Marianne and the Golden Condor
Trip Start Oct 13, 2010
77Trip End Feb 22, 2012
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After Puno I took a bus to the beautiful White City of Arequipa. From here every other shop is a travel agent selling identical trips to Colca Canyon. I opted for a two day trip with an overnight stop in the small town of Chivay. It was one of the best trips I’ve done, really well organized with a great guide who showed us all how to try coca leaves. You take about 10 of them and wrap them into a ball with a piece of a chalk-like substance which activates the coca (and gives you a numb tongue!), then you chew it or just keep the ball of leaves in your mouth. I thought it tasted disgusting and didn’t feel any effects whatsoever despite the local’s claims that you feel energized with no hunger or thirst – I still needed a coffee and a bar of chocolate
We drove a few hours to Chivay making numerous stops at scenic looksouts – the views were breathtaking. Chivay is a tiny place but the 'basic’ (i.e. cheapest on offer) accommodation was one of the best places I’ve stayed! We paid a visit to the hot springs, very nice! Then we went for a meal at a local restaurant with traditional dancing, which was just bizarre – a man and a woman wearing masks proceeded to lay down and take turns whipping each other and at one point the woman just stood there with her skirt over the man’s face. Ooh err!! We were all a bit shocked and just handed over a tip without question. The next morning we had to leave at 6 in order to reach the main hangout of the Condors by 8 and have the best chance of seeing them. The highest point we went to was almost 5000 metres and at this height I could feel it. As soon as we set off we encountered a group of Condors circling so all rushed off the bus to have a look – words cannot describe how amazing it is when a bird as big as the Andean Condor (its wingspan is over 10 feet) swoops down so low you feel you can almost touch it although in reality it is nowhere near
Back in Arequipa for a few days, I ran into Rebeca and Cameron again, randomly going to the same coffee shop at the same time. Despite having heard that Arequipa has the highest murder rate in the country, it was a lovely city and felt very safe! There are three volcanoes surrounding the city. The Plaza de Armas is very grand. I took the great open air tourist bus around the city and the countryside and visited some beautiful churches, had a look around the Santa Catalina Monastery, like a Spanish style small city that used to house over 450 people (only one third were nuns, the rest were servants), and went to the museum housing the famous Inca mummy ‘Juanita’, or the Inca Ice Maiden