Day 23 | Tuesday, November 15, 2016
3:15 am, Off we go on a full day exploration of the Colca Canyon along with the small towns of Chivay, Maca, and Yanque.
Today we will be passing into some extremely high elevations again (highest point about 16,000 feet). With that comes some very cold temperatures in the early morning hours (about 33˚ F). This is the coldest weather we have encountered in South America so far and I have to say this is the first time I am genuinely cold. I am not sure if they don’t have the heat on in the van or if it just can’t keep up with the exterior temperature but I am actually shivering.
1 | Patapampa view point
From this vantage point you can see Misti volcano (stands at 19,101 feet above sea level/active volcano), Chachani Mountain (stands at 19,931 feet above sea level/the highest mountain near the city of Arequipa), Pichu Pichu volcano (18,583 feet above sea level/inactive volcano), Hualca Hualca volcano (19,767 feet above sea level/extinct volcano), Sabancaya volcano (currently erupting, started about two weeks ago/19,606 feet above sea level/the most active volcano in Peru), Hamp’atu volcano (20,630 feet above sea level/dormant volcano/where the body of a young Inca girl, nicknamed “Juanita”, who was sacrificed was found in September 1995), and Ubinas volcano (18,609 feet above sea level/active volcano).
2 | City of Chivay
Here we are offered a light breakfast of rolls and jam, two cheeses, cold cut ham, olives, quinoa juice (a little warm, very sweet, and a little chunky from bits of quinoa), choice of hot teas, and coffee. Not much to offer those on a gluten and dairy free diet but hot tea to help take the chill off.
3 | Town of Maca
A typical small town in the canyon. The main street showcases a couple of alpacas, several street vendors selling sweaters, scarves, hats and blankets and a quaint church.
From this vantage point we can see the valley stretch out before us revealing villages and countless pre-Inca terraces still in use today.
5 | Cruz del Condor view point
Just before arriving at the Cruz del Condor view point along side the road we saw a dead cow slung over a rock with two Andean condors feasting on the carcass. Our driver took advantage of the opportunity and pulled over to the side of the road and allowed us the opportunity to get out and observe the circle of life. It really was amazing.
The Andean condor is a large bird of prey. They are the largest flying bird in the world by combined measurement of weight and wingspan. It has a maximum wingspan of 10 feet 10 inches.
Once at the actual view point we saw a few condors in flight. They are truly huge birds. Plus you get a real since of the canyon. The canyon is one of the deepest in the world with a depth of 10,725 feet, more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States (Arizona). Although I have to say that the Grand Canyon is much more grand in appearance. Since the width between the mountains is greater at the Colca Canyon the depth does not feel nearly as impressive.
A quick stop to enjoy the relaxing medicinal 38°C hot springs. This is an optional activity that costs an additional 15 soles per person. Steve and I opted not to hop in but we captured a few pictures.
We have come full circle and are now stopping for lunch. We have the option of a buffet at Los Portales for 30 soles per person or to wander the streets and pick a different restaurant or street cart to eat at. We opted for the buffet. It was pretty good. There were options for both Steve and I given our crazy diet restrictions (gluten free and dairy free being the main ones). They actually had some really good guacamole.
8 | Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve
A large reserve, over 900,000 acres, that was designated in the late 1970s. The Misti, Ubinas, and Pichu Pichu volcanoes as well as Chachani Mountain are part of the reserve. The plains are inhabited by vicuñas, alpacas, llamas and guanacos.
About a 3 hour drive and we are back at our apartment after another long day exploring the diverse landscapes of Peru.