Condors in Canyon Country

Trip Start Jun 12, 2011
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Trip End Jun 16, 2012


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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Since we had no idea whether we would make it through the miners blockade or not, we hadn't booked a hostel in Arequipa. Instead we just took a shortlist of names with addresses and figured we could just door knock. But the roadblock that kept us in Nazca had also kept others in Arequipa, and our first choice was full. Thankfully our second choice was right next door and they had a vacancy. Apparently this may have been a blessing, since later that day some other travellers arrived who had actually checked out early from next door due to it's poor conditions.

We were here to see Colca Canyon, but Arequipa was actually quite a beautiful town in it's own right. There was a magnificent town square and more artisans than you could shake a stick at. We did a bit of exploring and then signed up for a tour to the canyon. I was now about two days into a regime of antibiotics that I had assigned myself for what I suspected to be a run-of-the-mill chest infection, and was really struggling with the recovery. I spent most of the first day asleep, but managed to drag myself out of bed for the canyon visit on day two.

Colca Canyon is often marketed as the "World's Deepest Canyon", but in a rare moment of honesty our local guide admitted that it is only ranked third behind the monster Tsangpo Canyon in Tibet (4,160m vs 5,500m). That said, it is still more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the USA. It's inhabitants (new and old) also contribute to it being Peru's third biggest tourist draw. The flanks of the canyon preserve 1500 year old terraces installed by the pre-Inca societies, and it is still home to the largest flying land bird in the western hemisphere, the Andean Condor. To try and find the condors you arrive early at the "Condor Cross"and just wait. Luckily we managed to catch a pair soaring on the thermals as we arrived, because moments later they disappeared into the depths of the canyon and didn't reemerge until we were about to leave. Some of the less fortunate (or stubborn/patient) tourists would not have seen them at all.

[334 days on the road]
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