A tour to the (second) deepest canyon in the world

Trip Start Feb 21, 2010
Trip End Aug 12, 2010

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Flag of Peru  , Colca Canyon,
Friday, June 18, 2010

We were picked up about 9 for our tour to the Colca Canyon and drove for a few hours through the desert and then up towards the high Andean plateau. The views were superb, of mountains and miles upon miles of grassland and lots of llamas and alpacas. We stopped a few times to enjoy the views and to stock up on coca products to help with the altitude - we bought some coca toffees and I had some coca tea. The tea wasn´t too bad but the toffees were a bit weird. At about 4100 meters above sea level we stopped again to enjoy the views, which were huge, and to sample our first experience of high-altitude. I felt ok, if a bit cold, but Rachel reported feeling sleepy and drunk. Fortunately for Rachel, 4100 masl was as high as the road went and we descended via an incredibly windy road to the village of Chivay, a mere 3600 masl.
The rest og the tour group had lunch at a restaurant but being cheap we ate our pre-prepared sandwiches in the town´s sunny plaza. We were then picked up and taken to our hostel which we noticed was nowhere near as nice as the hotels our other tour group were being sent to, hopefully we paid significantly less than them! As Rachel wasn´t feeling too great I gallantly offered to go by myself to watch the England v Algeria game. So I found a freezing cold bar showing the game and settled down with a nice beer to watch one of the worst England performances I´ve ever witnessed. Thankfully I missed the first half so I only endured 45 minutes of tosh and then I went back to the hostel so we could be picked up and taken to the town´s hot springs.
There were about 5 pools at the springs and the first pool we tried to go in was full of locals who shooed us away to the next pool which was full of fellow gringos. I´m not sure if there were strict gringo-local segregation rules, or if they thought we would prefer to be with people like ourselves but it was a bit odd. We ended up in an outside pool which was great, really hot and with nice views of the valley.
After the springs we were taken to a ´free´ folk-show at a restaurant. We both ate this time, the food was good but the entertainment was much better. There was a Peruvian band of about 6, playing various instruments and really fun traditional music. There were also dancers in traditional kit who danced along to a few songs. They got ´volunteers´ from the audience up for a few songs and somehow persuaded Rachel to get up for the last number! Her dance involved being hit with a bit of rope, hitting her partner, falling over and then being picked up and spun around! It was awesome and the crowd loved it! I have some pictures of it so you can all enjoy as well when we get back! I ended up buying the band´s CD I enjoyed their music so much!
The next day we were up early to get to the Colca Canyon. The early morning sun in the Colca valley was beautiful and we stopped off a few times at a quaint little village and at some places where we could see Inca-old terraces on the slopes of the valley. There were panoramic views on our bumpy drive along the edge of the valley and the guide was quite informative about the history and culture of the region, although we forgot most of what he said within about 5 minutes of him saying it. About an hour and a half down the dirt road we got to the Colca canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world at 1200m deep. We walked along the side of the canyon admiring the incredible view and looking for condors. Happily there were about 3 or 4 condors lurking about the area so we got to see a fair bit of the massive birds which were happy to fly really close to all of us gawping tourists. The guide allowed us about an hour at the mirador (viewing point) before we were herded back on to the bus and taken back to Chivay for lunch and then back to Arequipa via the high pass over the Andean plateau and the fine view of mountains and llamas.
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