All four of us took a two day tour to the nearby Colca Valley with Illary tours. The bus left at 8.30am and brought us up to 4,800m, stopping along the way to show us vicuna (a rare wild cousin of the Llama), Alpacas and Llamas. Linda wants to bring one home as a pet, we'll see how that works out!
This is our first real exposure to real altidude, but we didn't really suffer too much from sickness, a little stomach upset but nothing to be worried about. Poor Chris has been a bit sick since we arrived so this probably didn't help him. We have been drinking Mate de Coca and have become quite fond of it but Linda thinks it tastes like socks and compost! Our guide on the tour advised us to eat Coca or glucose sweets to combat the altitude sickness which seemed to do the job. The only problem about this altidude is that there is a very definite nip in the air.
The town where we stayed was called Chivay, a beautiful picturesque small town nestled in the valley at 3,800m. The drive down into it was spectacular. This is the first spot we have visited in Peru where the majority of locals are in traditional dress, magnificent brightly coloured textiles.
After settling into our hostal we took a short walk through the valley to the hot springs located just outside the town. It was a lovely peaceful walk and warmed up the bodies before getting into the outdoor springs. We were surprised how nice it was, the setting was beautiful and the springs warm enough to combat the cold air.
That evening we were bold and wennt for a pizza in town, forgoing the food in the restaurant that the guides were hoping we would eat in. From previous experience we have found the food at tour recommended restaurants to be expensive and often dissappointing. We weren't sorry! At 7.30 we went to an evening of culture with the tour group. We sat down in a cold restaurant and were treated to some fantastic Peruvian folk music (Pan Pipes, guitars, don't know the names of the other instruments) and traditional dance. The music was great but the dancing was an embarrassment to watch. It was an "entirely for tourist" performance and the poor girl seemed to spend more time trying to dance away from her increasingly frisky male partner.
Our hostel was mimimalist and baltic cold, the four of us ended up sleeping in the same room and sharing the cost of a radiator rental to keep warm. Luckily we had an early start, with wake up call at 5.30am. After a quick breakfast we got onto the bus again and went towards the Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world, in search of condors.
We got to Cruz del Condor at about 8.00, just in time to catch the condors as they spiral up out of the canyon on thermals. We had seen a Condor up north in Peru and weren't all that excited about this part of the tour. However we were treated to a magnificent display from these huge birds, swooping right above our heads.
On our way back to Arequipa we stopped several times for the best views of the canyon and the valley, its such a spectacular landscape. We got back to Arequipa around 4 after a very bumpy bus ride, a very worthwhile tour.