Saturday, February 20, 2010

Colca Valley

Every adventure starts around 2am, doesn't it? Well, this one did.

Today's excursion was a day-trip to Colca Valley, which is located about 100 miles north of Arequipa. The Colca Valley is the Peruvian version of the Grand Canyon in the US, although they say it's around twice as deep or so. But wait, back to 2am...

I woke up around 2am to get ready for the tour bus that picked me up exactly at 3am. I was the last to get picked up, which should be a good thing I guess. Unfortunately, it meant that I got the middle seat in the last row. Bummer. Oh well, at least get some sleep.

Or not. About one hour into the journey, the road went from paved to unpaved and completely washboard. So much for sleep. The washboard-dirt road continued for about an hour or so until, miraculously, pavement appeared. Yum, back to sleep. Wait, it's 6am and time to get out.

Actually, at this point, we were at the highest point of the journey. Here's a shot (not sure why it's turned this way) of my watch showing us at just over 15,000 feet:

The place we stopped definitely was cool though. We were well above the clouds and you could see other tall peaks.

Back on the bus for about an hour until a quick breakfast stop. We ate some bread, drank some tea, and, wait, that was it. Weak breakfast.

Back on the bus for just short of two more hours (yes...six hours total) until we arrived at a place called Cruz Del Condor. The area is famous because, at around 845 each morning, giant Andean Condors take off from the cliffs down below. Our bus pulled up and we saw our first condor. These things are massive; almost 10 feet from wingtip to wingtip. They are an amazing sight, of which, of course, photos are difficult to take. This is the best shot:

Here's the view from the top:

What really doesn't show up well in this last one is that there's a snow-covered peak in the top-center of the photo. Well, enough of this fun...back on the bus.

We stopped at a couple of turn-off points that all basically looked the same. This photo kinda' sums up the "Incas-have-been-farming-here-for-16-trillion-years" theme:

Back on the bus...again. Remember the bit about the road? Yes, this is a photo out of the front window of the bus of one spot along the way:

We ended up stopping for a touristy-buffet in a village lunch not long after this photo was taken. Not much to report. Lunch was just okay but kinda' pricey. Back on the bus.

Our next and final stop was in a town called Chivay. On this day, the town was having some sort of festival where it looked like they were turning (previously cut down and moved to this location) trees into giant Christmas-tree-like-decorated things. People were tying toys, candy, clothing, and other things to the tree limbs:

and then hoisting them into an upright position.

I'm not sure what happens next because we had to get going...BUT...I did have a chance to make a couple of new friends before we left.

By now, you know what happens next. Back on the bus. We arrived into Arequipa at 5pm, exactly 15 hours after we left but with a pretty big adventure under our belt.

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