Convent, Colca Canyon and Condors
Trip Start Jan 31, 2005
45Trip End Mar 30, 2006
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We enjoyed Arequipa a lot, though we were feeling a little lazy and spent a fair amount of time there just walking around and regrouping. It is a nice spot to do that, though - warm, sunny days all year and lots of colonial architecture. Our one touristy accomplishment in the city itself was visiting a huge walled convent built in the 1600s. It is practically a city within a city and beautifully constructed. It had a small amount of notoriety back in the day because it was sort of an elitist convent - the nuns were traditionally the second daughters from the local nobility and they came to the convent with multiple servants and a dowry (at least during its early history)
After spending a few days in Arequipa we headed to the Colca Canyon, which is about a 3 hour bus ride from Arequipa. It is one of the deepest canyons in the world (deeper than the Grand Canyon) and a lot of people visit it to do some hiking as well as see Andean condors (one of the largest flying birds in the world). We took the bus beyond the canyon's nearest point to Arequipa an additional two hours to the little village of Cabanaconde. When we arrived we found a big local indigenous festival going on. There were a couple different brass bands playing in the plaza and lots of people drinking and dancing in circles. We stuck around to watch for a little while but ended up going to bed earlier than the villagers because we had to get up early the next morning for a planned three-day hike into the canyon.
Before hiking we took a bus about a half hour from Cabanaconde to a spot overlooking the canyon known as Cruz del Condor. Practically every morning from 8 till 9 condors can be seen flying in this area due to morning updrafts from the canyon bottom. The birds were more punctual than most people or buses in Latin America. At nearly 8 a.m. on the dot they started flying by. Over the course of an hour they came and went, sometimes right over our heads, sometimes pretty far away, but still in sight. There were points when we had dozens of huge condors flying all around us
After watching the condors for an hour or so, we started hiking down the road back to Cabanaconde to find the path down into the canyon. As we were walking, though, we started rethinking what we really felt like doing. A combination of a cough Allison had had since the Inca Trail, the fact that we had done a lot of hiking in the previous few weeks and our observation that while the canyon was pretty, it wasn't as beautiful as we expected, and the best views seemed to be from the top, made us decide not to hike down into the canyon and instead just walk back to Cabanaconde. From there we decided to take the bus back to the edge of the canyon to the town of Chivay, where we planned to go to some hot springs, spend the night and then go back to Arequipa.
We arrived at the bus station and went to the ticket counter to buy tickets back to Arequipa for the next day