Colca Travel Blog› entry 3 of 4 › view all entries
On Sunday I
took a 2 day side tour to Colca Canyon with a local guide. On the way our guide
pointed out all the volcanoes between Arequipa and Chivay and telling us the
altitude at all the various points. We had a break at the highest point -4800m.
The smokers in the group still had a cigarette despite the lack of oxygen. We
drove past Arequipa's shanty towns which have no water.
We had coca leaf tea to help combat the affects of altitude. We were all so given coca leaves to chew for 20 minutes. They tasted disgusting and made your mouth numb. It also made you more alert and chatty. The USA destroyed a lot of Peru´s coca trees a few years ago in order to stop the flow of cocaine.
After travelling through the desert for the past week the terrain at the higher altitudes seemed less harsh. The area has water supplied by the ice on the mountains. Most of the animals and plants we saw can only survive above 4200m. My favourite animal I saw on the trip was the Andean Geese - they are in pairs for life - when one dies the other also dies. The huariso (cross between an alpaca and llama)were cool. They provide a low cholesterol meat. We also saw the rare vicuna (small llama) - it is a 2 year jail term for killing one. They are only sheared every 2 years. The farmers are paid $US280/kg. One animal may only provide a quarter of a kilogram. We also briefly saw a vischetcha hiding in the rocks - looks like a guinea pig.
We visited some thermal baths before dinner. I was totally out of breath after swimming 30 metres due to the altitude.
We had a traditional meal for dinner - maize and bistec. There was a band and dancers performing for us while we ate dinner. One dance was about harvesting. Another dance was about a man dressing up as a woman to find a wife to prevent the wrath of the father-in-law. The woman dancer wore a beautiful costume consisting of a billowing skirt and a white hat. If the hat has one flower it means she is married. If the hat has 2 flowers then the woman is single. If the flower is black then the woman is widowed. The dancers were jig like. They selected people from our group to dance with them.
On Monday we visited the condor viewing point in the Colca Canyon. We only saw 2 condors as it was breeding season. Both condors were really close to us. They were less than 8 years old as they were brown in colour rather than black. I love how they spread the end of their wings when they fly. The wing span of these young birds was still over 2 meters.
We saw a map the Incas carved on a rock. It showed the sources of water and the different levels of the land. We also stopped to see an Inca burial place. They had bored holes in the cliff face above the mummies to catch the sunlight. They had chosen the place on the hill that the sun hits first.
We also stopped at the village Maca that was destroyed 12 years ago by an earthquake caused by the nearby Volcano. We saw the crack lines and where the ground shifted due to the earthquake. Maca is surrounded by white rocks as it used to be the location of a lake 2000 years ago.
It took us 9 hours to travel to Cusco yesterday evening from Arequipa - arrived at midnight. We travelled through an amazing storm with large forks of lightening. I have spent today in Cusco getting last minute supplies for the Inca trail. I am so excited.