July 29, 2013 by 2sorefeet
It was quite hard leaving Bolivia for a few reasons, 1) we were after spending a great month there and had completely fallen in love with this fantastic country, and 2) we knew that Peru was going to be the last country on this trip! However as a wise man once said “all good things must come to an end”. So with that in mind, we headed to Peru intent on finishing off the trip in style!
Reaching the Colca Canyon independently (i.e. not being part of a tour) is not the easiest of tasks, firstly a 6 hour scenic bus to Chivay and then another 2 and a half hour bus to Cabanaconde -sounds easy but the fact that there are only a few crowded buses everyday means that timing is key. And timing is not our strong point. That is why we spent 5 hours hanging around the tiny town of Chivay, which will live in our memories only for the unfortunate reason that perhaps it was where we ate the worst meal of our trip. When the packed bus eventually did come the bus driver opened the luggage compartment and there they were… 3 or 4 goats being transported to the next town, definitely one of the strangest moments of the past 8 months!
The Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world, twice as deep as the grand canyon in Arizona and second only to a nearby canyon in Peru (which apparently isn’t as great a spectacle as the one situated in Colca). There are 2 reasons why we wanted to come here, number 1 is that the canyon is home to a large family of Andean Condors, the largest bird of prey in the world which is easily visible in the early morning. Number 2, there is a beautiful hike down into the canyon from the town of Cabanaconde.
Arriving late in Cabanaconde, the following morning we took an early morning bus to the Cruz del Condor, a viewpoint overlooking the canyon 20 minutes outside the town where apparently the condors come out to play in the morning. After around 30 minutes of hanging around with a small group of people, at around 8am the condors started to arrive, one or two at the beginning and then slowly but surely more and more started to emerge from the cliffs. It was definitely worth all the travelling to get to see these enormous birds in this spectacular setting.
Satisfied with our bird-watching, we caught the local 9.30 bus back to Cabanaconde to begin our hike down into the canyon. We had heard that it was a steep descent; we just hadn’t envisaged that it would be that steep! A gruelling 4 hour, knee crunching hike to the bottom was rewarded when we finally arrived at Sangalle. An oasis, with palm trees and swimming pools…and most importantly cold beer! A perfect reward!
While some people opt to hike down and up on the same day, we had no intention of such madness, by now surely realise that we like to take our time in doing things! We passed the night having a few beers and playing cards with a French couple, who were just embarking on a very similar 8 month trip to us but in the opposite direction. Quelle chance!
The hike back up the mountain the following day was even more difficult than expected, not because our legs were sore but because the sun was beating down on us from 8.30am. And there was no place to escape either! 5 and a half extremely difficult hours later, albeit surrounded by breath-taking scenery, we were back in Cabanaconde proud of what we had accomplished and experiencing what I believe is called the “hikers high!”
Legs stiff, the next morning we caught a bus to Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, 6 hours south. Although the city was supposedly quite beautiful, we were starting to get a bit fed up of visiting cities. The principal reason for going to Arequipa was to get a night bus to Cusco. However, that being said, we still passed 2 nice days in the town. The historic old centre is charming with a beautiful cathedral overlooking one of the nicest main plazas we have seen in South America. A busy 2 days taking in the tourist attractions around Arequipa, known as the “white town”, for the colour of its buildings. (Using this logic, perhaps they should call Limerick & Liege the “grey cities”?)
In the middle of Arequipa lies the impressive Santa Catalina monastery, built more than 400 years ago. Here we spent one of our afternoons strolling around the streets within the monastery, which is more like a city within a city, before enjoying a ‘Pisco Sour’ (Peruvian speciality cocktail) on one of the rooftop terraces in the city.
Next stop Cusco & the Machu Picchu!
John & Marie