Flight of the Condor

Trip Start Jan 04, 2010
Trip End Mar 23, 2010

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Where I stayed
Mama Yachi

Flag of Peru  , Arequipa,
Thursday, January 28, 2010

After shopping around at different tour companies, we decided on a company called Giardino that offered a 2-day tour to the Colca Valley.

At 7:30am on the 28th we were picked up from our inn to start the tour. There were just 3 others in the tour van - a couple from Lima, and a girl from Germany, a really nice group, plus the driver and our guide Humberto. The tour started off through more windy roads with very interesting landscape, flat and desert with large volcanic mountains in the distance. We passed through a National Park where there were many vicuņas, beautiful animals with the most expensive wool in the world
(only top design companies like Armani get access to it).

Our van continued the drive up the mountain as we wondered what the fate of our altitude reaction would be. Shannon downed some coca tea and coca candies to prevent it. Our highest point was 4900m where we stopped to admire the view and hundreds of nukchucks. There were women selling beautiful alpaca wool clothing so we picked up a couple of things. Definitely less oxygen up there, but no issues. We seemed to do better in the altitude the second time around!

We drove on seeing hundreds of alpacas, llamas and more vicuņas, taking lots of pics for our animal-loving nephew, Liam. We arrived in a town called Chivay where we picked up 3 more guys from Holland/Belgium to join our group. They had also been victims of the bad weather in Cusco, however didn't even get to do their trek, nor did they get there money back. I guess we were lucky in the grand scheme of things.

We arrived at our Hotel around 2pm and were amazed at the quality of our accomodation - a new hotel designed to look like a rustic lodge including a grand fireplace and a panoramic view of the valley and distant mountains. That afternoon we went on a two hour hike up an escartment to view a pre-Inka grave, including skulls, bones and all. It also was a great vantage point to view the town as well as agricultural terraces also built by the pre-Inka civalization. That evening as the tempurature cooled we drove to a hotspring and relaxed in the therapeutic water.

The next morning at 6 am we all packed into our van and made the two hour drive up the Colca valley to Condor Cross for the apex of the trip. There we would have a view of one of the largest canyons in the world and the possibility of viewing a condor. Once there it was obvious why it is such an attraction. The views were beyond desciption so we'll let our pictures do the work. What we will say is that the Canyon is 1200 m deep and we were standing at the edge of a cliff overlooking the river and yes, even some clouds below. But what blew our minds the most was the condor. Afterter spoting a condor on a nearby rock we waited almost an hour before it took flight. Now to most people reading this you might find this unimpressive and even boring. But when the bird with a 12 foot wingspan flew directly over our head and put on a gliding show, rising high above using only the lift from hot air thermals, it was a spectacular sight. The trip to the Colca Valley was well worth the time and at a cost of 45 dollars (hotel, transport, guide) it was a steal.

The night of the 29th we returned to Arequipa and debated whether we try to make it to La Paz and catch our flight on the 31st to Santiago, Chile. Not sure if the bus schedule will allow this but you never know...
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