up watching the Peru Vs Chile football match which we'd forgotten was on. It was a close game with Peru just losing however holding strong as for most of the game they only had 10 players after 1 was sent off very early on.

It was then early to bed as we had a 5:30am bus to catch!

After a week of travelling together tomorrow we would split up as the girls headed to Puno & the rest of us to Cusco but to separate hostels & on different schedules.

Next: Cusco!!


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