Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru and quite nice with numerous colonial churches and mansions dotted throughout the city. We didn’t have too much time to explore the city; actually we only had some hours. If you have more time to spend, take at least a day to find out more about this place. The main reason to come here was to see the Cañon del Colca which is according to our travel bible (Lonely Planet) the second deepest canyon in the world, the deepest would be right next door, 200 km northwest of Arequipa, Cañon del Cotahuasi. Later on we would learn from our guide that according to the most recent measurements in 2005 they proved that Cañon del Colca is the deepest canyon of the world with a depth of 4100 m. Anyway, to save up some time we decided to book an organized two day tour to the Cañon del Colca and Colca valley. This tour wouldn’t include any hiking, but there are other tours, 3-day tours, organized as hiking tours. Probably not a bad option!!!
When we got picked up in the morning by the tourist bus we found out that there would be travelling 28 people with us. “How WONDERFUL”, we thought, “this is going to be a real TOURISTY thing”. The first thing we had to do was to introduce ourselves and we found out that the group consisted of a quite interesting mix of people from all over, Norway, Denmark, England, France, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Australia, USA, Germany and Sweden. Our guide, Yrene from Colonial Tours, turned out to be a real gem. She is really knowledgeable about the life and customs of the people who live in the Colca Valley (maybe because she is from there herself), she speaks good English and perfect Spanish (of course) and she has a good sense of humour. It never got boring to listen to her.
On our way to Chivay, the centre town of the Colca Valley and the place where we would spend the night, we saw some beautiful landscapes, vicuñas (a relative of the llama and alpaca but wild), a llama that eats cocaine leaves, more llamas in the wilderness, souvenir shops (of course, where there are tourists, there are souvenir shops) plants that you only can see higher than 4500 m above sea level and we got to the highest point of our trip, 4900 m.
Once in Chivay, we had lunch, a delicious buffet with local food (yummi, yummi!!!) and afterwards we went for a short hike outside of Coporaque, a small village close to Chivay, to see a funerary site from about 800 years after Christ. We got back when it was dark and went by bus to the hot springs at Calera. The “baños” were superb, just the right temperature for some quick relaxing. At night we went to an ok restaurant where they had live music (musica folclorica) and dancing. We had a really nice talk with a British couple, Ally and David, so we did not spend too much attention to the dancers and musicians. Sorry!!!
The next day started with an early breakfast at 5.30 a.m. and then we went off to Cañon del Colca to see the spectacular Andean Condors. These huge birds can get a wingspan of 3,10 m and can way up to 15 kg. They are primarily scavengers, feeding on carrion. Yuck!!! Anyway, before we got to the “Cruz del Condor” (viewpoint to spot condors), we stopped at a village to see some local dancers in their tradicional customs. That was a real touristy thing just prepared for us, the tourists. We took a photo anyway and payed a small tip.
Then finally we arrived at the “Cruz del Condor”. We were not the only tourists there, of course not, there were lots of other tourist busses. Anyway, we managed to get a perfect spot and after about 10 minutes the condors started to fly below us in the canyon. With every circle they came closer to us until they flew off. In total we must have seen 20 condors. Amazing!!! It was difficult to get some good shots but we (Fredrik) managed anyway with our simple camera. Have a look!!!
The tour has been a success despite being so touristy. The canyon is beautiful and to see the condors hovering below and above you is an unique experience. Next time (if we come back some day), we will do some hiking here.
Bye for now, amigos!!!
Sabrina and Fredrik