Colca Canyon

Trip Start Aug 22, 2012
Trip End Jun 16, 2013

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Where I stayed
La Casa De Mama Yacchi Colca Canyon
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Peru  , Colca Canyon,
Friday, October 12, 2012

Altitude. For travellers, it is a big deal.  Everyone talks about it, how high they have been, who is sick and who has no difficulties at all.  We normally live at sea level.  When I visit my sisters or parents who live between 700 & 1600 meters, I notice the dryness in the air and the shortness of my breath.  I also have some difficulty sleeping for a few nights.  Well, as my t-shirt from Boulder, CO says, 'sea level is for sissies'.  We have been living at altitudes between 2500 and 4500 meters since we left the Amazon in early Sept. It’s some dry up here! I always feel like I am trying to catch my breath and that is without exertion.  What comes with altitude around here are lots of hills so just getting from our ‘home’ as we call it to the local plaza de armas is a journey. 

Now, as per usual, Jim barely feels it.  When we were driving to Colca Canyon, we passed a remarkable place called Patapampa pass at a mere 4910 mt.  The entire area was covered with cairns, or as they call it, a rock forest.  For years people have been coming here and building small cairns to ease their travel through the pass.  Our van had stopped for us to view the scenery and was ready to go while Jim was joyfully taking photographs.  He was in a state of flow.  We had to holler at him a few times to hurry up.  He began to run to us and in horror our guide (yes, a guide) called to him, ‘don’t ruuun!  Slowly, slowly’, then the very concerned bus driver joined in, ‘don’t ruuun!’ gasping at Jim’s prowess at altitude. "Very strong, very strong," he lamented as he shook his head.  Yes, that’s our mountain man as my parents call him.

We have been here in Colca Canyon living at about 3500 meters.  We have done some beautiful hikes, walking between villages, exploring the hills and some of the ruins.  The ones that were tombstones were a bit of a surprise when we approached the old stonework then saw the human skulls and bones - not something you come across every day.  On our last hike, we kept taking paths that led us higher and higher until we reached the top which opened up a ‘mirador’ of the other side of the valley.  Spectacular!  On our walks, Jim will stop to take photos and I will do some yoga, meditate or continue on as he can catch up so easily. 

Our pace is slow, relaxed, experiencing the spaciousness of our time on this trip. Different from other times hiking when I would spend all my time with down trying to keep pace.  Now my head is lifted and we both are drinking in the scenery around us.

We are in what is called ‘volcano valley’ surrounded by volcanoes.  We were told that all but one of the volcanoes was dormant.  Now I have heard contrary stories to that from more than one person.  For example, people tell us the locals are expecting either an earthquake or a volcano eruption ‘soon’.  They believe one of the two is imminent and that May and October are the months for these activities. The first day we spent at Casa de Mamayachi – a quiet , cozy little spot perched on a hill on the outskirts of a small village of Corporaque (where the Collugua people were sent by the the Spaniards to live) – I watched a mountain in the vista puffing out smoke.  Jim swore it was clouds or dust until by the third day the smoke got darker and more intense that he finally believed that the mountain was actually exhaling this smoke.

A disturbing fact about travel here in Peru. … there was a plane crash last week where 5 Chilean tourists and the pilot died at the Nasca Lines.  This a place we had already decided not to go to but the bread and butter of tourism there in Nasca is taking people up in small planes and, from above, showing them these amazingly huge hieroglyphs in the land.  This will not be good for tourism. And it is not the first plane crash here.

Right now I am sitting in the sun listening to the birds chirp, sheep baa in the valley, roosters crowing, dogs barking, cows mooing watching the resident alpaca/llama mix chew on the grass while Jim is taking pictures of close-ups of her (Manchita).  These animals are renowned for not being friendly and she has already snorted loogies at Jim.  Jim is also trying to capture the puffing mountain on the other side of the valley. Wow!  How lucky are we!

We did get caught in a situation in which we have found ourselves during other travels, challenged by our ineptitude in the language and our desire to not plan ahead and to do things on our own.  We were trying to find our way to a place further down in the valley where the condors (these vulture-like birds with a 9-foot wing span) fly the thermals during the morning and late afternoon.  Everyone who comes here goes to this viewpoint and sits for a couple of hours waiting to see a condor. Now, October is apparently not a good month for sightings as the condors are mating.  So we didn’t want to pay the $70 that seems to be the going rate when we could hop on a local bus for $2 or $3.  Without going into details, we tried for 2 days to find a less expensive way to get there with tour operators promising us this or that then not showing up or discovering they couldn’t arrange it.  In the heat of all this, feeling some frustration at ourselves and others, we went to a local spot for a pizza and a beer.  After 80 minutes waiting and 2 or 3 requests to at least serve us our beer, we left the restaurant.

You can imagine how we were feeling, some of it self-inflicted and some of it just part of travel.  We escaped it all by checking into this ‘beyond the budget’ haven (Casa de Mama Yacchi) and have had 48 hours of peace and tranquility.  Ahhhhh….
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Margy on

You two have really seen Peru.

Sue Walker on

Thank you guys. What an amazing place. You have captured it's beauty Thank you Jim.
Enjoy your travels, our thoughts are always with you.
Love Sue xoxo

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