Condors of the Colca Canyon...

Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
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Trip End Apr 08, 2008


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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Arequipa....a beautiful modern city....striking colonial architecture....vivid colors...friendly welcomes...good food...a great hostel....but I want to go check out this canyon nearby...It's supposed to be over twice as deep as the Grand Canyon - I'm dubious- but nonetheless I've heard its magnificent.  So I head out of the city pretty quickly to spend 2 days in the canyon.  This tour is amazingly inexpensive - only 28 dollars for transport, lodging and some food and music...I couldn't do it cheaper on my own...plus I've met some great people on tours and really enjoyed their company.   This time most of the people speak only Spanish so I have to work a little harder to be part of the picture, but again they're delightful to spend time with.  Then there's the three Korean guys on the trip...their Spanish is no better than mine so I get to know them a bit.  They're volunteering with a program like the Peace Corps of Korea...but it gets them out of compulsory military service.  I especially enjoy getting to know this one guy, Eugene, a Korean man raised in Greece who speaks fluent English with a British accent...an interesting guy.  Hopefully our paths will cross again down the line. 
 
Well about the canyon....another opportunity to be awed by nature.  We head through desert and salt plains to get there...all of which were untillable to the Incas...but this deep valley has moisture and rich soils....so they farmed it...intensively,...no matter that it's slopes are radically steep...the Incas were pros at terrace-making.  So pretty much the entire valley is terraced with shocking precision...and about 60 percent is still in active agriculture.    The indigenous folks have lived here for centuries but then the Incas moved in and as long as the locals were cooperative and helped out, they were allowed to stay and farm.  But if they didn't comply with Inca dominance, then apparently there were problems.  Well it looks like there was a lot of cooperation judging from these terraces.  
 
And the high point of the trip is getting to Condor Cruz....where the canyon is deep and at certain times of the day, when the hot/cold air is just right to create a perfect updraft, the condors will soar right over your head.   And they do...there were a couple of times I thought one might swoop down and hit me in the head.  And these are big birds....with wide wing spans and they're magnificent to watch.  My challenge is to snap the photos at just the right time so as to catch them mid-air... not easy...but I've got a few shots....check them out...almost as good as the real thing...except you can't hear them....
 
We head back to Arequipa...I've really enjoyed this group.  Even after only two days there are connections made and a group dynamic formed...pretty quick. 
 
As we head back towards the city I ask our guide about the plots I see in the desert that are carefully delineated by walls of piled stones.   I mean we're way out of Arequipa now...there are no elec or water systems here....no infrastructure to support a community.  But yet there are walls surrounding plots of land...some with shacks within them....looks like a squatter community.  In fact, these are the to be the new homes of people from neighboring cities, maybe Lima or Puno...where people couldn't find jobs or support families.   Since Arequipa is the most rapidly expanding city in the region, people are drawn here by hope, and if they pick a plot of land and sleep on it, it will become theirs...they will own it.  However, right now it looks like a hellish existence...totally dry desert conditions, no vegetation, no shade...and no utilities.  Supposedly, when about 40,000 people have formed community, the gov't will build the utilities.  Such a stark contrast to the thriving central city of Arequipa where there's lots of money and comfort.   Seems unreasonable...
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