February 25th, 2008 – by: Belluomo
The Mighty Condor - King of the Buzzards
We left Cabanaconde in a dense fog, and I worried about the dangers of traffic on the road, with its steep dropoffs. I tried not to think about that and just said a prayer to my guardian angel for protection. I say a lot of those prayers here in South America! We stopped at the Mirador but there was really no point because of the fog. We wandered around a bit and even the local women selling blankets, sweaters, hats, souvenirs and the like were half-hearted in their attempts to sell. There was nothing much to do and nothing at all to see so we got back on the next bus towards Chivay
. Less than an hour from the lookout point, the fog melted away and the sun emerged to illumine beautiful views of the canyon.
Fog at the Lookout Point
The bus gained passengers until there wasn´t even room to stand and after a claustraphobic last hour, we finally arrived in Chivay. Jaime guided us into some taxis and we spent a luxurious hour at the hot springs in a pool all to ourselves. The chill humid air was a great contrast to the hot steamy sulphuric water that magically revived our tired and aching muscles. Even the sprinkling of rain didn´t matter while we were in the pool. Hunger got the better of us and we headed back to Chivay for lunch. Lunch was the best meal we´d had on the trek. It was a large buffet with ceviche, salads, soups, guinea pig, chicken, fried quinoa balls (delicious!), fried sweet potato, stuffed mashed potato balls (papa rellena), fried trout, and many other things.
Even the pudding was delicious. Contented and full, we got on the bus for the journey back to Arequipa
. We ascended to almost 5,000 meters, to the high altiplano and the rain striking the side of the bus seemed to be malicious. I was surprised it didn´t turn to snow. At this altitude, there was little but stones and mud and scrub. How the llamas and vicunas can live at the altitude and even flourish, is beyond me. There was even a small settlement that we passed and the utter misery and poverty of living so high up in wooden shacks with that extreme cold was hard to see.
On the outskirts of Arequipa we passed by more poverty. It was the same scene of half-finished houses and shacks, trash being carried down dirty stinking rivulets by the road, often passing in front of the houses, gullies and rocks and mud and the terrible weight of extreme poverty hanging over everything.
I asked Jaime why every building seemed to be half finished, something I had wondered my last time in Peru, and he explained that it´s for two reasons. The first is that the owner of a finished building has to pay the full tax whereas if it´s unfinished, they pay half that tax. Oh, the law of unintended consequences! Second, a family or business owner will often complete part of their house or building and then wait until they have more money to finish it. So this is why all of Peru looks like a massive building project abandoned before completion. In my opinion, this tax law is so short-sighted. They should tax on square footage and that way there wouldn´t be this blight everywhere you look. But the glacial way that things move in Peru, I doubt that reform will every take place. Another depressing realization to add to the depressing slums on the outskirts of the cities.