Colca Canyon Feb 2016

From Arequipa in Peru, we ventured onto Colca Canyon about 160 km to the northwest.  Colca Canyon is said to be twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and is a good place to spot the Andean Condor which is in danger of extinction and is also the symbol of the Andes Mountains.  We chose to stay at Colca Lodge with its four hot spring pools right on the banks of the river.  There is a pool with water that is super hot, up to 80 degrees celcius!  I started feeling the altitude here which is about 3,600 meters.  I have tried Diamox on my last trip to Cusco and I didn’t think it worked for me.  So this time, I tried the Tibetan herb Hong Jing Tian.  That together with chewing coca leaves and drinking coca tea really helped.  I had a low grade headache and was a bit tired the first two days but then was fine except for being a bit short of breath going up stairs etc.

20160217_071708The white ash stone is made of quinoa, sodium bicarbonate, and stevia.  You are supposed to take 10-15 coca leaves and break off a small piece of the stone and wrap it all up and start chewing.  It seemed to really help me with the altitude :)

DSCF0195Double dose: coca tea + coca leaves

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DSCF0199Vicuna welcoming us to Colca Canyon :)

DSCF0209Alpacas are the domesticated version of vicunas.  They are much fluffier.

DSCF0210Baby alpacas with the “sucking sour plum” faces and the slightly turned in legs.  Too cute!

DSCF0206Passing Mirador de los Andes at 4,910 meters en route to Colca Canyon.

20160214_135342Following Andean traditions, I selected 3 of the best coca leaves in my pack to offer to the mountain good by making a wish and putting the leaves under a stack of rocks at Mirador de los Andes.

DSCF0213View from my room at Colca Lodge

DSCF0327One of the 4 hot spring pools at Colca Lodge

Early the following morning, we visited Yanque village in the canyon.  Most of the villages here are surrounded by agricultural terraces from the Inca times.  These villages are usually made up of several dirt roads and have colonial churches in their main squares which are all very well preserved.  We were fortunate enough to see youngsters doing the Witite Dance in the village square of Yanque.  This is a courtship dance common in Colca Canyon where boys also dress in skirts and dance with the girls so that the elders don’t know they are wooing the girls.  The boys have red hats and a thin piece of cloth under their eyes.

DSCF0224Witite Dance

DSCF0226The boys have red wigs and a piece of cloth under their eyes.

DSCF0220Colonial church in Yanque

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DSCF0305Agricultural terraces from the Inca times still in use nowadays.

DSCF0319Cactus on the walls instead of barbwires :)

On the way to Maca village, we stopped to see some locals with their pet alpacas and llamas.  There is a pet alpaca named PePe who is only 3 weeks old and had the softest fur ever.

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DSCF0238Callous woman with her pet alpaca PePe who is only 3 weeks old.  Love how pets and owners often resemble each other…

DSCF0253Local woman walking her pet alpaca

DSCF0243Local man with a tame hawk.

There are two main tribes in Colca Canyon: the Collawas and the Cabanas.  It is easy to differentiate them by the color of their hats.  The Collawas women wear colorful hats full of embroidery like PePe’s owner, while the Cabanas women wear white hats that usually have two flowers embroidered on the sides.   Most of the women at the market in Chivay are Cabanas.

DSCF0347Cabanas women selling their produce at the market in Chivay.

DSCF0351Cholita with her bowler hat

DSCF0344Andean staples of potatoes, corn, beans, and grains at the local market in Chivay.

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DSCF0355Ponche made of eggs and sugar and beaten is a favorite for the local children.

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DSCF0361Locals outside the colonial church in Chivay.

The main highlight of Colca Canyon is to see the majestic Andean Condors.  We went up to the Cruz del Condor cliff lookout to spot these giant birds glide between the steep canyon walls.  I was lucky to see one perched on a rock right below where I was standing.

DSCF0271Loads of people perched on the cliff waiting for the condors to appear.

DSCF0274The Andean condor is about 1 meter tall.  Didn’t expect the condor to have such a small head up close….

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DSCF0281They have a wingspan of over 3 meters!

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From Colca Canyon, we move onto Lake Titicaca. Stay tuned!

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