Colca Canyon & The Flight of the Condor

We left Arequipa for our 2 day visit to the Colca Valley and Colca Canyon. Our ultimate aim was to witness ‘The Flight of the Condor’, which this valley is famous for. Would we be lucky ?

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Once out on the plains we had wildlife all around us.

DSC00702(1)Alpacas, Llamas, wild horses, donkeys and these:

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Vicunas. These are a highly protected species with huge fines for anyone who accidentally runs one over

The scenery here was magnificent, with  some of Peru’s highest mountains and volcanos  in the background.  In some parts, it felt similar to being in  Wyoming, or Utah, with the road stretching out for miles in front of us.

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After a couple of hours we reached the top of the high pass, with the highest altitude we had witnessed on the trip, just a tad under 5,000 metres (16,000 feet ish). By now we were well acclimatised to the altitude, so there were no breathing difficulties or dizziness today.

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We then descended sharply down into the Colca Valley to the town of Chivay. En route there were more photo opportunities, including this:

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Baby Alpaca

Chivay is effectively the gateway to the Canyon. Some of the buildings had a semi-colonial look, including the rather pretty church that we had a look inside of:

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It was time for lunch, so we checked into our (rather lovely) ranch style hotel and enjoyed barbecued chicken and alpaca. There is a real push from the Peruvian government to get the people to eat alpaca as it is an extremely healthy meat compared to normal red meets such as lamb and beef. This was the view from the terrace:

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After lunch we went for a hike and again saw some beautiful views:

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We finished the afternoon with a visit to a thermal hot springs and enjoyed some time in the hot pools with one of my new favourite beers, Cusquena Negra. A relaxing end to a busy day.

We were woken at 5am  the next morning  for our visit to the Canyon. Normally the only chances of seeing the Condors in flight are very early in the morning, so two hours later we arrived at  the Colca Cross, where the main viewpoints are:

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Although not as big, Colca Canyon is twice the depth of the Grand Canyon in the US. (Over 13, 500 feet ). The sheer drops over the edge were certainly not for the feint of heart.

Suddenly around or heads we could feel the wind change direction, and gliding all around us were the famous Condors:

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Majestic is the word. Very difficult to take still photos given the speed and changes of direction they took, but I did the best I could with a pocket travel camera. It was at this point that I began to regret not taking my SLR. Having said that, I did get some great HD video footage of the Condors too, to see them in flight is quite something.

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A Condor waiting for the right thermal before launching off again

We stood staring at them for almost 2 hours before embarking on a hike around part of the rim of the Canyon. It’s the end of the rainy season so everything is lush and green:

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For sure, some of the travelling distances in Peru are long, but well worth it.  It’s not every day you get to witness something as special as ‘The Flight of the Condor’.

Peruvian Animal Charity

 

We went to visit a local animal charity, and had a great time there.

Puma

Puma

Native Peruvian Hairless Dog

Native Peruvian Hairless Dog

What's Spanish for "Pieces of eight"?

What’s Spanish for “Pieces of eight”?

The mighty Condor. We will see these in the wild in Colca Canyon next week.

The mighty Condor. We will see these in the wild in Colca Canyon next week.

 

Macaw from the Peruvian Amazon- clearly a little off course in the Andes

Macaw from the Peruvian Amazon- clearly a little off course in the Andes

 

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Er... I forget

Er… I forget

 

To raise funding, alpaca garments are made on the premises. The processes are interesting:

Freshly shorn Alpaca wool

Freshly shorn Alpaca wool

 

Various natural products are then used to dye the wool.  These include small parasites that feed on cacti.When squished, the parasite is a deep shade of purple. Incidentally this parasite is a major component in lipsticks that you buy in the Westernworkd.

Various natural products are then used to dye the wool. These include small parasites that feed on cacti.When squished, the parasite is a deep shade of purple. Incidentally this parasite is a major component in lipsticks that you buy in the Western world. Eughhhhh!

The hand dyeing process
The hand dyeing process

Drying out,  nearly the finished article
Drying out, nearly the finished article

 

Almost the finished product.  The most expensive garments are baby alpaca as they are much softer. Baby alpaca is less than 1 year of age.

Almost the finished product. The most expensive garments are baby alpaca as they are much softer. Baby alpaca is less than 1 year of age.