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22nd April
2011
written by Hazel

Cocawell

From Arequipa we decided to take a two day tour to the Colca Valley to see Colca Canyon.  This canyon is one of the deepest in the world, so we thought it was worth a look.  We went with a cheap tour that we booked through our hostel and while there was nothing really wrong with it, we weren’t thrilled.  The biggest problem was that every time the bus stopped it was for people to try to sell us stuff.  Since we weren’t interested in buying anything this left us with big gaps of time in a place we weren’t really interested in with nothing to do but try to avoid buying things!  Not ideal.

They were 45 minutes late picking us up and then the first stop was at a shop to buy coca products.  Turns out that to get to this valley you have to cross a VERY high pass and they strongly recommended that we buy and consume coca products to help with the altitude.  Justin tried “Cocawell” a soda, but we both prefered the coca candies or the coca tea to the soda.  For those of you at home, coca products come from the same plant as cocaine, but don’t have any kind of effect like the drug and aren’t processed at all.  Seems to help with the altitude and the tea is everywhere here.

The area around the pass was a preserve area and was very scenic!  Volcanos, vicuñas, llamas, alpacas, lakes and birds!

Cool ponds

Andean Coot

The top of the pass was over 15,000 feet high!  This was the highest altitude either of us had been at.  I took the altitude medicine that we got from the travel doc before we went and had no ill effects whatsoever, but poor Justin got quite a headache.  It was pretty amazing for me to realize that we were higher than all of the mountains in the Seattle area where I grew up!

I'm at 15,000 feet!

After a couple of stops where people tried to sell us stuff we headed down into the beautiful Colca Valley.  The scenery was really spectacular!

Beautiful Colca Valley

We were pretty disappointed with the whole arrangement because the girl who we booked the tour with said that we could choose whether we wanted to eat at the expensive restaurant the tour went to or to go off by ourselves.  That may have been true, but they stopped for lunch at a very mediocre, very expensive buffet that was not close to anything else!  Of course.

After lunch we checked into our hotel, which was very nice and actually a really good deal because we got a serious discount for being on the tour.  About an hour later we headed out to the local hot springs.  This was a fun adventure.  They had two pools, both filled with water from the hot springs and they were really clean and well managed.

We met some friendly Canadians and were really amused to find out that they were the owners of Laser Quest (a huge chain of laser tag locations!!!).  We enjoyed chatting with them and they were kind enough to buy us a beer (which was delivered poolside!) in the name of spreading the word that Canadians are the nicest people on earth.

That night we were taken to another restaurant which was a nice idea, but really ended up making us feel like tourists who are just seen as wallets.  They had live music, dancers, and a very big bug in my soup!  None of that is bad, but the dancers just looked miserable almost the whole time.  And it was all about the money.

Dancers

The main event the next day was the Cruz del Condor viewpoint where we could see this very deep canyon and also Andean Condors.  The Condors nest near the viewpoint, so we were very excited that we had a good chance of seeing them.  I won’t go into all of the disappointing details, but we stopped at several towns along the way to get there and each one had up to 50 people just waiting there to take our money (dancers, people with llamas, people with captured birds of prey, people selling things) and they descended as soon as the bus pulled in.

Pom-Pom Llama!!!!

Dancers in one of the towns

The traditional outfits are incredibly beautiful and many of the women dress like this even when they are not showing off for tourists.  We saw women working in the fields in their intricately embroidered skirts!

Traditional Outfits

Very Old Church

Jesus ready for Easter

Curious llama

The churches in the area were cool to see, especially since it is Holy Week and there were lots of extra decorations.

And the canyon and condors were spectacular!

Colca Canyon

Condor!

Really Pretty Valley

After an even worse lunch (expensive again) we headed back to Arequipa.  We’re not sad to have done the tour since it was a fairly inaccessable area and we saw some amazing scenery, but it was unfortunate to have this kind of experience since we’ve pretty much avoided it so far.

Once back in Arequipa we checked into the same hostel, only to find out that our only possibility for travel to Cusco on our preferred bus company was that same night!  So we packed up again, put our dirty clothes back on, and at 9 pm set off on another 10 hour bus ride to Cusco…

FYI – There are more cool photos from this tour.  Click any of the above to see the gallery!

1 Comment

  1. Bob D
    22/04/2011

    When did Justin become Amish?

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