Arequipa and the Colca Canyon

Trip Start Feb 12, 2007
Trip End Aug 10, 2007

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

AS Joy and Chris headed to Puno, we took a bus to the colonial town of Arequipa, which sits in the shadow of the perfect conical volcano, ´El Misti'.
We explored the expansive Convento de Santa Catalina, which functioned as a convent until the 1970's, before which the nuns lived in complete isolation from the outside world.
Another attraction in the city is a frozen child, dating from Inca times, who was covered in ice at the top of a mountain until the early '90s when the eruption of a nearby volcano melted the permafrost.
 The girl, named Juanita, was taken to the peak from Cusco and sacrificed as an offering to the gods.
 She is kept refrigerated in a glass box and her skin and hair are perfectly preserved.
 The tomb in which she was discovered was also in perfect condition - complete with beautiful weavings and carvings - and looking at the artefacts you can really imagine the sacred event as it took place.
That night we enjoyed dinner in a rooftop restaurant, with fantastic views over the Plaza d'Armas.
The spectacular Colca Canyon is near to Arequipa and so we arranged a two day tour, starting with a drive through the Andean landscape, past herds of vicuņas and llamas.
 We spent the night in Chivay, where we enjoyed a dip in the hot springs as the sun went down.
 The following day we drove to the Canyon itself, through beautiful agricultural land where Inca and pre-Inca terracing is still being used today.
Steadily the sides of the valley became steeper until they fell away almost vertically into the canyon itself.
 We stopped at a view point where we waited patiently for the resident condors to show themselves.
 After just a few minutes they began to soar past beneath us and at one point we could see around eight in flight at once.
We saw several adult condors (black with white feathers in their wings) and some younger ones which are brown all over. We were told they can grow to more than two metres in wingspan.
After a short walk around the area, and trying the local speciality - a sour cactus fruit, we drove back to Arequipa.
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