Crania, Colca Canyon and Condors

Chivay Travel Blog

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Monday started early. We left our big packs in the hotel and took small packs with enough stuff for a couple of nights. We were off to Colca Canyon, one of the biggest in the world. On the way we spotted groups of wild Vicunas roaming the plains, one of the only places where they're protected. Shortly afterwards it was time for a cup of coca leaf tea and some shopping.

 

A couple of hours outside of Arequipa we stopped at the highest point of our whole travels. A pass of around 4800m high, full of small piles of rock dedicated to Pachamama (earth mother). Apparently it's good form to leave her an offering so she can guide you on your way.

Getting out of the coach for a look about was a struggle and five minutes of the bitter cold and biting wind were more than enough. We stopped again further down the road for a magnificent view of several volcanoes, the highest of which was a whopping 6288m.

 

Further on we arrived at Chivay, where we had a disappointing 'tourist' buffet. Our hotel was a purpose-built site on the outskirts of a tiny village near Chivay, and looked extremely out of place in its humble surroundings. Our guide was keen for us to go on a little adventure, so we walked through the town and up into the hills where he showed us ancient inca burial sites, looking very much like holes in the rock face. It was important when Incas died that they were sat cross-legged in a basket and placed in their burial site facing east, so the sun would hit them first thing in the morning.

This would grant them a better passage to the afterlife, or something along those lines. We carried on further up into the hills where we came across a collection of human bones. Gruesome. As our guide explained, the site had only recently been discovered, and like many newly-encountered inca burial sites in the area, it was quickly looted by the (very poor) locals. We each stuck our head into one of the caves and saw 500-year-old skeletons squeezed into little baskets as if they were master contortionists. Furthermore, someone had taken the trouble to line-up three skulls on a ledge and I'm not proud to say that it took a lot of will power not to re-enact the "alas poor Yorick" bit from Hamlet.

 

For dinner we stayed at the hostel, and by now I'd become cheesed-off with the poor quality and comparitive expense (£4 isn't a lot for a meal, admittedly but relative to non-tourist places, and Bolivia).

The hotel meal was no exception. Although I'm fond of Alpaca meat, freezing cold rice and an hour wait for your food becomes frustrating after a while.

 

The next morning we headed to Colca Canyon for some Condor-spotting. We were not to be disappointed. There are around 40 Condors in the Colca canyon and watching them fly was one of the most spectacular things we'd seen so far. The Canyon itself is an impressive sight (although I don't think we ventured too far along it), but when you see six condors, with wingspans of over two metres flying only a few metres above your head, it's something else altogether. At one point one came in and landed on a rock ledge a few metres in front of us. On the down side, I dropped our camera in a flurry of excitement and it never recovered. The camera wouldn't play the game after that, I missed several excellent photo opportunities and Em didn't speak to me for the rest of the day. Every cloud...

 

After lunch we had a trip to a thermal spa and baths site, and on to dinner. The evening's predictably poor offering was peppered with some quite entertaining local dances.

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Chivay
photo by: scacos2006