Awwwww...Team Smedders on their own again!!!! Only joking...although we did stay in nicer hotels when Dave was here! COME BACK DAAAAAAVE and of course for his sparkling personality! Hee Hee! Anyway back to the scenery which was again spectacular on the journey! It's described as the altiplano and we're not exactly sure what that means but the colours are amazing, you've got the bright blue of the sky contrasted with the darker blue of the lakes, the orangey glow of the mountains with white snow on top and abit of green thrown into the mix as well
! The sunset as we approached Arequipa set off the pinkiest colour on the mountains as well...I should get a job describing things! NOT! We arrived and bagged possibly the nicest taxi driver/tour guide in the world...he wanted to tell us about everything bless him and we were loving it especially when we drove into the Plaza de Armes which is the prettiest we've seen especially at night! Its surrounded by a cathedral and a beautiful cloistered walkway! Excellent! Paul managed to spot a kebab restaurant on the drive to the hostel as well so guess where our first stop was....a beer & a kebab!!!
Our main reason for heading to Arequipa was to go to the Colca Canyon and specifically to have a close encounter with the condors...so bright & early the next morning, we headed out on a tour and as a sign of things to come, within the first half an hour, had our first flat tyre!!!! With this out of the way, we were on our way again and passing the most amount of vicuna, alpaca and llama that we've seen so far! They're so cute! Arequipa is surrounded by volcanoes - the biggest being El Misti - so the scenery again was pretty mad! We had the luxury of paved roads for the first part of the morning and then the road soon became a dirt track and we rattled our way to the highest point of our journey at 4350m! We arrived at Chivay for lunch having stopped at an awesome viewpoint where the surrounding hills just looked like a huge tapestry with all the terraces
! After lunch, we went on a short hike around Chivay (lots of cactuses)...there was me thinking I'd be getting used to walking at altitude now...I was puffing & panting like never before and it wasn't even that steep! Yeah...I'm unfit! OK! The guide showed us old burial chambers in the side of the mountain complete with skulls and bones...NICE! The bizarre thing is that alot of the skulls are distorted as they bind the heads of babies as soon as they are born so that they have elongated heads at the back (like you imagine an aliens head to be!) Very bizarre! Anyway, it was then time for a bit of R & R in some hot springs just outside Chivay! WOW! They are the nicest hot springs we've ever been to...so warm...oooohhh we so don't want to get out! We were lucky enough to be there on the full moon as well and saw it come peeking over the top of the mountain while sitting there soaking our limbs! Heaven!
Reluctantly we headed back to Chivay and Rachel you would have loved this...all the kids were marching around the main square with lanterns in every shape you can imagine just like at 'Marsden Moonlighting'! Took a video clip so you can have a look when we get back!!! :0)
We had an early start the next morning to get to the Cruz del Condor in time to see the condors
! Not before we had a random stop in a village with nothing there apart from local women with llamas dressed like poodles, birds of prey and a mega phone system! Work that one out! Gave me another chance to take my 100th photo of a church set against the blue sky though! Hee Hee! Anyway..finally we were on our way again although the road was abit hairy for me in places...a few too many steep drops...we got there in one piece though along with hundreds of other people who had nabbed the best spots! Pah! We pulled our Team Smedders luck out of the bag though and found a little spot on a wall and waited, and waited, and waited, and waited....and then from nowhere this huge condor flew straight infront of us! And then another one and I think in total we saw 4 to 5 up close and there were probably 9 or 10 flying around! With a 9/10ft wingspan...massive and they just go gliding past, using the thermals to lift them up from the canyon until they've got enough height to head out hunting for food for the day! It's obviously quite a difficult task trying to get them on camera...especially our new camera which isn't quite fast enough for Mr Smedley...but saying that he nearly got the perfect photo give or take a few mm! Hee Hee! I think it's bloody good though!!! (Awww...loyal wifey!) Everyone was having the same problem though and it was highly amusing listening to everyone chuntering away!
On the journey back to Chivay, we stopped at various lookouts - funnily enough with local women selling their wares
! Again the only way I can describe the landscape is like a patchwork quilt set into the hillsides...you'll see what I mean on the photos! The night before at the hot springs, I'd got so carried away that I'd left my toilet bag behind! Booooo! So flagged a taxi back up there to see if I could find it...how many blank faces in one place???? Gutted...I had all my little luxuries in there! Anyway it was time to head back to Arequipa, so off we went...made it about 5km when we suddenly stopped again and the next thing we see is the bus driver hailing a taxi equipped with 2 tyres from the bus and then nothing....2 hours later he comes back, changes the tyres and off we go! No explanation as to what was going on! Excellent! Anyway it sounds as though we were lucky as we chatted with someone later and doing the same trip, they'd had a 20 hour delay! Not sure why but there you go!!!!! A beautiful sunset later, we arrived back in Arequipa just in time for one more kebab for the roooooad....
Bleary eyed and soon to be teary eyed, we got up the next morning had our last brekkie together and presented Dave with a reminder of his Pooooo-ru experience! Sure you'll be seeing it soon if you haven't already! And finished our mini holiday off in true Team Smedders stylie with CAKE!!!!! As we jumped in a taxi to the bus station heading for Arequipa, Dave jumped in a taxi to the airport for the next part of his adventure and the neverending search for a diner in NY! (And yes vain David...we have got at least 7 photo´s of you uploaded now!!!!!)