Thursday, October 25, 2007

Arequipa and Colca Canyon

Now in the city of Arequipa, which is Peru´s second most important. We´re back in a more desert-like region with the city formed on volcanic ash from the surrounding volcanos. The city is one of the best examples of colonial spanish influence with the main square with huge cathedral, pillars and enclosed courtyards.
For the last two days we have been to visit the Colca Canyon which is the deepest canyon in the world. We were only able to visit the beginning section of the canyon as to get to the deepest bits you have to hike in for a couple of days. We passed up over a dusty mountain range at about 5000m to get down to the canyon valley. You can see vicuñas as well as llamas and alpacas on the mountain sides. Vicuñas, which look a bit more like hairy deer, are protected here - they have the most expensive wool at about $500 per kilo.
It´s much more fertile in the canyon valley as there has been terraced agriculture established here for hundreds of years with irrigation channels coming down from the mountain tops.
Our first evening a few of us went to visit the local hot springs which was lovely to soak in the seriously hot pools as the sun set around us. Very relaxing.

Early start the next morning in order to catch the main draw of the canyon - the Andean Condor. These birds are the heaviest in the world and rely on circling thermal up-winds in order to rise from their nests at the canyon floor. So you have to try and catch them in the morning when the thermals are blowing. This is not the best time of the year to see the condors but we were lucky enough to see five of them - four adults and one juvenile (you can tell as the young ones are brown whilst adults are black and white). Sometimes there can be about 40 condors in this spot which makes it one of the largest concentrations in the Andes. Unfortunately my skills at photographing condors a bit of a disaster! I got lots of pictures of rocks or tiny spots in the distance so don´t have any to include here. Some of my trip mates had better luck so might hopefully get them to send me theirs.

Only a few days left of my Peru trip now - we´re off to Nasca tonight and hopefully get to do a flight over the strange and unexplained Nasca lines. And then on up the coast to Lima. Probably catch up next from Lima before I continue on to Ecuador.