Our journey to Colca Canyon from Arequipa began with being picked up at the hotel very early then being driven around the block 3 times over the next hour picking up other passengers....we held our breath and hoped the rest of the journey would be a bit more exciting!
Once everyone (10 of us in a small van) was all packed into the van we began the ascent past El Misti (the volcano overlooking Arequipa) with a quick stop for those passengers who had not yet acclimatised to pick up some meds (read: Coca Leaves!).
We journeyed over the highest pass - at 4800m and through the national park where several vicuñas lived. These animals are similar looking to llamas, and are prized for their super soft wool that makes lovely sweaters. Luckily for us, our bodies had not yet acclimatised to lower altitude and we were feeling pretty well... unfortunately other travellers were not faring so well and I felt for them!
The scenary over the journey was very similar to Tibet - very much a roof-top desert surrounded by snowy peaks. It was VERY dusty, again like Tibet, and it was swirling all around the van as we bumped along. We were happy that the drive only took 1 day instead of 12!!
We descended into the valley where it became more lush and fields of all descriptions lined the valley with the river running right down the middle. After our long journey, they dropped us at our hotel, Colca Lodge, that was outside of town and sat down by the river side with spectacular views of the canyon. We met some great people on the journey who we shared the hotels hot springs with (and a glass of wine) while we watched the sun disappear behind the mountains - SPECTACULAR!!
Our next morning we were up very early in order to get to the actual canyon itself where condors glide very closely above your head! Colca Canyon is the deepest canyon in the world and it was just beautiful. We walked along the edge of the canyon for a little ways until we got to the place where the condors live. There are about 25 of them and we marvelled as they rode the warm air coming up from the canyon and soared literally only about 3 feet above our heads! It was a very memorable experience and we were stunned that something that huge could glide so gracefully!
We piled back into the dustbin for the journey back to Arequipa where we enjoyed a great dinner at Zig Zag with Julie and Eric where Julie and I eerily found out that we had the same birthday - I had never met anyone with my bday before! We finally retired back to La Casa del Melgar for a short nights sleep before the jungle!!