colca, coca leaves, chivay and condors

South America
April 18th 2010
Published: April 18th 2010
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vicunas in the national reserve, enroute to colca canyon...outside of Arequipa

Colca, Coca Leaves, Chivay and Condors

On the Saturday and Sunday of April 10th and 11th, we took an organized tour to Colca Canyon. The bus picked us up at our hostel at 7:45 am, then proceeded to drive all around el centro, picking up lots of other participants. As we were heading out of Arequipa, the bilingual guide, Peter, told us that Arequipa was situated at 2825 meters high and that at the highest point of the trip, we would reach Pata Pampa pass at 4910 meters high (16,108 feet) before reaching the town of Chivay at 3600 meters. So, he suggested we purchase extra chocolate, socosani water (which is carbonated) and products which contained coca, or coca leaves.

In case you didn’t know, coca leaves contain numerous alkaloids, one of which is cocaine and as such coca leaves are banned in the USA. Furthermore it takes a whole lots of cocaine leaves and lots of other chemicals and chemical processes to refine the cocaine found in the leaves into the nasty white powder. Peruvians who live and/or work in high altitudes use the coca leaves, or mate de coca (tea) to help alleviate
Llamas and alpacasLlamas and alpacasLlamas and alpacas

lots of llamas and alpacas grazing in the vicuna reserve
altitude sickness, to provide a mild stimulant and for many other purposes…

So, under the king direction of our guide, we purchase some candy and cookies with coca flour, some chocolate and some extra bubbly water. And, at about ½ hr intervals we ingested chocolate, agua or coca candy.

We passed through the Aguada Blanca National Vicuna Reserve and got to see quite a few vicunas from the road. We also saw a lot of llamas and alpacas grazing in the hillsides. We climbed and climbed and climbed and after a short break for mate de coca and bathrooms, we climbed some more. We took a short break at the highest point, 4910 meters (16,108 feet). Oh my!! We got out for few minutes in the very cold air, went to the bathroom (ah-hum, hole in a piece of wood) and then slowly walked our way back to the bus.

From that point we descended down to the town of Chivay at 3600 meters. We had a spendy lunch and then a few of us decided to go for an afternoon hike.

We drove about 20-minutes down
hoja de cocahoja de cocahoja de coca

coca leaves with a bit of sodium bicarbonate...yes, we ate them up and indeed it did help prevent sorojche.
a bumpy dirt road (like 90% of all roads in Peru) and stopped in this little village who’s name escapes me. We hiked from the edge of town and climbed up, up, up and up…keep in mind that we had just arrived at 3600 meters which translates to about 11,000+ feet. We reached the top and the guide told us that we had reached the “premio”.

He pointed up to the vertical rock sides and told us there were pre-Incan tombs….Ansley asked half-kidding…”are there skeletons”. He said “sure there are”. “Really!!!” “REALLLY!!!!!” So we hiked up the trail and sure enough, there were human remains from pre-Incan civilizations. REALLY, REALLY. We saw skeletons, skulls and bits of cloth and fragments of pottery …REALLLY….REALLY. what was truly amazing is that these remains were from civilizations over 800-900 years ago. Furthermore, some of the craniums were deformed.

Our guide told us that the tombs contained family remains and there were three different civilizations: the Collagua people (lived up in the mountains and deformed skulls so they went up), the Cabana people (who lived down in the river beds and deformed their skulls so they were squat
bathroomas at the highes point bathroomas at the highes point bathroomas at the highes point

16,000 feet high...highest point in the pass
and flat) and the Inca/Incan mix populations who abandoned the tradition of malforming the skulls.

After returning to Chivay, we wandered around the village, then went out to a very expensive restaurant for dinner and a folkloric show…ah-hum, Andy can fill in some of the details. Somewhat through the dinner and show, Marleigh cries: “Mommy, I don’t feel well….I think I’m going to throw up…” So off we go to the bathroom while the folk dance is in full swing. Marleigh didn’t get sick, but quickly started shaking and got very pale and weak.. Sorojche…altitude sickness. The day’s events had caught up with her and she fell fast. So, we boxed up our dinner, pulled Andy away from the participatory dancing (please, ask him all about it, especially the baile de malaria...), went back to the hostel and waited for a medic. The medic indeed confirmed that Marleigh’s heart rate was high and she was experiencing altitude sickness or sorojche. She got a bit of oxygen, some pills, a bill for 160 soles (about $40) and all was well after that. Phwew…

The next day we woke up very early….brrr - brrr very
mujeres selling textiles at the passmujeres selling textiles at the passmujeres selling textiles at the pass

indigenous people were everywhere selling wares...even at 16,800 feet...
cold in the room (no heat), ate a bit of breakfast and piled into the bus. We drove about 2-hours to get to Colca Canyon and to the spot to watch the Andean condors soar. And indeed did they soar and WOW are they HUGE. We stayed at the Cruz del Condor for about 1-hour, then headed back to Chivay for yet another spendy lunch. Then, back to Arequipa late afternoon on Sunday. In spite of Marleigh getting ill, the weekend was yet another fantastic adventure.

So Monday, April 12th was our last day of volunteering at Flora Tristan. We brought some lollipops to share with the children and had planned lessons for the day. But another volunteer (who was there for a week) had brought clay for the children to make clay whistles. So, we all ended up helping out with that activity. Again, with no way to wash, after the children getting their hands filled with clay, it was quite the challenge to find enough water to rinse off. After time at the ‘cancha’ (playground), we all said our ‘adios’ (es) and headed to the main street to take the bus back.
native girls in chivay with baby llamanative girls in chivay with baby llamanative girls in chivay with baby llama

children were everywhere dressed in native costume and would ask to take pictures for 1 sole

Ansley and Marleigh asked one of the girls if she had access to e-mail….mande? que? What? That was a silly question…so then I asked her for her address, so we could send her a picture of note. She gladly gave us her address, and then asked me: “Teacher, como va a enviarme una carta?” Teacher, how are you going to send me a letter? Oh….I asked…don’t you have a mailbox? “Teacher, no”. Duh, another dumb question…so I told her I would send a picture, card, note to the main T-N-T office in Arequipa and then kindly ask a volunteer to bring it out to her…. Once again….the simple things we all take for granted just do not exist.

On Tuesday, we had planned to visit an orphanage in Arequipa named Casa Verde. On one of our morning walks searching for coffee, we stumbled into this café/restaurant/travel agency/hotel, named casa is on jerusalum street. We had a wonderful breakfast, fabulous cup of coffee and then started to talk with the manager. We told her of our plans and she very nicely told us that instead of visiting Casa Verde, we should visit a different
hike up to the ruinshike up to the ruinshike up to the ruins

this was the hike up to the special ´premio´...
shelter, a place called Hogar de Cristo.

So, off we went in search of Hogar de Cristo. We found it, knocked on the door and tried to explain who we were and why we wanted to visit. We were a little tentative in that we originally wanted to visit Casa Hogar, an orphanage supported by T-N-T, but the manager would not agree to let us come for the day. However, this wonderful, jovial, large woman named Rosa took us into her office and graciously explained the program. I will try to relate what she told us. But, before I do, I want you to keep something in mind.

When people in Latin America greet each other, they do so by not only saying “hola” or “buenas…”, but also by kissing on the cheek…as we were talking, school was letting out and all these children were coming in to greet Rosa and because we were there in the room, we also were greeted.

Rosa told us that the Hogar de Cristo is an opened shelter which means that children aren’t forced to come and stay. (in come some children… “hola”…kiss..kiss..kiss - all
tombs in the mountaintombs in the mountaintombs in the mountain

el will see soon
of us)

As well, nobody stays the night. She explained that even if there are difficulties in the home, she feels that it is best to maintain some kind of familial connection. (in come some children… “hola”…kiss..kiss..kiss - all of us)

So, the older children come in the morning and either work on homework or also get trained in two trades: sewing and woodworking (in come some children… “hola”…kiss..kiss..kiss - all of us)

Then the older children go to school in the afternoon/evening (generally about 2:00 pm - 7:00 pm). The younger children come to the shelter after school (at around 2:00 pm) (in come some children… “hola”…kiss..kiss..kiss - all of us)

They have some fun/free time, then also have time for homework and time to work on the same trades. (in come some children… “hola”…kiss..kiss..kiss - all of us)

The parents (mothers) come in to prepare lunches for the children. The children earn incentive points and at the end of the week can turn them in for any number of things in the “canteen”. We observed used clothing, books, school supplies and food. (in
pre incan skulls and Ansleypre incan skulls and Ansleypre incan skulls and Ansley

these skulls are over 900 years old. each tomb contained the remains of one family. we also saw the skull of a baby...
come some children… “hola”…kiss..kiss..kiss - all of us)

The shelter has been in operation for about 12 years and serves about 70 children each day. She said that she, and the foundation, visit all the local schools to get all the uniforms, books and other supplies donated for the children...

The children that come to the shelter have incredibly difficult lives. Many of them…many of the young children…ages 7, 8, 9 work on the streets to earn money for their families. We witnessed this one morning while enjoying a cup of coffee at Cusco Coffee. We looked out the window and saw a boy, probably 8 years old, washing taxi car windows at every stop light. He was so small that he had to jump on top of the top of the car to reach the windows and when he did, his feet were easily 2-feet off the ground! If he was lucky the taxi drivers paid him 10 centimos (100 centimos = 1 nuevo sol and 1 nuevo sol = 35 cents).

I asked her how she finds the children and she said that about once a month, on a
deformed craniumdeformed craniumdeformed cranium

you can see how this skull is deformed up. these people lived up in the mountains and deformed the skulls upwards.
Saturday the “staff” go the Plaza del Armas (center of Arequipa) and set up games. As children come over, she and others talk about the shelter and invite them to come. The amazing thing about this place is that she and the other staff do this sin paga…they volunteer their time and have dedicated their hearts to help the children of Arequipa.

After we talked with her for about 10-15 minutes and got kissed by about 50 children, she showed us all around. The children automatically took to Marleigh and wanted to play with “mi amiga”. So off she went playing with these lovely girls who come from such hardship.

From Hogar de Cristo, Rosa took us to another building, located about 6-blocks away. In this building the foundation had started an orphanage for girls who had been physically or sexually abused by family members. This orphanage was just 1-year old and had 9 girls living there, ages from about 8-14 years old. These girls were very interested in seeing and meeting us, but it was easy to read the incredible distress their young bodies had experienced. We left, but came back later with
dunnings at cruz del condordunnings at cruz del condordunnings at cruz del condor

here we are, enjoy the splendor of the andean condors
some things to donate - a very small token of some way we could help.

Hogar de Cristo does have a website (Google: Asociacion Hogar de Cristo de Arequipa), but it is outdated and doesn’t really provide a good way for folks to help.

We left Hogar de Cristo feeling humbled and asking ourselves what more we could or should be doing to help them, or to help others who are not as fortunate as us. We’re still asking ourselves that question and haven’t yet come up with an answer, but I think it’s a very good question to ask and also think that answers and ways to help will present themselves over time.

On our last day in Arequipa, we said our “good-byes” to the owners of the hostel at La Casa de Jael, and put our gear in storage. We wandered around town, did a bit of shopping and then stopped again in Casa Blanca for a wonderful and very cheap meal. Then, our new friend Oscar, met us at the hostal and took us to the Terrapuerta so we could take our night bus (Cruz del Sur) to
condor at cruz del condorcondor at cruz del condorcondor at cruz del condor

andean condor soaring above with a wing span of 3 meters

Adios a first we felt very uncomfortable and uneasy in this big and rather polluted city. Arequipa is still beautiful, charming, enticing and intriguing and we slowly fell in love with it. In the short 3 weeks we were there, we made many friends and feel welcomed back anytime we have the desire to return. That in itself is a wonderful gift.

More adventures await us in Cuzco and will be shared in the next blog entry….so - to be continued and until then, abrazos a todos, Dunnings

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


condor family on nestcondor family on nest
condor family on nest

andean condor family at cruz del condor
Shari with aguila ...eagleShari with aguila ...eagle
Shari with aguila ...eagle

take a foto for 1 sol and get an eagle on your shoulder or head
nino with claynino with clay
nino with clay

flora tristan and our last day of teaching
ninita at flora tristanninita at flora tristan
ninita at flora tristan

3 year old wandering the dirt streets near flora tristan
hogar de cristohogar de cristo
hogar de cristo

hogar de cristo visit with rosa, the directora
marleigh and her two amigas nuevasmarleigh and her two amigas nuevas
marleigh and her two amigas nuevas

hogar de cristo and some of the wonderful children

19th April 2010

Wow is about all I can say. I am humbled as well.

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