Existing Member?

Ben and Ange - On the Road

Saw a Canyon, Soaring Condors and Sore Calves!

PERU | Saturday, 12 July 2008 | Views [656] | Comments [1]

It´s a LONG way people!!

It´s a LONG way people!!

Well now.  Upon entering Peru and checking out our trustee Lonley Planet (so far only the Bolivia one has earned the title "Liar Planet") we committed (surrendered?) ourselves to the fact that Peru would be a pretty major trekking destination.  Hell - we scaled a bluddy 6088m mountain!  Any trekking from there on in would have to be a snap, right?  Right!?

But let me start at the beginning.

The lovely Arequipa.  Bit of a cultural capital of Peru apparently.  As with many other cities, the outskirts give the distinct impression that you`re entering hell itself.  Or maybe just some freaky desert city with nothing but weird smells, random half created walls and cement works.  Or something.  But no... as we drew nearer to Arequipa`s centre we found a very old worldy - in a Spanish kinda way - city.  Stunning buildings, all of the local white stone, cobbled streets and one of the most vibrant Main Plaza`s we`ve come across to date. 

Naturally we happened upon some sort of city celebration too.  Banners, firecrackers, marching bands...all the usual.  Mind you - we still have no clue as to what the celebration was in aid of.  Dumb gringos.  Likewise, we have very little clue as to what the constant ringing siren was about one particular morning.  Thought perhaps the nearby Volcano was blowing her top - but a quick climb up to the rooftop terrace revealed no such exciting action. 

Arequipa had us doing what we do best - roaming and soaking it all in.  Oh and we may have been forced to try some more pisco sours too.  Purely for cultural purposes see?  Theres this long-standing debate as to where ownership of the Pisco Sour lies... Peru or Chilè?  And well - we needed to sample the wares before being able to enter into the argument with any sort of real knowledge, aye?  Research still under-way incidentally.  Jury is still out.

I digress. 

From Arequipa we took ourselves off to the wee village of Cobanaconde.  This village perches rather prettily on the edge of what is the Worlds second largest canyon - Colca Canyon.  Comes in at more than twice the depth of the "Grand" (harrumph!) Canyon.  Now, due to this canyon and all sorts of temp diffs, winds and other such scientific stuff - theres lots of thermals and guess who loves riding a good ol canyon thermal?  Condors. 

It`s hard for the mind to get around the size of these birds.  And sadly the photos (as ever) don`t quite do it justice.  Bu-uut - try picturing a Wedgetail eagle.  His whole size - if he were standing with wings folded, would be the body alone, of the condor.  Thats before even adding the wings! 

We caught ourselves an early morning bus out to the Cruz del Condor.  A cool viewing point for these massive birds.  Within 10 or so minutes one of the giants appeared.  Never flapping his wings... just casually riding the thermals round and about.  Two more appeared and we`re feeling pretty chooffed about seeing 3 whole condors so nice and close.  But wait!  We were about to leave and had gained some more height and a better vantage point when more appeared.  By the time we did manage to drag ourselves away there were 10 condors all soaring and swooping and doing flybys that had them gliding less than 5m overhead.  WOW.  At times they were close enough to actually hear the wind in their feathers!  WOW.

Eventually we did have to drag ourselves away though... we had more trekkin` to do.  We set off quite jauntily to start our descent down into the canyon.  Thanks to some local knowledge this invloved a wee while on the road, some following of an aqueduct and a short-cut that had us traipsing down through terraced and walled fields and paddocks.  The start point to the true descent was reached and we soon realized that we were going about as directly downward as you can without a parachute.  The downward impact of each step somewhat eXascerbated by however many kilos we`re each carrying in our trustee packs.  At the end of our 2.5km-almost-straight-down descent our jaunty stride had become more of a jerky stagger!  But thats ok.  We cross the bridge over the river at the bottom and get to stretch it all out with a half hour uphill to our destination - the teeny village of San Juan de...something something.  :-/

Standing on a path looking out over the canyon and facing the opposite wall you can see other tiny paths threading their way all over the canyon walls.  Some of them are as zig-zagged as a zipper and all of them are positively clinging.  Theres no roads as such here.  Foot power and the occasional burro is it.  And well - it`s obvious that these people are well used to that.  No need to mention the numerous children, old men and ladies (carrying enormous bundles) that pranced on passed us smiling and calling hello.

Spent the night in San Juan...  Watched the shadow climb up the facing wall as the sun set behind us.  Quite weird. 

Next day was our "easy day" of the trek.  All we had to do was ascend a bit of a ravine - follow another clinging trail (this one quite flat PRAISE THE LORD) and descend into what is known as "The Oasis".  With the river down here, and various springs and waterfalls the lower parts of the canyon are in direct contrast to the super arid higher regions.  Anyone would be impressed with just how fast we managed to descend into that oasis once we`d gained sight of the SWIMMING POOLS.  As well as being more lush down here, since we`ve dropped from 3500m to about 1200m its also a darn sight warmer.  SWIM TIME!

A few entrepur... smart Peruvians set up some campground/bungalow style accomodations in the oasis, complete with pools.  We set up camp.  Swam.  Soaked in the sun.  Ooohed and aaahed lots about how long its been!  All the perfect preparation for what must be done tomorrow.... the ascent.

Yup what comes down must go.... no wait.... anyway... the next day had us staring up at the nasty zig-zag zipper that we now had to ascend to get back to Cobanaconde.  Ouch.  And ascend we did.  Huffing, puffing, sweating and resting.  Lots of resting.  About half way up this murderous canyon wall it become apparent to us that many of the people running (I KID YOU NOT) past us were all wearing the same top.  A tad exhaustion-stoopid it took us a while to twig that we were in the thick of the second annual Cobanaconde-Tapay Marrathon!!  These mad bastards run from Cobanaconde (3200m) down to the canyon floor (1200m) then back up to Tapay (2500m) down to the oasis (1200m) and back up to Cobanaconde!!  All on ridiculously steep, gravelly, rocky, teeny tiny paths.  How long does this take them?  The leaders came in at 3 hours!!!!!!  I`m sorry, theres just not enough exclamation marks in the world for that!

We, on the other hand, made the ascent from Oasis to Cobanaconde in a humble 4 and a half hours.  Groaning every last step of the way.  In fact many of the last steps had the added complication of trying to keep out of the way of the marrathon runners.  But dammit - we made it too!  And even got some appplause (and many giggles) for our effort.

Now while the marrathon thang may have proved highly embarassing it was also extremely neat since the whole town then plunged into fiesta mode for the rest of the afternoon!  That meant lots of yummee vendor food (still can`t resist) and some very entertaining local dances and the like.  Even just people watching in these situations is tops!

That was it for us.  We`ve returned to lovely Arequipa and all thats left to do is nurse our poor screaming calves back into health.  That surely, will require some more pisco sour sampling.  No?




Wow you guys are having the best time. The Condors must have been so impressive, though Gav has a recent story of an encounter with a wedgetail eagle out past Mt Magnet which could give your condors a run for their money. Alex and Sam are still waiting for their postcard from Antarctica (next year maybe). Everyone else is well, mum may be in the early stages of dementia though...she's only just realised that you've actually been writing a journal and it's not just pictures. She spent all morning at my house catching up on your antics since February.
Well, take care, especially as you are now nearing countries that have reports of kidnappings, landmines, muggings etc etc yes I'm keeping up to date with Lonely Planet Guide too.
Fiona xx

  Fiona Jul 15, 2008 6:07 PM

Add your comments

(If you have a travel question, get your Answers here)

In order to avoid spam on these blogs, please enter the code you see in the image. Comments identified as spam will be deleted.

About bagen

Rotto Self Portrait

Where I've been

Photo Galleries


My trip journals

See all my tags 



Travel Answers about Peru

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.