Condors in the Colca Canyon

Trip Start Aug 26, 2009
Trip End Jun 24, 2010

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Colca Canyon

Flag of Peru  , Arequipa,
Saturday, March 20, 2010

The trip to Colca canyon was a great way to bridge the gap while we waited to get on a flight to Nazca lines.  The pilots there had inconveniently gone on strike.

We were picked up in a mini-bus with 12 other gringos and travelled up into the mountains that surrounded Cusco.  We were a bit wary of the altitude as the trip went higher than 4000m and we knew that we had suffered at that altitude before.  Fortunately on the way we stopped off for coca leaves to take the edge off.

We stopped numerous times on the way to Colca for some scenic shots (see photos!) and met some incredibly cute children selling their Alpaca wares by the side of the road.  We also saw a new kind of llama animal called the vicuna.  It's hair is so fine that all the produce from it is sold abroad and the finest animals of its breed have been bought and sent to Australia. At least that is our excuse for not bringing anyone back the $800 jumpers they make.

Lunch was a tasty buffet, but the highlight was the serving of fried Guinea pig (sorry anyone who had them as pets).  To be honest they are rather lacking in taste or meat, but the crispy skin had a nice flavour.  After lunch we took our bloated bodies to the nearby thermal baths.  These were some of the biggest that we had seen and the water was lush.  I also like the pool side service that delivers drinks for you!

That evening we stayed in a small town in a hostel.  We were taken out for an evening of traditional entertainment and dancing.  Fortunately we had to supply neither of these.  The band on stage looked like bad Peruvian Beatles lookie-likies.  But they were very entertaining, especially the drummer who teased the pan pipe player so much that he couldn't play because he was laughing so much.  The dancing was also fascinating, the couple doing the dancing changed outfits after every song.  The man seemed to have a bigger and bigger lampshade-style hat every time he came out.  Most disturbing was the last dance that seemed to involve the woman standing over the man whiping him with some rope.  I quickly gave Jemma another Pina Colada to stop her getting any ideas!

The next day was an early start and a visit to a town where children in traditional dress were dancing around a fountain.  It all seemed a little forced for us.  We weren't convinced this is how they would spend their weekend if there weren't any tourists visiting.  Still it was a very nice dance and the square had great views of the mountains in the distance.

We then travelled along Colca valley and stopped for some pictures of the valley and of the mountain side that had the ancient local people buried in the walls.  They were marked by piles of rocks and faded red paint.  This was done in ancient times to worthy elders to try and get them as close to the gods as possible.

Next we finally got to the famous Colca Canyon to go Condor watching.  Condors nest all along the edge of the canyon and you sit above it so when the rise up out of the canyon you get amazing views of these huge birds.  We were lucky to see several in the time we were there.

On the way home we stopped by an old church for pictures and then had lunch back in the same town we stayed in the previous night.  While we were there we saw lots of runners coming past us.  It turns out that the world's highest marathon was being run that day.  Unfortunately for them a huge thunder storm rolled into the valley and a real downpour started.  For us, however, it was a great light show as we left the canyon and headed back to Arequipa.
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