Condors in the Colca Canyon

Trip Start Jul 12, 2012
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Trip End Jun 21, 2013


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Flag of Peru  ,
Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Colca Canyon should be more famous than it is. At 4160-m deep, it's twice as deep as the USA's Grand Canyon and is said to be the "world's deepest canyon". It doesn't really look much like a typical canyon though, more like an impressive valley. Despite this, it is still Peru's third-most-visited tourist attraction. People come here in droves to see the flight of the Andean Condors over Condor Cross. 

Condor Cross was my first stop on a 2-day trekking tour of the Canyon. Our tour group jostled with the day-trippers at the lookout for prime views of the gorge. Sure enough, at about 9am the condors took flight over the valley. Cynics in our party suggested that the tour companies throw meat to the birds to guarantee a good show. Nevertheless it was spectacular to see the massive condors (with their 3-m-plus wingspan) float on thermals above the gorge. 

We sped away up the dusty valley, leaving the condor coach parties behind. The trek started at Chivay village and headed down, down, down into the desert valley. So much dust! Such hot sun! Such sticky, sweaty, sun-cream-slathered skin! For 4 hours, our group zig-zagged down into the gorge. Lunch was in a village in an amazingly fertile valley far below. The best food I've eaten in Peru so far was served by a tiny Peruvian lady in traditional dress. 

The group split in two, with the 3-day trekkers remaining at the idyllic lunch stop for the night, while the 2-day trekkers summoned Herculean willpower to lace up their hot, heavy boots once again and set off into the valley. The effort was soon forgotten as we trekked beside stunning striated rock-faces, glowing red in the late afternoon sun. Our charming guide, Marciel, showed us the hut where he was brought up by his grandmother and the small reservoir used by the villagers for pisco-fuelled fiestas that featured macho naked swimming races. He also showed us a cactus plant covered with cochineal parasites. I popped one of the bugs and its red blood stained my fingers. The blood has been used for centuries as a natural red dye and its production is still lucrative for farmers in Peru. That's 1 centimo less for the farmer in this village then. Oops, sorry! 

What better way to end a hard day's trek than with a moonlit swim in a thermal pool? Arriving at a clean, green oasis camp as darkness fell, the trekkers dived straight into the clear pool. As the warm mineral water eased our aching muscles, we picked out constellations in the Southern hemisphere's night sky. 

The following day, a 3-hour hike up an almost sheer cliff before breakfast was less welcome. Breath was short at this altitude and my lactose-deprived leg muscles shook with the relentless effort. It also took a lot of energy not to stumble from the path down near-vertical slopes to my doom. Reaching the top was a delight, as was the massive trekker's breakfast and another spectacular  thermal pool back in Chivay. 

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Comments

Shane Murphy on

Loving your work. What I would have liked to see - and you might consider this for future endeavour - is you launch a 3-metre rule into the air to fly alongside the condor to truly demonstrate its wingspan. Note that the rule would have to have its measurements clearly marked, with the photo in close up and in focus, otherwise you'd need another flying measurement to show to the rule's length. And that would be foolish.

roseoftheworld2
roseoftheworld2 on

Why didn't I think of that? Will try harder next time.

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