Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Colca Valley

We started off our Peruvian adventure by visiting the Colca Valley region. After flying in to Arequipa from Lima with LAN, we checked into our Casa Andina Hotel. The hotel was very comfortable and well located in the city centre, plus the staff service was very good. As we did not have any guided tours planned, we asked Casa Andina to arrange a two-day trip to the Colca Valley.

After breakfast, a mini van came to pick us and few other people up. There were about 10 of us, and an English speaking guide. The drive to the Colca Valley from Arequipa was about 3 hours, and this was a truly wonderful journey. Firstly, the weather was simply amazing-just the way it should be on a holiday: bright blue sky and cool temperature (20°C). All along the way, we spotted llamas, vicugnas and alpacas roaming around in the vast drylands. I could also feel the presence of Volcano Misti, which dominated the entire landscape. Very picturesque indeed.

We stopped a couple of times along the way for refreshments and toilet breaks, and had the opportunity to try cocoa tea. The Colca region has a very high altitude, and we were going as high as 5,000 meters above sea level, and some of us were starting to feel dizzy. Cocoa tea apparently has some special powers and can make one suffering from altitude sickness feel instantly better. Having sipped some tea, we proceeded on to the town of Chivay, steeped in the Colca Valley. We had a nice lunch buffet, and then could wander off on our own to explore the area.

Chivay is a quaint little town that is proud of its Quechua culture. There were the locals clad in their trademark hats, long skirts and braided hair, going about their own business. At the bazaar, people were busy selling all kinds of fruits, vegetables and handicrafts. Kids with dark pink cheeks were happily running about, eating ice-cream and accompanying their moms or grandmas to go shopping. Within just a few minutes, I could understand the day-to-day lives of these people. The elders seemed to be quite reserved, yet humble. Maybe they were just not used to strangers coming to their hometown. I found out later on that the Quechua people are very protective of their culture and way of living, hence this part of Peru is quite different from the rest.

That evening, we went to a hot spring, and it was simply great. I loved being in the hot spring while being enveloped by the mountains of the Colca Valley. After spending a good hour or so there, where David ended up looking like a pineapple (see photo!), we made our way to a local restaurant for dinner, where we were well entertained by Peruvian musicians and dancers.

The following morning, we headed off to Yanque, a town similar to Chivay but less populated. When we got there, I spotted a gigantic eagle peacefully sitting on a wooden post. It looked so, so beautiful. I encouraged David to pose with the eagle (didn't have the guts to do so myself!), and he let it sit on his head! How often do you get to have an eagle on your head!?!

We then went into Canon del Colca, where we were to watch condors flying over the canyon. These massive birds looked so majestic with their wings spread large as they flew randomly over the valley. It was such a beautiful sight! Nearby, Quechua women were selling traditional shawls, bags, purses, and snacks. For a moment, I thought about my tiny office in a cramped space, and envied these women for the wonderful natural surroundings they were working in.

We walked into certain parts of the canyon, and I was so captivated by the beauty of the whole place. The Canon del Colca is supposedly the second deepest canyon in the world, even deeper than the Grand Canyon. It was so lush and green. There were so many cactus plants around and at one point, I even spotted a cute little rabbit chewing on some leaves.

After lunch, we left the Colca region and headed back to Arequipa in the evening. So far, I had a great start to my dream vacation. The beauty of the Colca region is so difficult to describe, you've just got to be there to know what I mean. I hope the below video helps you to understand that!


DVD said...

Again a fantastic video with a fantastic description of the canyon... The avocado sandwich looks so good !!! I want one now...

Ravipa said...

the landscape looks like western cowboy picture ones and the bird flight is a beautiful shot....


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