Off to Colca Canyon

Chivay Travel Blog

 › entry 11 of 12 › view all entries
Jason and I are at the first lookout point on our way to Colca Canyon.
  We were picked up at 7:45 this morning by Mirna, our friendly guide from Giardino Tours, who will be getting us to and showing us around Colca Canyon. Colca Canyon is considered to be one of the most scenic regions of Peru, packed with snowcapped volcanoes, narrow gorges, desert landscapes, and terraced slopes that predate the Incas. Colca Canyon's main gorge reaches a depth of 11,150 feet, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, to see the gorge at its deepest, you must undertake a grueling five-day hike, which we will not be doing.
      At the beginning of our excursion, we made a stop to capture stunning views of the three main volcanoes (Misti, Chachani, and PichuPichu) that ring Arequipa.
Llamas and alpacas graze behind us.
Next, we approached the National Reserve of Pampa Canahuas, where we were able to observe some of Peru's most recognizable wildlife. We snapped close-up photos of grazing alpacas, which I consider to be absolutely adorable, and vicunas, a smaller relative of alpacas and llamas. Vicunas are the national symbol of Peru, and a pound of vicuna fleece sells for as much as $1,500 in the United States. Besides camelids, I was also able to snap a shot of an adorable creature related to rabbits and chinchillas.
      Continuing on our journey, our next stop was a small Andean community, called Sumbay, where we were instructed to drink explosion tea, which consists of coca leaves and a tasty mint, to supposedly prevent altitude sickness.
Jason poses with a young alpaca.
We were told to drink away since our next stop would bring us to an elevation of over 16,000 feet.
      On our way to the sleepy town of Chivay, we paused briefly at a few more lookout points, where we were greeted by quiet Quechua women selling their woven hats, purses, gloves, and other goods. They often tote baby alpacas, llamas, or sheep with them, which we were excited to take pictures with.
      Upon arriving in Chivay, a town which got along just fine without electricity a few years back, we shuffled out of the bus into the low-key Plaza de Armas. We then toured a small, colorful church that was erected in the 16th century.
This cactus fruit we tasted at the market was so sour!
 Inside the church was an elaborate altar commemorating the Assumption of Mary, which was celebrated with a variety of festivities a few days ago. In addition, on the main altar, where you would usually find a large crucifix, was a painting of an alpaca holding a golden cross in its mouth. It was just another example of how the Catholic faith and the Quechua culture have become intertwined over the years in these small villages. 
      Also in Chivay, we visited a bustling local food market, where we sampled a regional fruit, called sancuyo, that is grown on a particular variety of cacti around Colca Canyon. When cut open, the inner contents resembled kiwi. However, the fruit was so sour to taste that your lips automatically purse when your taste buds come in contact with the fruit.
Jason poses next to 900-year old skulls at a pre-Inca cemetary.
Despite its sour nature, the piece of fruit was enjoyable.
      We drove another twenty minutes to our hotel, located just outside of Chivay. We enjoyed a large buffet lunch with our group, let our food digest for an hour, and then began a hike. We hiked an hour uphill until we reached the San Antonio ruins, which contains exposed tombs from a pre-Inca cemetery. We were surprised to see piles of skulls and bones pouring out from the tombs, which were not discovered until an earthquake in the 1990's uncovered them. A lone guard wandered amongst the ruins, making sure the 900-year-old skeletons were not disturbed. It sure was a bit eerie to be casually walking amongst so many ancient remains. On our way down from the ruins, we were momentarily stopped by a herd of alpacas that blocked the path to our hotel.
Spot, our hotel's llamma spat at me twice!
The animals started at us with wide eyes and began making a strange whining sound. Mirna explained that they were probably frightened by us because their herder was not around to calm them. As we passed by them, they quickly trotted off, avoiding close contact with us.
      Our hotel has a pet llama-alpaca mix, named Spot, that wanders around the front courtyard, greeting guests that enter and exit the hotel. The quirky creature spat at me twice as I approached him! It's quite funny because you have about a two second warning before the bullet of saliva exits the mouth of a llama. You can even see the llama working it up in its mouth before it is ejected. The first time he spat at me, I wasn't quick enough to avoid the splatter, but I escaped it the second time. I was a good sport about the whole thing and actually found it a bit comical. Later that evening, when we were exiting our room and heading towards the dining hall, we met Spot in the hotel lobby. He was casually walking behind the reception desk, enjoying a snack prepared by the owner!

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Jason and I are at the first looko…
Jason and I are at the first look…
Llamas and alpacas graze behind us.
Llamas and alpacas graze behind us.
Jason poses with a young alpaca.
Jason poses with a young alpaca.
This cactus fruit we tasted at the…
This cactus fruit we tasted at th…
Jason poses next to 900-year old s…
Jason poses next to 900-year old …
Spot, our hotels llamma spat at m…
Spot, our hotel's llamma spat at …
582 km (362 miles) traveled
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photo by: scacos2006