Marian Johns' Journal of the Desert
Explorers trip to Peru in 2002
Images by John Page unless otherwise noted
September 10, Tuesday
Cabanaconde to Arequipa See
Tuesday - Up early – breakfast at 7:00
and off by 8:00 to see soaring
condors at the Mirador Cruz del Condor, a view point on the brink of
awesome Cañon Colca. It is supposed to be one of the deepest canyons in
the world – deeper than the Grand Canyon. The Colca is a tributary of
the Majes – where we were yesterday.
There at the mirador, I could
not see the bottom of the canyon, but we did see soaring condors –
though not right away. There were umpteen tour buses and oodles of people
waiting for the condors to make their appearance.
When we first arrived,
we watched one preening himself on a boulder down below the view point.
Meanwhile, brisk business transactions were going on between tourists and
enterprising Indian lady vendors who were dressed in wonderful, colorful
dresses and hats. I bought one of the neat, colorfully embroidered hats
like the ladies were wearing. It seems this is a fee area because an
official money collector came around checking to see that we all had our
tickets - which we didn’t, because we came in our own vehicles from the
“wrong” direction. Most tourists come from Chivay instead of
Cabanaconde. John Hunt paid for everyone with the kitty money.
When the condors finally
decided to fly, they put on quite a show for us; almost as of they had
been trained to perform for the turistas. First, they soared all around us
in circles, coming as close as 50 to 75 feet.
Then they caught the thermal
updrafts and disappeared into the heavens.
After we left the mirador, we stopped at the fee-collection station
a few miles up the canyon where there were some modest natural history
The ancient terracing in this
canyon is impressive, and it is still used today. I can’t imagine the
infinite amount of time it must have taken to build them. Our road to
Chivay was bumpy and slow. But the scenery and views into the canyon along
way were wonderful.
We reached Chivay in time for lunch which we ate at a local-style
place. I had more asparagus soup and a combination dish of rice, potatoes,
plantain, fried egg, tomatoes and steak. Not bad!
There wasn’t enough time to
see the hot springs near Chivay – we had to push on to Arequipa. Leaving
Chivay, we began the long climb up to the bleak but beautiful altiplano.
On the way, we saw our first llamas – maybe alpacas too – I can’t
tell the difference yet.
And I also saw a small group of vicuña, but they
were too far away for a photo.
road topped out at 16,021 ft. – at least that’s what John Page’s GPS
said. This is supposed to be the highest pass we will encounter. Everyone
seems to be handling the altitude quite well. I know most of us are using
some sort of altitude sickness-prevention medication that we brought from
home. I definitely feel the altitude, but I’m not sick like I was on our
trip years ago.
At the summit, I was left
nearly breathless when I got out of the truck to take some pictures of
several rock huts with thatched roofs and a miniature array of rock cairns
stacked all around. Have no idea if they had a purpose or if they were
created just for the fun of it. They reminded me of the “Basque boys”
we sometime see in the remote parts of Nevada. But the “Basque boys” I
have seen are solitary rock piles/creations. I think they are made by
bored Basque sheepherders. Maybe these were made by bored Peruvian llama
Not long after we started down
from the pass, the Mazda had a flat. I wasn’t surprised because its
tires are the most worn of the lot. As the men changed the tire, a dog
came looking for handouts. Where he came from was a mystery since we were
in the middle of nowhere - not a single house for miles. I noticed the
driver of a bus that went by slowed down and tossed him some food. I’m
thinking the dog may “live” at this spot by road because he knows the
bus drivers will bring him something to eat. We also gave him some food -
he ate as though he was ravenous, yet he seemed to be in good physical
We eventually reached the paved
highway that took us down into Arequipa. Getting to our hotel, the Casa de
Mi Abuela, was comical. Trying to get over the right bridge and figuring
out one-way streets had us going around in circles. When we finally found
the hotel, we were shown the way into a secure parking area. The little
alley where we parked divided the hotel complex into two parts. It was the
nicest place we have stayed in so far, with garden space, lawns and even a
swimming pool – not bad for $13/person US. We had a nice dinner that
evening right there at the hotel.
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