Thursday, 30 September 2010

Arequipa and the Colca Canyon (our last hike in South America!)

Arequipa was our last stop in Peru (unfortunately - we would have liked to spend more time in Peru but we`ve got a flight booked on the 5th for New Zealand).  Most people go to Arequipa to do a bit of hiking in the Colca Canyon, which I think is the 2nd deepest canyon in the world (and twice as deep as the Grand Canyon - thanks Wikipedia!).  

Arequipa itself is quite a pretty city, and the second biggest in Peru after Lima.  We didn't see loads of it, other than the Plaza de Armas (all the main squares in Peru are called that!) and a few streets around.  One thing we did do whilst we were there was go to a museum to see "Juanita" - the completely mummified frozen girl they found in the Andes on Ampato Mountain, near Arequipa.  The museum had a load of artifacts from the excavations, and it was pretty interesting.  Juanita herself was so tiny, apparently she was around 13/14 when sacrificed.  We weren`t allowed to take photos, but she was enclosed in a chamber in minus 20 degrees so it didn`t matter anyway.

Arequipa`s cathedral
We chose to do a 3 day/2 night tour with Land Adventures to the Colca Canyon.  I`m actually quite glad we did, as i`m not sure I would have been motivated to go by myself! (You can hike it without guides as the paths are well worn).  I am pretty over hiking, for now. The first day you get up super early (3am) to get picked up to be taken to "Cruz del Condor".  This is where you get to see loads of Condors flying over head really really close, as they use the thermals to gain height before heading off to find food for the day.  We got there a little but late and only saw them for about 2 minutes, but it was amazing - they were literally flying over your head 3 metres away!  And Condors are huuuge! There were male, female and young Condors flying together, which apparently is really rare.

Condor number 2
Andean Condor
Women in traditional dress selling souvenirs
After that we started the hike downhill to the small village of Cosñihua, where we would be spending the night.  Our guide, Honorio, was really cool and explained about loads of medicinal plants and gave us info about the area.  So many plants he pointed out had not just one medicinal use but many - we were surprised to learn about the one below, which had a white, acidic juice come from inside.  He said apparently some tourists thought it would be good to use as sun cream (!?) and didn`t realise it burned your skin, and just put it all over their face!  

Erizo - the popular name for the plant

 When we reached Cosñihua, we were surprised to learn that there were only about 80 people living in the village!  The people who live in the canyon live a really simple life, they grow their own veg, trade veg with meat in the nearest village over the mountain, have their water come from the River`s crazy to think that ways of life like that still exist - there`s no way of reaching these places by modern forms of transport, it`s either walking, mules or donkeys!  

On the second day we had to walk to the Oasis (Sangalle) and then up for 3 hours to our final destination - Cabanaconde.  On the way to the Oasis we stopped at a "museum" run by a husband and wife team.  It was just one room with traditional tools and dress of the people who live in the valley.  It was really interesting how the wife explained everything, and many of the items they used hundreds of years ago they still use today.  We also got to try Chicha, this fermented corn drink which is slightly alcoholic.  It was pretty weird, definitely an acquired taste!  The wife was also wearing traditional dress, which she told us not many young people wear nowadays because it`s actually very expensive!  Don`t her and Tone look cute?!  Oh yeah, and those are Tone´s "happy pants"....

Tony in a silly hat (and trousers)

The Oasis -  you can see the way up on the hill on the left hand side.
We stopped at the Oasis and got to relax by a pool for a couple of hours before tackling the 3 hours uphill.  It was quite hard work, but finally at the top we were greeted by a lovely sunset over the Canyon.  I was so happy as the next day we didn`t have to do any walking at all!  Only go to some hot springs and eat a massive lunch, yay!!

We also came across this cute little Alpaca on the last day before our lunch. How sweet is he?!

A baby Alpaca in front of the Canyon
That reminds me, on the second day we actually ate Alpaca steak, and it was really good!  Like a cross between pork and beef...yum!

This last photo is of the terraces at the start of the Canyon.  Honorio told us that the upper terraces are about 1500 years old, the the lower ones were built by the Incas just over 500 years ago.  
Inca and pre-inca terraces
We are currently in Chile, in San Pedro de Atacama.  Tonight we get our last long haul bus to Santiago (24 hours!) but I think we have a pretty pimped out bus. We have managed to bag ourselves 2 "full cama" seats (i.e. fully reclining) which includes meals and hopefully not too dodgy dvds! And then in 5 days we fly to New Zealand, mental!!

1 comment:

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