After Machu Picchu and Cusco I decided to head back to Arequipa. This decision was based on a couple of things, namely that the routing I wished to take required me to backtrack a bit, but also, I wanted to take a look at the Colca Canyon.
The Colca Canyon (and Colca Valley) are in close proximity to Arequipa and many tours of the area are available from and returning to Arequipa. One of the most popular, and most convenient tour packages available is a two-day, one-night tour from Arequipa with an included hotel stay in Chivay (a small village near the entrance to the Colca Valley). These tours are CHEAP! Mine cost me just over $20 U.S. and included two days of transportation, an English-speaking (marginal) guide, hotel and desayuno (which must be Spanish for “here, have a piece of bread and jam in the morning”). The Colca Canyon claims to be the deepest canyon in the world, reaching depths of 4160 meters (13,648 feet) – that’s over twice the depth of the Grand Canyon in the U.S. The high point on the tour was a mountain pass at 4910 meters (~16,000 feet) but before we got that high, the omnibus stopped at a roadside stand selling coca tea…6 ounces of prevention and you forget all about the symptoms of altitude sickness!
For me, the draw was less about the size of the canyon, but more about the Andean Condors that live in the area. At this time of year, they aren’t as common as other times of the year, but, nonetheless, I was fortunate to see a few, amongst them this close-up view:
A Welcome Relief
The rustic charm of the village of Chivay was a welcome relief and contrasted sharply with Cusco. Though there are plenty of tourists in the area, the tourism isn’t nearly as in-your-face and the village seems to be mostly authentic except for the special white man tourist restaurants that the tour groups are herded into. There are folklore shows and pan flute-playing bands, but none of them play “LaBamba” and they seem to stick to local, authentic music only. Dances are performed for the benefit of the visitors, but they are performed in the traditional way, slightly cheesy as this may seem, I reckon it’s as good a way to preserve culture and tradition as any and was actually quite educational.
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