Arequipa and the Colca Canyon

Arequipa Travel Blog

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The Misti Mountain and Pichu Pichu

Peru just keeps getting better and better!  After an overnight bus ride on possibly the best bus in the whole world, we pulled into Arequipa in the early hours of the morning with the sun rising over the Andes making the mountains glow red and purple, what a truly breathtaking way to arrive into a city.  Arequipa is locted around 2,500m above sea level and it has palm trees, over 300 days of sunshine and blue skies all year round.  My kind of place! The city is Peru´s 2nd economic centre after Lima but is far more beautiful.  The city is set in a valley of Volcanoes, some of them active, and the area has daily tremors.

The beautiful white city
  The main volcano here is Misti which is the main Apu, or protector, of Arequipa.  It´s also the source of the mighty Amazon river.  The people here believe that the mountains were deities and would protect them or punish them, can understand why they´d think that living in a valley of Volcanoes!

The city is also known as the "Ciudad Blanco" or white city as the buildings are white and made of silica from the mountains.  It´s really beautiful and the sky is impossibly blue which just makes it all the more spectacular.  After walking around with Elvis taking in the sights and sounds of the city we had some Chifa (Peruvian Chinese) lunch and then I went to the Juanita museum.  They found a mummified girl in the Alpo volcano near Arequipa that were the remains of an Inca sacrifice some 500 years ago.

The Cathedral
  As she had been on the volcano and in the snow for so many years undisturbed the mummy was perfectly preserved with her internal organs in tact and her clothes still in tact.  The Inca´s sacrificed one beautiful, unblemished maiden each year to the volcanoes and it appears that this Juanita was sacrificed at the time an El Niño phenomenon was sweeping through Peru.  She is said to have walked for 2 weeks from Cusco following ancient traditions and walked to the top of the volcano in traditional dress and was sacrificed to appease the gods.  There are sacred pots and remains of the food they ate at the ceremony and they have restored the clothes too but it´s amazing to actually be able to come face to face with the mummy and see her skin and hair still in tact.
Palm trees in the Andes!
 

But the most amazing sites were still to come in the Colca valley 2hrs away from Arequipa.  Some of the group took a tour to visit the Colca Canyon, the deepest in the world at 4,165m deep and home to South America´s national bird - The Condor.  What is really incredible about this place is that it was only discovered 33 years ago after some students went canyoning and discovered the region had more to offer than first thouight.  They started researching and found that Chivay and the surrounding villages had remained undisturbed by the world for years and many local tribes still lived there complete with their way of life.  Now it´s becoming more touristy but there are still many tribes people who lived before the world redisocvered the area and as such retain many of the traditions.

Traditional weaving on the way to the Colca Canyon
  We came face to face with many of them and many of their animals! One Alpaca named Candi was my favourite!

Along the way we climbed to an altitude of 4,765m so when in Rome ... we decided it was only right to do as the Incas and chew their sacred leaf, coca.  Our guide Lucio gave us a demonstration on how to chew the leaves and add the catalyst to make them stronger.  However, you can also have Coca tea (Anadean Chicken Soup), coca sweets, coca biscuits and a myriad of other coca products as they are said to help with altitude and makes you less susceptible to hunger and tiredness.  Not bad for the humble coca leaf.  When we finally reached Patapampa at the top of the mountain at 4,765masl we made "Apachetas" or offerings to the mountain gods to thank them for letting us pass unharmed through them.

Coca tea ... hee hee
  There were literally thousands of them all over the moutains where people had asked or thanked the gods for various things. Really an incredible site to see the little mounds of stones everywhere.

We finally pulled into Chivay, the local village, and went to a traditional dinner where there were dance performances of their local dances in their local costumes.  Their dress were inspired by the Spanish who conquered them but with local influences through their embroidery.  They have a hat, underskirt, main skirt and hat all beautifully and colourfully embroidered with local flowers and are really ornate.  The dances were pretty interesting, one called Witti Witti involves the man and women each taking it in turns to fit on the floor, get hit with purses rather harshly around the stomach and thigh area and then in the man´s case the woman straddles his face to finally wake him up .

A Condor!
... nice!

The next morning we woke early and went to see the Condors fly.  Each morning from around 8am they use the first thermals of the day to rise from the depths of the Colca canyon up to the top to hunt for food.  The birds are magnificent.  They have a wing span of 3m and 20cm which is huge and to watch them fly is awe inspiring.  Unfortunately they didn´t really pose for the hoards of tourists that were there but i managed to get a few decent snaps of them,, but nothing compares to being there and seeing them in the flesh.  The colca valley was also really spectacular, surrounded by mountains and set in a luch green valley with terraces over 1,000 years old all around, it´s a very beautiful place and i feel really lucky to have visited.  It´s in the running for the new top 10 natural wonders of the world and i hope it gets on the list as it´s amazing. 

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The Misti Mountain and Pichu Pichu
The Misti Mountain and Pichu Pichu
The beautiful white city
The beautiful white city
The Cathedral
The Cathedral
Palm trees in the Andes!
Palm trees in the Andes!
Traditional weaving on the way to …
Traditional weaving on the way to…
Coca tea ... hee hee
Coca tea ... hee hee
A Condor!
A Condor!
Apacheta
Apacheta
Candi and her owner!
Candi and her owner!
The Colca Valley
The Colca Valley
The boys on a night out
The boys on a night out
and the girls!
and the girls!
3 mojitos for under 5GBP and 7 bee…
3 mojitos for under 5GBP and 7 be…
Arequipa
photo by: halilee