From Arequipa we took a very scenic coach journey into the mountains and volcanoes, gradually increasing in altitude by the minute! The views were tremendous and the higher we go the more remote it became.
We passed 11000 feet and paused for a comfort stop and to try some traditional Inca tea- which is essentially cocoa leaves and other greenery infused in hot water. Apparently cocoa leaves help alleviate altitude sickness symptoms and although we were feeling ok, we still had another 4000ft to climb.
We began to see wildlife such as Vicuña, Llama’s and Alpacas in abundance wandering around in the wild – it was tremendous to see.
On our journey we saw local highland shepherds, Andean hawks and piccasta (like a cross between a rabbit and a chinchilla)
We tackled the altitude with cocoa tea and Keefy braved chomping on some cocoa leaves too. (He wasn’t keen) plus bananas and litres upon litres of water. We saw smoke coming from a volcano along with iced glaciers too.
Our guide, Jorjay, provided expert commentary the whole way- his passion and enthusiasm for his area was infectious. Once we peaked at 16,000ft we then dropped back down on a dramatic road to the bottom of the Colca Canyon at 12,000ft. The road was just breathtaking.
We’d had a brilliant day- and it was about to get even better as we arrived at our next hotel, the Colca Lodge, situated within the canyon itself.
The hotel is set into terraces which climb above the river. There are great views in every directions. The hotel is also set alongside some natural hot springs, which are fed back to the hotel as their water intake at 80 degrees centigrade. There are also 4 thermal pools that hotel guests can use and a bar right next to them.
The food was great and on arrival we all enjoyed a three course lunch before heading off in different directions for an afternoon of leisure.
We opted to try the hot springs, which were magnificent!
After a nap we headed to the bar for a light dinner, and then some star gazing before an early night.
Next morning was an early start as we were off to hopefully see some condors. The condor is the largest bird in the world when you combine its wingspan with its weight. Adults wings can be up to 10- 12 feet in length and their weight can be around 15kg.
Our journey to the condor view point took us through numerous small traditional towns. The people of this region tend to be farmers and shepherds. We stopped in a local square to watch a traditional dance by the local school children in traditional dress which was interesting. As well as the dance show the nearby active volcano also put on a show for us too!
We travelled along the edge of the canyon for some time with the most incredible views. The road got smaller and smaller but our bus driver was a pro!
At around 0830 we arrived at the condor viewing platform and within 2 minutes we had seen over 10 different condors. We mainly saw the juveniles as they were nesting below and hadn’t long learnt to fly.
They were majestic and magnificent- the glide along on thermals and have a sheer elegance to them.
After a fabulous hour at the view point we made our way back towards one of the towns where we got to see some alcapas that the shepherds had brought in for pictures. Also lots of local sellers here selling their wares. We tried to be as generous as we could as we understood that these people rely greatly on tourism, of which there has none for such a long time.
We moved on Chivay and had a walking tour by Jorje who was keen to show us through the local market- it was incredible to view the local ladies picking their potatoes and other food items from the market stalls. We felt a million miles away from home.
Our afternoon was spent at leisure in the hotel – for us we took advantage of the hot thermal springs once more. Just so relaxing and unique to the hotel with this view. We were in heaven.
We enjoyed a group meal in the evening- the food was lovely in the hotel and we were able to enjoy some lovely local foods under the expert guidance of Jorje.
My Causa was absolutely stunning – mashed potatoes, avacado and salmon. Yum.
All too soon though it was time to check out of Colca Lodge. I felt so sad! I could have had a few more days there happily!
As we descended up out of the canyon my heart felt heavy! This area had absolutely stolen my heart- we’d come with no expectations and it had completely overwhelmed us- and I don’t say that lightly.
Our journey was up up and over the mountains towards Puno. Jorje once more entertained us with his expert information and humour- and pointed out many interesting points as we made our way on the 6 hour journey. We made a few stops including a picture stop at the highest point (almost 16000ft) and had a packed lunch picnic at a scenic point too.
As we moved towards Puno the landscape changed somewhat – we were descending (but still at 12000ft) to the flats of Lake Titicata.
When we reached our next hotel it was time to say bye, or rather Ciao Ciao to our wonderful guide Jorje. We both felt so sad when we say our farewells. We’d become reliant on his guidance and so very fond of his charm and knowledge. With him we’d shared some of the best moments and views of our life. I’m not going to lie, I had leaky eyes as we waved our final Ciao Ciao.
Jorje- of Lima Tours/ you are a legend and we can’t thank you enough for your time with us in Colca Canyon, which remain one of the most special places we’ve ever visited.