02.04.2011 - 04.04.2011 9 °C
*older entries in 'table of contents' button on right*
I have just realised this site allows me to upload videos into my entries so here are a couple for you. Now i know, I will go back to older entries and put some vids in for you. Probably in the more exciting entries eg Amazon, Laguna Quilotoa etc.
We set off from Arequipa the next day very excited for our 3 day trip to the beautiful Colca Canyon. We got a new tour guide just for this excursion, Erica who was excellent. Although, she might have just seemed so excellent because we had all had enough of Guido by now. We had our own private bus for the few days which was a lovely change. We set out from Arequipa on a 4/4.5hr journey to our hotel in the Colca Canyon, with plenty of places to see on the way. First we stopped at a viewpoint (just outside Arequipa) of volcanoes looming over the town: El Misti (no snow, very conical) and Chachani (snowy and not conical). At a shop nearby I bought some Coca leaves at last, to chew on/brew into tea for the upcoming high altitude, and some Coca sweets incase i didnt like the taste of chewing the leaves. They were pretty disgusting so good job i bought the sweets. The leaves you have to chew with a little piece of ash, if you dont have it the alkaloids (not the cocaine) in the leaves dont come out and it has no effect. The further north we went from Arequipa the greener it got.
After about 2 hours, after passing through the middle of those two volcanoes, we drove through the picturesque Reserva Nacional Salinas - Aguada Blancas which is to the north of them, stopping to take pics of llamas, alpacas, and their rare/endangered cousins, the vicunas. We were taught the differences between the species, all of this information i didnt retain. Except that apparently the Vicunas wool is much better quality, and more precious/expensive, than alpaca. The landscape here was pretty cool, sweeping plains recently made green due to it being the end of the rainy season, dazzling blue skies, snow capped peaks in the distance, springs trickling out of the ground, hills, and now and again packs of llamas/alpacas/vicunas roaming about. Very pretty and almost alpine but more dry. It was pretty darn cold because of the altitude and quite windy.
Further on we stopped at a tiny village for Coca leaf tea (i think it was called Patahuasi?), situated at the crossroads where you could go East to Cusco or northwest to Chivay the main towwn of the Colca Canyon. Here i felt like we were on a cowboys and indians movie set. The tea was actually not too bad, and there were some interesting stalls selling the usual handicrafts and clothes etc. Of course we wanted to buy everything but couldnt fit it in our luggage!
As we drove on we went higher and higher and ended up at our highest altitude of the trip at 4900m ish (which was the height i was at when i hiked Laguna Quilotoa back in Ecuador - highest ive been to) at a special lookout point of al the volcanoes in the area. Most of the group started getting some altitude sickness effects like headaches shortness of breath etc. We got out to have a look and it was bloody freezing cos of the altitude. It was quite rocky here and a bit like Mordor. I quite expected Frodo to stagger past looking worse for wear.
Our next stop after quite a pretty drive where we got to cuddle some animals at a lookout of Chivay, was for lunch in Chivay, at Qhapaq Nan tradicional restaurant where we had a buffet, the best meal of the whole trip so far. All you can eat for 20 Soles (about $8). Fresh veggies grown nearby, rice dishes, curries. There were some beggar girls outside with a baby llama (to attract tourists) who had the most beautiful embroidered traditional clothes on. A very talented musician came in the restaurant to play while we were eating. Floor drum, guitar-thing, and pan pipes all at once. Very good traditional andean music. Bought his cd.
We had another 20mins of travel from Chivay out to our hotel which was in a tiny village called Coporaque, further into the Colca Canyon. The drive was beautiful. Views to die for everywhere. Fields of artichoke, broad beans. Could stay here atleast a few weeks! We pulled up to our hotel and couldnt believe how beautiful it was. Mama Yacchi. I recommend this place to everyone. It felt 5 star even though it wasnt (probably because the surrounds were so beautiful, and probably because of other places wed stayed!). Now unfortunately for the Colca Canyon i can only report on this hotel and its garden, as i was stuck there in bed/toilet for the rest of that day and all the next day as my illness began to hit me real hard. But atleast i was bedridden somewhere with stunning views!! I really needed to see a doctor by this point, but we were in the middle of nowhere, so Guido told me he will take me to one when we travel back to Arequipa. Whilst i was sick, the group went on a few hikes in the canyon, which is deeper than the US's Grand Canyon (!), the hikes quite difficult due to the altitude, and they also went to the famous Condor lookout where you get to see these endangered giant birds quite close up as they float up past the viewpoint on thermal currents. I think they have about a 3m wingspan or something crazy like that. Jesper was quite sick too while we were here. And also Matt, Karen and Anna Julie. The food at the hotel was delicious, but i couldnt really eat much. The day we left me and a few others had an interesting ride to Chivay . . . we were supposed to get a chicken truck but it didnt turn up so we got into a minivan and within 10 mins later it had picked up a total of 12 locals on top of us, so there were 16 of us piled up in this tiny van.