|Wake up call was at 5 A.M. this morning. As Sandra later put it, we got up at 5AM to go look at some fog. Only on vacation.
We drove out to condor crossing that is a lookout at Colca Canyon (one of the deepest canyons in the world). During the dry season, the condors apparently make a showing punctually at 9, although during the rainy season as it is now, they are not so consistent. We made several stops along the way to take picutres and shop for handicrafts from the ladies in their colourful dresses. We stopped at the tiny village of Maca where we visited the chruch and learned more about the mestizo (people of mixed native and spanish race) religion. It is basically a combination of the native, earth worshiping, multi-god religion and the spanish brought catholocism resulting in a belief system that is not quite one or the other.
When we got to condor crossing, it was so foggy you could not even tell there was a canyon there. It just looked like a wall of mist. I walked down the path a bit toward the lookout. On my way back up I was astounded at just how out of breath I was after climbing a few small steps. You have to re-evaluate what steep means at 3600 metres.
Although many of us were disappointed that we could not do the hike into the canyon as it is dangerous to do so in this kind of fog, obviously, I do have to mention that a strange consolation prize is that I had the best on the road pee of the whole trip. It's not hard to find an out of the way place in fog this dense, and the mountainside seemed much cleaner than the washrooms on the road. The ironic thing with washrooms here is that the more you have to pay to use one, usually the worse condition it is in.
So, we all got back in the van and drove to a spot down the road that was sunny. In the mountains, weather is unpredictable, quickly changing in one spot, and isolated. We did see two condors at a distance when we first arrived. They glide on air currents up out of the canyon until they are high in the sky. They are very big birds. I think the only one bigger is an albatross. The native religion worshipped condors as rulers of the sky and heavens and the symbolism is in much of their art. The puma symbolized this world and the earth, and the serpent was symbolic of the underworld. It was kind of the triology of father, son and holy ghost in animal form.
Anyway, we sat waiting for more condors for quite some time. We did not see anymore, but it was pleasant just sitting in the sun looking into the valley. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped to learn about the andinos (terraces) an ancient irrigation system that is still in use today.
After lunch I fell asleep unexpectedly. My alarm did not even wake me up so I missed the hike up a hill near the hotel to see some ruins. I woke up just as Sandra came back from the hike. She was so funny giving me the commentary of all Sylvia's complaining. I was then informed that my horse was here. Oh yeah, I said I wanted to go for a horse ride. I think if I would have done the hike I would have saved the money it cost me to ride a horse for 10 minutes. But, as it was I figured I should do something to enjoy the rest of the afternoon. Just me and the two British girls participated in the horse ride option.
I was somehow thinking they would have given me a bit more instruction since I have not been on anything horselike since I was three. My horse was slow and just wanted to eat every time he stopped. we ran into some men on the path who had their livestock and some bags of beans and my horse just went over and started eating the beans. We stopped at a lookout, and again he just put his head down and started eating grass. I was a bit nervous that he was going to bend down too far and I would fall into the valley.
We had dinner at a made for tourists restaurant in Chivay. They had a band and dancers that performed for tips. These were two more relatively expensive meals today. I meant to save my money on food since it is possible to get really cheap and good food here. But, of course when we go out with the group they have to take us to a place that can accomodate and crowd. Feeling the pressure to give tips at every turn is turning me off a bit too. It was a fun meal though. The dancers got us all up dancing. It was hilarious to see Jim and Margaret boogie down.
On a group health update, Neal is apparently very ill. Jim has had some trouble since last night at the springs too.