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Colca Canyon

PERU | Sunday, 9 March 2008 | Views [1061] | Comments [2]

Patti:    Colca Canyon was not at all what was expected but it was excellent and all for the low, low price of $30.00 each (including accommodation but not food or entrance fees). What I had previously thought about the canyon tour was that it would be along the same lines as viewing the Grand Canyon in Arizona or Fish River Canyon in Namibia, Africa. It was so much more. Instead of it being focused on the geology of the canyon it was significantly more focused on the culture of the canyon and how people have utilized it for over 13 centuries. We boarded a tour bus yesterday in the morning with 19 other participants and starting in Arequipa, Peru at an elevation of 2350 meters, we headed to the Andes village of Chivay which is at 3630 meters above sea level. Along the way we climbed to a maximum elevation of 5000 meters through 3 different levels of vegetation, a natural reserve for llamas, alpaca, and another of their relatives called vicunas, and stopped at a number of lookout points, all of which were populated by local folks selling their wares. At this elevation is was quite cold so I couldn’t resist buying an alpaca sweater (see photo). The people were in traditional, folkloric clothing but it clearly was not for show as both in the large city of Arequipa and the smaller villages in the canyon, people in the streets (young and old) were wearing the same type of clothing. Out buffet lunch in Chivay offered a selection of lots of local food including quinoa (a type of local grain), alpaca meat, trout from the local lakes, various beans, rellenos (stuffed hot peppers), and I think there was guinea pig (this is a local favourite).  We spent 2 hours in the afternoon at the thermal pools which was very nice to get warmed up. In the evening the group went to another local restaurant and we were entertained by a Peruvian folk band (many pan flutes) and a couple of dancers. Folklarama in Winnipeg does a very good job of representing the Peruvian culture we saw. The dancers invited us to join in and it was a good time. Unfortunately, Amy missed most of this day. She had a very upset stomach in the morning either because of food poisoning or a short term flu. She basically slept on the bus, did not join in for lunch or supper, but did get some short term pain relief from the thermal pool. She went to bed early and woke up this morning a new person to take in the great day.


We were up by 5:30 and on the road with the bus by 6:30 to maximize our chances of seeing condors soaring in the canyon. Along the way, the views of the canyon showed off all the terraces at the different levels of the canyon. Basically, these are manually leveled off areas of land to allow it to be utilized for agriculture. The areas are divided by stone walls and the terraces were originally built in 800 AD and continue to be fully used today. Cacti were everywhere and the prickly pear fruit was being sold by the locals which was delicious. Another local fruit I enjoyed was the grenadia. By 8:30 we were at viewing area for the condors and we were lucky enough to see four. In Patagonia, we did see a few of the birds but they were tiny black spots in the sky hundreds of meters above. Today, the first sighting we had was when we were looking down into the canyon and the condor slowly drifted up to a point where it was soaring only about 10 meters about our heads. We really got a good sense of how huge these birds are (3.8 meter wing span). Our tour guide was excellent and provided lots of history of the area and both the indigenous people and the Spanish settlers. She reminded us that Peru is a third world country and it was evident. Any road construction was done with manual tools, donkeys were loaded with bags of potatoes to transport them to the market, wood was being collected for fuel, fields were being worked with ox and plow, and homes were very basic. Obviously the people in the villages work very hard but they had lots of smiles and seemed genuine with us as tourists. It was a great tour and so far we are both really enjoying the culture of Peru.

Tags: Culture



All your adventures sound fantastic -except for the Amy being sick on a bus tour day, definitely not fun, I've been there. You're seeing and doing soooo much. Boy am I jealous. We've had a rough go the last few weeks as Karla's dad passed away last Sunday so it's nice to dream of happier times and places. We leave for our one week in Cuba 3 weeks from today and return on the 31st so hope to catch up again in person on your next stopover in the "Peg". Be well and adventure on!!
Cori and Karla

  Cori Mar 10, 2008 2:29 PM


More awesome pictures - nice sweater! All went well in SK, with our niece demonstrating excellent talent in the acting department.  Our weather is warming up nicely here - 11 on the plus side today!  Don't know if it will last.  So we are home for a long stretch now - no plans until China. Hope your health is back to normal, Amy.  Stay safe, gals.

  Dodi Mar 11, 2008 10:46 AM

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