Tuesday, July 29th, 2003

Arequipa and the Colca Canyon, Peru

Colca Canyon Hike 2

After an unpleasant but very cheap six hour local bus ride here we arrived in Arequipa, a gorgeous city surrounded by a landscape of mountains and volcanos. Many of the buildings are from colonial times and are made from the volcanic material white sillar. The buildings in the Plaza de Armas have beautiful Spanish arch ways… we sit on a balcony enjoying our meal and  listening to the nearby live band while gazing down onto the plaza, which is bordered by palm trees and other brightly coloured trees surrounding a fountain. Pigeons everywhere, they sometimes circle the plaza en mass which is quite a sight to see. The first hotel we stayed at was in a colonial house, super nice owners and rooms and showers and there was a nice garden in the back that we would eat breakfast in. Really nice.


Went to the Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world (the deepest being located a few kilometres away from the colca), for a four day trek.


Started off with the regular touristy tour… saw a vicuna reserve... vicunas are like llamas but much smaller, have much less hair, and are more wild looking... they vaguely remind me of gazelles. Every year they make only 200 grams of wool, compared to llamas and alpacas which make 3kgs a year... But the wool apparently is extremely soft, warm, and waterproof! Saw a few local towns... in one, a man had his own Andean Eagle, which he held on his arm. Got a picture of it on veronica (talons were clipped). Kind of sad to see a creature like that as a pet, but at the same time quite a sight to see. That night saw a folklore show.... local dancing and  music, was pretty neat… followed by a nice dip in some nearby hot springs.


Every morning in the Colca Canyon condors, Peru’s national bird, use the thermal drafts to glide upwards the km or so from the bottom of the canyon upwards where they look for things to eat, like llamas, sheep and cows. yup. They’re freakin huge. Standing up they're about a meter tall, and when gliding they are a full three meters wide. Not a bad sight either. They came super close too, could even see their colours and details. Really neat.


We met up with another guide who took us on hike into the canyon over the next three days, leaving behind the rest of the tourists (who only do the typical 2 day all-by-bus tour) and the hotels. In the canyon there are a few very small towns with no roads. We stayed in bamboo bungalows and ate pretty meagre meals than what we're used to, but it was good anyways as we had our own guide through the whole thing and no other tourists squawking around us. It was absolutely gorgeous! The canyon was so much more impressive on the hike and we saw so much more. Mountains all around ... sorta dessert like as we descended into the canyon. Many cactus and aloe vera like plants. Nice trout filled river at the bottem. So hot though!


The second day of the hike, after a trek in the dry cactus filled arid deserty climate down there we reached the oasis, which was complete with warm streams and waterfalls into a natural pool surrounded by fruit trees. Went for a refreshing swim.. so nice after hiking in the hot sun. Had a fresh avocado straight from the tree ... much juicier and better tasting than the (apparently) older ones we get in Canada. We were the only gringos around for awhile while swimming in the pool, and so were stared at quite a lot, which was kind of amusing actually. Wandered around the area in the afternoon…Followed the irrigation system along a narrow ledge towards a waterfall... super nice views. Also walked towards another little village. Saw lots of sheep and goats. This dog ran up towards us barking so Tony picked up a rock and it lowered its ears and ran off, luckily. There was also this chicken who kept jumping up onto the sheeps backs and trying to settle itself in... was pretty funny.


Left the oasis the next morning 230am!! Hiked about three hours straight up the canyon (with switchbacks) over a kilometer upwards under a clear sky of stars with the milky way very visible. So much nicer hiking in the dark, no hot sun to tire you out. Was also nice sitting on the side of the trail and having some water and looking at the many stars in the sky. Saw lots of shooting stars and have now learnt some of the southern sky constellations including the southern cross, llama eyes, Gemini, the scorpion... could also see the big dipper and Orion which I thought was neat as they were in different places in the sky and were bigger.


Ate breakfast at our guide's house with his family in a tiny little town called Cabanaconda, in a farm like setting... Mud constructed huts and chickens and ducks and cows. His wife made us the yummiest breakfast! Although maybe it was especially yummy cause we hadn’t eaten since dinner the night before. He had the cutest little kids! Was lots of fun watching the dogs chase the curious cows back into their section of their lot or the cats chickens ducks playing together... or the ducks going into back all ready to be brought with us back to the city to be made into Peking duck for a relative's birthday…  took their ducks in a box on the bus... apparently that’s pretty common for locals to do. Took a very crowded local bus back to Arequipa after breakfast. Took about 7 hours to get back and there were many people sharing seats and people sitting and standing in the aisles. Not a very comfy bus ride but at least we had our own seats so I can’t really complain.


Just been roaming around Arequipa for the last little bit. They have ice cream everywhere here! So yummy. Lots of good sweets too!


Today we went on a walk along the river and randomly chose different directions to explore. We were crossing the bridge over the river and Tony was going to take a picture.... He was waiting for the traffic to stop before taking the picture but a traffic cop stepped out and stopped the traffic especially so Tony could take the picture. It was the strangest thing but great at the same time... although the cars weren’t super happy about it. That’s just one example of how friendly the people are here!


Anyways, really tired and hungry now ... off we go to dinner!



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