Condors

Trip Start Aug 17, 2013
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Flag of Peru  , Colca Canyon,
Monday, November 25, 2013

2:30am wake up, yay! My favourite. We got picked up in a mini van at 3am to make our way to colca canyon. As soon as I put my head down on the bus, it was lights out for me until we got to chivay; the capital of the colca province where we had to pay our national park entrance fee for being a foreigner. When I woke up I was greeted by some of the most incredible scenery I have ever seen. The Andes are an impressive mountain range.

We stopped in town and had some breakfast (3 shitty pieces of bread crust with jam) then made our way to a place overlooking some old inca agricultural terraces which have since been abandoned. This was one of the most incredible things I've seen. Glacier capped mountains, agricultural terraces, huge cliffs and mountains with a river running through the deepest gorge in the world. Stunning.

A few more lookouts later and we had arrived to the spot that had persuaded me to book the trip in the first place- Cruz del condor where we saw a number of Andean condors flying within a few hundred metres of us. For those who don't see the attraction, they are the biggest birds, in the world, with a wingspan often greater than 4.5m. They are awesome. We got to watch them for an hour, and also bumped into Leah and the rest of the gang who were getting ready for their 3 day hike to the bottom of the canyon and back up again.

After the condor lookout we stopped at a small town called maca where we took some photos of a church. We were stopped by a lady who had a stunning falcon on her shoulder, and she was standing next to an alpaca that she had dressed up. I am such a sucker for photos with animals so I couldn't resist a picture with a bird of prey on my head while I was hugging an alpaca.

Next stop was some natural hot springs, fed by the water from a nearby river. We had to cross a shitty rickety bridge made from god know what but the supports looked like alpaca fur. After being so cold this morning, the temperature sky rocketed to easily 40 degrees, so hot springs weren't really what I was feeling but we got in anyway. A dip in the river was far more refreshing. We had an hour at the spa then we left to get some lunch.

Being Latin America, if you wanted to eat lunch it was an added cost, so we settled on a cheaper alternative than the overpriced buffet. After lunch it was time to head back to Arequipa and it was here that I got to the highest altitude I've ever been at. Judging by how I felt in Latacunga, I thought I'd be plagued by headache and crouching but I felt surprisingly fine at 4910m. We stopped here to take some photos of all of the mountains around us and just because Latin America is amazing, one of the volcanoes sabancayo at 5926m was blowing smoke out of the top. Another item run off the bucket list.

On the way back to town, on the high altitude plains we came across a family of vicuņas, which are like alpacas and llamas but smaller and non domesticated. They are the smallest in the family, and considered quite rare, which means their wool sells for thousands of dollars. Seeing these animals topped off a fantastic trip, and has been the best thing I have done and seen in Peru so far; I just wish I had a few more days here to take more of it in!

Got back to the hostel and sorted out our trip to Machu Picchu, before getting on the overnight bus to cusco. Went with Cruz del sur again, they never disappoint. I got woken up on the bus, because I was having trouble breathing. I blamed the altitude but apparently it was the air conditioning...
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