Condors in the Colca Canyon

Trip Start Oct 14, 2009
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Trip End Dec 03, 2009


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Flag of Peru  , Colca Canyon,
Thursday, November 19, 2009

So we arrived by flight into the city of Arequipa, known as the White City. The greeting at the airport has to be one of the strangest, and yet, one of the nicest we've come across ever. We were met by dancers who were performing the local dance, as well as waiters with platters of sandwiches, coffees and juices. We were a bit confused, but accepted the hospitality gratefully as we waited for our bags.

We took a quick tour of the city from the transfer bus and then checked into our hotel. We then went to dinner with most of our group and also went to watch some of the qualifying World Cup soccer games that were on. When we arrived back to our hotel we checked our emails and discovered that unfortunately one or both of our credit/debit cards had been compromised and a large sum of money had been taken from our account... Of course we called the bank and were told that since the amounts were only pending on the account there was nothing that they could do yet, but they canceled our cards. So now we were left with about US$30 and no credit/debit cards... and we were leaving for the Colca Canyon (in the middle of nowhere!) for two days. Great. Well, our friend in the group Chris lent us some money in the meantime and we worked on a plan for having Dave's family wire us some money. However, the town that we stayed at had no phones or internet and the nearest "big" town had only one phone that could dial internationally and no internet either... but we were finally able to contact David's family and relay to them our bad luck and have them work out to wire us the money to back in Arequipa (which is Peru's second largest city). So in the end it was all worked out, with a few headaches and worrying (both on our end and Dave's family who thought we'd been kidnapped!). At least we're fine and its all worked out (our money is being credited back by the bank too).

So while that was all going on we were still determined to have a good time and enjoy the Colca Canyon which is huge and spectacular. The locals refer to it as "almost better than the Grand Canyon".

Getting to the Colca Canyon is a bit challenging, there aren't many paved roads, and the dirt roads are in pretty bad repair, so it was bumpy and dusty most of the way. And it is definitely the desert out there, they only get about 150mls of rain a year (Adelaide eat your heart out!). No trees or greenery to be seen. So we're not sure how the llamas, alpacas, vicunas (similar to the llama) or cows and sheep live out there!

We reached our hotel in the afternoon and then a few of us opted for a short hike up a hill close to the hotel where we could see some old tombs from pre-Inca days and see some of the skeletons of the indigenous people who used to practice skull deformations. One race of indigenous people shaped their heads length-ways as infants for a taller, cone-shaped head (think of the Coneheads!). And the other race shaped the skulls of their infants width-ways (think of Stewie from Family Guy!). Both races lived quite near each other and didn't have many altercations from what history says, as both sets of bones were found in the same tombs. Just their religious practices were slightly different.

It was an interesting walk, but the best part was the sunset which was just gorgeous - all orange and red, in contrast with the very blue of the sky above the desert. Just amazing.

We ended the night with a delicious dinner prepared by the staff at the hotel. A buffet (which is pretty rare here), that included a lot of local dishes, including alpaca meat.

The next day we got up quite early to start the day with a drive to the Colca Canyon, in order to see the condors as they ride the thermals. After another long, bumpy and dusty ride, we reached the Colca Canyon. It is quite impressive and I did notice similarities between this canyon and the Grand Canyon. After a little while we saw two condors riding the thermals. Dave managed to get quite close and get some great photos as they flew over his head. They are ENORMOUS birds, with a wing-span close to 6ft. We saw one adult (they are black with a white back and white ring around their neck) and a juvenile (they are brown). It was pretty cool to see them so close (even though they are quite ugly!).

In the afternoon we went to the local hot springs and enjoyed some relaxing time there. The waters are heated by the volcanoes nearby and the water has a slight smell of sulphur, but the water was about 39C, so nice and warm.

We again had a nice dinner in our hotel and played some cards with some of our friends from our tour group and then went to bed. Back to Arequipa tomorrow for one night and then we take the overnight bus the following night to Nazca.
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