10.06.2008 - 10.06.2008
At 2:30 a.m., the alarm went off. Sound familiar? There was not a strong desire in my heart to repeat the beginning of our travels, but after some unfortunate cirumstances and a larger hole in the wallet than hoped for, we were off to Colca Canyon early in the morning. Stumbling into the van still half asleep, the guide informed that the ride would be cold. I didn´t realize he meant arctic cold. My limbs have almost thawed. Perhaps it was the fear of frostbite or perhaps the fact that we were riding on what felt like a Montana backroad, but more sleep did not occur. I felt for a moment, though, that I was in a dream when I found myself gazing out a sky full of stars that rivaled the best I have seen. It was awesome.
Slowly, dawn came and the van rolled onto the dusty streets of Chivay. Basically the hub of the canyon area, we stopped here to have some tea and coffee. From here we headed along the upper edge of the canyon toward the Cruz del Condor viewpoint. Colca Canyon is quite beautiful, filled with farming terraces created by the people who lived there even before the Incas. We learned much about the history of the area and stopped to view several interesting points, crossing over a fault line along the way.
Just before 7:30, we arrived at our destination and hopped out quickly because already we could see several condors rising out of the canyon. The Andean Condor is the one of the largest birds on the earth, with wingspans of several meters (sorry...Í am currently stuck in the metric system). The giant birds ride the warm air currents that rise up from the depth of the canyon in the morning, circling around quite quickly and expending little energy. As we stepped up to the overlook, one condor soared within 50 feet, allowing us to grasp its size and beauty. We soon found a nice seat on some rocks of the main viewpoint, gazing into the canyon and waiting patiently. Here the canyon is more dramatic, with sheer rocks and greater depth. We were only the second group to arrive, and as more and more people came, it seemed that fewer condors appeared. What an amazing sight to see.
As we were sitting and waiting, the earth suddenly moved underneath. When this happened, my instinctive and wise thought was, "I just felt a little earthquake." My second and not so brilliant thought was, "What just made the rocks move?" My sister and I were looking at each other with confused expressions. "Did you just feel these rocks move?" Yes, we both felt it. A short while later, our guide informed us that there had been a tremor and that some rocks had come down on a tour bus farther down the road. I think everyone but the bus was okay, but left some passengers without transportation. Long story short, we felt an earthquake and ended up with a couple from England and two girls from Belgium we met at the viewpoint along with four stranded french passengers filling the remaining eight seats of our ten-seater van. That provided for some unexpected entertainment.
On our way back to Arequipa, the full van came to a stop at the highest point along the road, just over 4900 meters! This height can also be known as over 16,000 feet! Several volcanoes rise above the barren land at this point. I jogged back to the van, just so I could brag of running at such an altitude. As we meandered back toward Arequipa, we stopped to see alpaca, llama and the more wild vicuna.
Now, as I lose my focus, I will say good night for now....