Trip Start Sep 28, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Peru  ,
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I've been trying to sleep for some time and finding it near impossible due to the double whammy of barbed wire squeezing my Uluva and "I want to ride my bicycle" being sung at karaoke in the hostel bar. For some reason an enterprising young staff member has decided to use their laptop as a backing track, and is screeching their way through some god awful tunes with the help of other clientele.  I've shoved my head under the pillow but the warblings are still driving into my ears, so I decide to get up early.  It's only half an hour until my alarm goes off anyway.  2am.  Spare me.

Feeling decidedly naff, I'm bundled into a mini van and given a blanket, whereupon I waste no time at all in trying to sleep.  The horrendous pain in my throat keeps me from doing so, and while the rest of the passengers snooze merrily away, I feel every bump and jolt of the three hour journey to the canyon, desperately trying to keep warm under a blanket that doesn't reach past my shorts.

Colca canyon is one of Peru's most visited sites and up there as one of the top things to do in the country.  It is almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, and is touted as the worlds deepest, although the walls are not as vertical as that of its American counterpart.  The valley is littered with Inca history, colonial villages and local culture, which explains why you can't move for those sun hat wearing, massive camera carrying, ignorant fat tourists.  There really is far too many people,  particularly when looking for the Condors.  The locals have soon clued themselves up, as where the main industry once was agriculture, it is now tourism, and it is in your face with a vengeance.  Dancing starts on cue, sellers line the streets with Alpaca wool garments, people try and put birds of prey on your head.  OK so I fell for that one, but once again I feel I've been caught in a trap, yet in spite of this, there is no denying the areas astounding beauty.  If only I had a decent camera to photograph it.  Perhaps I should put the clueless English woman next to me out of her misery, struggling to turn her Fuji film DSLR on.  It really makes my blood boil.

Condors apparently live for up to 85 years, and they mate for life, flying around in pairs for years once a partner has been found.  It is possible that they die within a year of each other, as of a broken heart.  For obvious reasons this appeals to me, and when the audible gasps from the gathered throng ring out from the canyon side, you can't help but wish you were one of these majestical birds.  Except for the head.  That's hideous.

I've waited for 20 minutes to see one, before deciding I need to visit the little boys room, some distance from the viewing peak.  Of course half way down the pebble walkway and the 'oooooh's' and 'ahhhhhhh's!' have turned my head, to discover around ten of the birds circling above the crowd.  Then it becomes mayhem.  Old grannies somehow finding the legs to sprint to a better position, men jostling for the picture postcard shot.  You can feel the testosterone in the air as the fight for the perfect view.  Women panic at their husbands, terrified they don't get that envy inducing image to piss off the neighbours.  I'm half expecting a fight to break out.  Meanwhile I'm going to the toilet.

I do my very best, but with the compact camera all I can manage are pictures of birds that look like crows.  Hell I could go to the bottom of my garden (if I had one) take a snap of a Blackbird and claim it was a Buzzard.  Then something dawns on me.  Something someone said to me a long time ago.  People spend too long trying to get that epic shot, and when they think they've got it, they walk away.  When they get home they show everyone the great pictures they took, but did they ever actually stop to look at what they were photographing?  I put the camera away, and spend an hour silently contemplating one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  Such grace, such control, such effortless flight.  They have no breast muscles, so they never flap their wings, they simply glide on the hot air currents.  Dancing with their partners through the air.  No urgency, no cares, they simply exist.  It is glorious to watch.  It's just a shame they have a face like a Turkey.

Very little could top the highlight of the day, and it certainly doesn't.  We visit some nice villages, each one tempting you to part with your dollars.  We're bussed to some nice view points, including one which takes in over five volcanoes, but little will trump the Condor experience.  To be honest it all feels a little rushed, but then I didn't have time to do the proper trek due to the events of the past few days.  It's freezing cold up there anyway, and I'm pretty thankful when returned to the hostel in the early afternoon.  Now all that remains to do is to clear my altitude-blocked ears by sticking an up-turned cigarette in them.  I didn't believe it either.

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