This morning at 6.20 we join a Pablo tour to the Colca Canyon. We meet again with Harley and our driver Nelson. There are two other couples, one from Switzerland, Laura & Matias and the other from England Arun and Zetti. We have a comfortable van with plenty of spare seats so we can spread out. We leave Arequipa which is 3,300m and travel up through the mountains which is slow going as there are many large trucks on the road. These trucks are carting to and from the mines in these mountains which are mainly copper and silver.
We stop for some breakfast on the way and have a Mata Inca tea which is a mixture of fresh herbs including coca leaves to help with the altitude. We pass through a National Park for vicunas whose numbers have become dangerously low. We see llamas, alpacas and vicunas in this grassland area. There are small ponds where we see the black duck sitting on its nest. This duck is too heavy to fly so it just flaps its wings and propels itself along just above the water. Soon we come to a rocky area and here are some Jackrabbits as we saw last year in Boliva. Small ears and a long tail, they certainly are funny looking rabbits. As we are driving along we are now given some coca leaves to chew as we are still climbing. Altitude!!!
We stop at the highest point which is 4,930m and here there are rocks that point to and name all the volcanoes in this mountain range. One of particular note, is Ampato mountain which is where Juanita was found. Next to it is the still active volcano Sabancaya which is the volcano that erupted to melt the snow that uncovered Juanita the ice maiden. The air is quite thin here and we can feel the effects of the altitude.
Back in the bus and we are heading towards Josephine’s house where we will have lunch but before lunch we are doing a small hike up to 1,000m. Slow going in parts as it is really uphill and we are doing a bit of puffing but we make it to the rock face and here before us are some tombs that are 1,500 years old and predate the Incas . For example Juanita, who was an Incan sacrifice is only 550 years old. The tombs have small openings and we can see skulls and bones and the remnants of pottery and weavings. Quite unreal to be seeing some thing so old! Some Peruvian tribes from this area had a custom to alter the head shape of babies heads when they were young. One tribe elongated their heads and the other flattened them. A bizzare custom! One head in the tomb is clearly elongated.
Back down the mountain for lunch at Josephines. She makes us very welcome and has a huge meal prepared. First fried quinoa pancakes, and a big bowl of soup followed by quinoa and beef stew. I didn’t get to eat much as I started to feel very queezy and had a blinding headache. Not long into the lunch I was throwing up. Josephine kindly bought me a cup of coca tea and I sat outside in the sun while the others finished what looked like a delicious lunch.
We continued on in the bus to Condor lookout right above the Colca Canyon which is the 3rd deepest canyon in the world, 3260m deep. It truly is spectacular. There are 28 condors that live in this canyon and they bread once every 2 years. Their predators are the eagle and the mountain lion. A this time of the day the condors are flying high overhead but it is an opportunity to see the site without the hoards of tourists that will be here in the morning.
Off now to our Hotel but there is a small walk through some countryside. Only the young Swiss couple and the guide go and the rest of us go straight to our Hotel Casa de Santiago in Cabanaconde. Straight to bed for me and the rest enjoy a lovely dinner. Phil brings me back a sandwich of cheese, lettuce and avocado as I haven’t eaten all day and it is very welcome. I just need to get rid of my headache. Damn altitude!!!