Trip Start Sep 03, 2007
220Trip End Jun 17, 2009
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Where I stayed
Setting off in a north west circling route to get round the volcano, we were soon climbing towards high mountain passes with rugged valleys between them. In one valley we saw our first vicunas, the smallest of the llama family which has fabulously soft (and expensive) wool, feeding on the sparse grass. Further on there were Llamas (tallest) and Alpacas (mid range with course wool) in several herds.
We were being told about the local history and cultures by an additional local guide and he warned us about altitude sickness, having climbed up from the coast in the last day or so, especially as this road took us over a very high pass
The road was a mix of half decent tarmac deteriorating in parts to a crushed rock with some severe pot holes, which in some parts gave a bumpy ride.
Further up the road we were diverted onto the dirt track at the side by a police road block. Reason - there was a procession to announce the start of the religious season in early February and half a mile of road was closed, causing buses, trucks and cars to divert. Many groups of locals then paraded down the road in turn, all in mid morning. On our journey we had seen many people in national costume, particularly the women but this was now Sunday best. Norah took some photos of the costumes and was approached by a group of children. Oh Oh , money? - remember photos = dollars. No - they just asked if she would email the photos to their internet address! This was becoming a land of surprising contrasts.
Just before midday we stopped at the top of a pass at a height of 4910 metres. The air was amazingly fresh (and thin) and we only stayed for ten minutes before starting the long, steep, winding, S bend descent down into the 'Colca Valley'. The road twisted and turned with some horrendous drops in parts, yet on the sides we could see many llamas, alpacas and even cows feeding.
On the valley floor we reached 'Chivay' at 3633 metres and after lunch we moved on to our hotel, 'La Casa de Mamayachi' in the small village of 'Coporaque'. This new, tourist hotel was in a fabulous location amidst the steep peaks, looking down to the terraced valley floor with its green fields of crops and grazing cattle. We stayed to acclimatize, whilst the others went on a walk up one of the mountain sides. In the warm sunshine there were colourful birds singing in the trees round the hotel and a pet alpaca wandered round the grounds, surveying all that was going on. What an incredible setting.
Dinner was in the hotel and they served Peruvian dishes of soups, chicken, alpaca, vegetables, potato cakes and a banana sponge cake. After dinner we sat in front of the log fire with Emma (from the US) and Martin and Ola (from Norway), our group companions
Up at 5.30 (Yes - am), breakfast including our daily 'fix' of coca tea and out in the van to drive for two and a half hours into the steeper part of Colca Canyon. This road was crushed rock and seriously pot holed, in some parts running through streams which crossed the road. It was not wide enough for two cars and in parts had a sudden, horrendously steep drop to the canyon way below. We were going to the Valley of the Condors and had to be there early before the condors flew.
As the gorge ran steeper and steeper below us, we were told that this is the second steepest gorge in the world, the first is also in Peru, some twelve hours drive away and the third steepest is the Grand Canyon in the USA. The van dropped us off for a twenty minute hike along the top of this part of the canyon, along a rocky trail right on the edge. It took us longer than the twenty minutes as we were feeling the altitude and I was picking my way with my knee problem. The tourist board had built viewpoints overlooking this point and we sat and waited. There were several colourful birds flying about in the cactus and shrubs and we spotted a hummingbird feeding on a cactus flower.
We returned to the hotel for lunch and then a free afternoon, lazing around in the gardens overlooking the valley, all the while under the watchful eye of the Alpaca, who was curious to see who was in his garden.
In the late afternoon we visited a hot springs that were tapped to run into swimming pools. It was also a large public park next to the river 'Colca", so whilst the others went for a swim, we went for a walk to the park, crossing over a swingy suspension bridge and admiring the fast flowing river and the rapids on its way into the Colca Canyon. We had looked down at the river in the narrow canyon this morning and seen some horrendous rapids and falls. No - I was not tempted to canoe it.
Next was a 'Peruvian Evening', a well organized tourist event with a good meal, a very good band and dancers. An enjoyable evening.