|This is the first time where we actually did not organize a trip ourselves, but rather bought a two day package to see Colca Canyon and Shivay. There was just too many places to see, too many stops and the price was right. We found out that sometimes it just takes too much time to organize trips ourselves and chances are that you are missing out on some fantastic spots. A number of people we met complained that Peru has gotten too commercial. For the most part these were people who visited the country 10 or 15 years ago. We did not object to paying for a tour or taking a picture of some one as long as we knew the money will actually go to the people.
Our tour organizer picked us up from our hotel for a 2 day tour of the Colca Canyon. Colca Canyon is about 100 miles north of Arequipa and is deeper than the Grand Canyon. It might not be quite as impressive as the Grand Canyon, but it was prettier.
We were about 12 people from different countries including the driver and the tour guide. There was a couple from Argentina, a couple from Brasil, 4 people from Peru. We drove up to the highlands to a level of 4,900 metres from 2,300 metres in Arequipa. The tour guide recommended coca leaves and coca candy to help fight altitude sickness. You chew the coca leaves and spit them out after about 10 minutes. We resorted to candy, couldn't see myself starting to chew any leaves after living in the South for over 10 years.
Not sure if the candy really worked or if the effect was mostly psychological. I never got really sick, just could not catch my breath. We did however wake up with roaring headaches every day for 4 days (which were not hang overs). I was just hoping things would get better since we needed to be fit for the hike to Macchu Piccu.
We had the chance to take some pictures of Vicunas in the wild on our way up and stopped at a view point at 4913 meters and then continued on to Chivay. This is a small town close to Colca Canyon, where we stayed overnight.
In the evening we went out to a restaurant, where a band was playing and local dancers were performing typical dances. It was very entertaining. The food was excellent, I again had alpaca meat. Delicious!
The following day we got up at 5 am and drove to Colca Canyon. The earlier we got to the viewing sites the better the chances to see the mighty Andean condor. We were rewarded and saw at least 4 of them. The were pretty impressive with a huge wing span up to 3 meters. They glide and use thermals more than actual flying. It was awesome.
What was equally fascinating however was the Colca Valley. Colca Canyon is only a small part of a valley, where most of the sides up the mountain are terraced, some going back to per-incan times. Generations have cultivated the land without road access and only the help of Llamas as pack animals. Amazing!