The hunt for the Condor

Trip Start Aug 12, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Arequipay Backpackers Downtown
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Peru  ,
Friday, March 25, 2011

A short hop across the border, a pleasant overnight stay in Puno (Peru's tourist town besides Lake Titicaca) and a six hour sauna of a bus ride later, I arrived in Arequipa, Peru.  Given my chosen hostel's ridiculously awesome facilities which included a movie room with a humongous TV screen and a Playstation 3 room, the evening was spent taking advantage with the exploration of the city left for the following day.

A short taxi ride later I was stood in Arequipa's Plaza de Armas, a grand picturesque Square dominated by the Cathedral on its North side, which is in keeping with a wealthy vibe that this town oozes.  People-watching is the name of the game for tourists in this Square and that is exactly what I did over breakfast and an afternoon coffee from a couple of the first floor restaurants overlooking the Square.  Sandwiched in between was a tour of the Santa Catalina Convent.

I was sceptical that the ten US dollars expended on visiting the Convent would be worthwhile but my scepticism was soon banished as I entered the Convent grounds and was immediately trigger happy with my camera.  By way of historical background, the Convent was founded in 1579 shortly after the arrival of the Spanish in the city and was constructed using Sillar, a white volcanic stone found locally as the city is set amongst volcanoes.  However, simply put, if I were to sacrifice my creature comforts and the temptations of this world for a life of prayer and meditation then I would want to stay in a place which exudes beauty and calm that is at least on a par with this Convent!

Having decided to head to Colca Canyon and reasoned that the hike down the canyon could be skipped as the views are surely better from the top, I jumped on an easy paced two day bus tour booked through the hostel.  Surprisingly, aside from four of us, the remainder were Peruvians in the main from Lima.

The first day was mainly spent on the bus travelling and stopping off at viewpoints accompanied with the customary street stalls and local Peruvians with their pet alpacas offering photo opportunities for a small fee.  The buffet lunch was a feast of various Peruvian delights where within hours of cuddling up to Alpacas we now seemed to be enjoying Alpaca meat.

After a trip to the hot pools in the early afternoon, we were treated to some traditional Peruvian entertainment during our dinner.  Despite my attempts to avoid participating, I was picked out, no doubt due to the pointing fingers of my fellow group members, and found myself laying on the floor being whipped in the nuts by a Peruvian lady - and she didn't half go for it! (see video)  Dance participation did not get much better later that evening as a few of us ventured out to a nightclub and attempts to salsa proved quite a struggle!

The late night did not pose a problem as we were all up and out of the hostel by 6am to finally head to the Colca Canyon.  Although the Colca Canyon's world ranking has changed over time due to more accurate measurements and new discoveries, it is currently the third deepest canyon in the world.

We had an hour or so at the Canyon's main viewpoint praying for a sight of a Condor - a majestic bird with a wing span of just over three metres and a weight of 12 kilograms.  Although the weather was perfect, with ten or so minutes left, there had been no sightings.  Luckily though for us, like London buses, we saw three Condors fly above the Canyon not long after - wow!

The remainder of the day was a bit of a drag as the tiredom set in and we made the long bus journey back to Arequipa.
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Gopi Sundharam on

Awesome travelogue. Wish I can take a year off. Enjoy Prathab. I and your sis envy you. :) :)

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