Thursday, August 22, 2013

Colca Canyon

It's been a long time since we have had a normal night of sleep. This morning we had to wake up at 2:45 because we were told our Colca Canyon tour would leave from the hostel at 3. Of course it ended up being Peru time, and the van didn't arrive until 3:20.

Exiting our room was a bit of a struggle. The lock on the door bent the key so that it would not come out. As a result, we left our room with all of our belongings in it unlocked with the trust that the guy in charge of the hotel would be able to resolve the issue once we were gone. Luckily we were already bringing our passports, money and camera, so all that was really left was clothes and my iPad. I quickly put my iPad in a backpack and handed it to the man to lock up somewhere else.

The van ride to Colca was extremely bumpy and rickety, but I was so exhausted that I was able to sleep for the first two hours. After that, the sun rose and it was impossible to sleep because I didn't want to miss the incredible views.

When we pulled into Chivay, we stopped to purchase the 70 sole tourist ticket at a police headquarters. To intimidate you, the building had a cardboard cutout of a police officer out front. Very high tech.

In Chivay we also stopped at a plaza to see a typical Inca dance and to take pictures with llamas. Typical tourist trap. After that, we drove a short distance to a house for a buffet breakfast. At the house, we had bread (pan), a hot liquid version of quinoa, and coca tea. The coca tea is the herbal remedy for altitude sickness, and it is also rumored to make you fell very strong (fuerte). I also bought some very necessary gloves for 5 soles. It is freezing in the morning at this altitude! 

Along the drive to the canyon, we passed cows, sheep, donkeys, wild horses, and (surprise!) stray dogs. It was a bit of an off-roading experience because many of the winding roads to the canyon were not paved. At one point, our van got temporarily stuck in a rut that was too steep to drive up without a running start. Sometimes we even shared the road with men herding cows or locals traveling by horseback. The homes we past had tin roofs held on with rocks. Low stone walls separated one plot of land from another. Yet even in a place so different from America, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Lady Gaga still came through the radio in the bus.

The crazy drive was worth it though, because the views of the terraced, snow capped mountains were beautiful. We stopped at a condor lookout. At first we couldn't spot any, but right as we were leaving we saw two effortlessly soaring through the mountains. Condors are the largest birds in the world and can live 100 years. After dropping everyone else off on an overnight trek through the canyon, Ali and I continued on to sample two unusual fruits, San Dayo, which is super sour and Tuna, which was very sweet. We also stopped many times to take in amazing views of the mountains and volcanoes, to buy street food, and to take pictures of random animals (like Vicuñas) on the side of the road.

Once we got back to the hostel, we found the key was still stuck in the door, but none of our stuff was missing.

Today was beautiful, but we saying goodbye to Peru for now, and we are heading to Bolivia tomorrow morning.

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