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December 26, 2005 – A journey to Colca Canyon and Surrounds, Peru in South America

Unbelievable Sites at Unbelievable Altitudes

Spent Christmas Eve in Arequipa, a beautiful colonial town close to the famed deepest canyon in the world, Colca Canyon. I enjoyed Arequipa even more than Lima. The city has got some of a long ago and faraway feel to it. The roads are cobblestone and the colonial buildings are white, grand, and very old.

a street lined with colonial buildings, and a cobblestone sidewalk

Arequipa is also the city where I had my first taste of alpaca. Alpaca tastes like a cross between beef and a bit like lamb.

Christmas Eve dinner, Peruvian-style

On Christmas morning, Rick and I got up for a two-day overnight trip to Colca Canyon that we booked the previous day for $18 USD each. Going from around 3000-something to close to 5000 meters (or 9843-something to close to 16404 feet) within a few hours by tour bus made us both sick. Coca tea, coca candy, coca cookies, and chewing on coca leaves did not help assuage the altitude sickness symptoms that we were beginning to feel.

We stopped in the town of Chivay for lunch. After lunch and a couple of hours of rest and milling about Chivay's main square, the tour bus took some of us to the local hot springs. The hot springs, which actually emitted the scent of sulphur and not battery acid, are a thousand times better than the ones in Banos, Ecuador. They helped relieve some of the altitude symptoms we were feeling. After that, we went back to our hotels to get ready for dinner. Rick had us upgrade to a warmer hotel for two bucks, since it was freezing and damp in the one we had originally.

I didn't even want to go to the pena musica folklorica dinner that was planned that night, because the altitude symptoms came back and my head felt like it was going to implode. But Rick dragged me to it. So, I took a Motrin (ibuprofen) before leaving, which worked magically after half an hour.

musica folklorica dancers

I'm glad that Rick dragged me to the pena. Solely, because Rick got dragged out onto the dance floor to dance one never-ending song with one of the lady dancers. Ha!

Rick enjoying the long dance with his lovely dance partner

The next morning, we got up early for the Colca Canyon tour. Before going to Colca Canyon, we dropped by several little towns and scenic spots on the way. The little towns were quite quaint and cute. The scenic spots of the pre-Incan and Incan terraces and the countryside/valleys/mountains were surreal. Some of them jutted in and out like Dali paintings (too bad I couldn't capture the surrealism any better in my photos).

one of the quaint little towns on the way

surreal in real life (my camera doesn't do this photo justice)

We reached Colca Canyon around nine in the morning in hopes of viewing Andean condors in flight. Because it's wet season, the viewpoint was misted over by a heavy fog in the canyon. After an hour and a half of waiting and hoping for the fog to clear, we headed back and dropped by more scenic points, a few in hopes of seeing any Andean condors.

I wouldn't want to fly in this weather either

After that, we headed back to Arequipa. We stopped by a spot close to the highest point of the road back, where people passing through made piles of rocks in reverence to Pachamama, or Mother Earth.

contributions to Pachamama

mine too! (lower left corner)

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