14 June 2014

Peru: Day 5: Colca Canyon, Chivay, and on to Puno

A terrible night's sleep. S got maybe two hours. I got four or five.

Today was a pretty awful day.

We got up at 5:00 am to shower, grab breakfast, and meet O and R for an early morning drive through the Colca Valley and into Colca Canyon. The last part of the drive was 70 minutes on an unkept gravelly road with switchbacks, ruts, steeps, and big potholes. We were both queasy when we reached the top of the canyon.

The Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world, about three times deeper than the Grand Canyon. The road up is lined with small towns, merchants selling wares, old mining camps, tunnels, and shepherds with their flocks. At the top is a lookout where most mornings the gigantic Andean Condor flies. It's huge - over three meters in wingspan, and it glides around on thermal drafts. S didn't last long in the cold windy mountain air. She saw a condor and then went to the van to take a nap. I took some photos.

We retraced our drive down the canyon wall (doing down was no easier than going up, and we all cheered when we finally reached paved road). Once back down, we headed into Chivay, the small dusty town where we had lunch yesterday. O took us on a tour through the market, which is open daily and has all sorts of produce, domestic products, and clothing. O told us that the two main communities in the Colca Valley distinguish themselves by the style of hat they wear, which in turn is modeled by the way the tribes used to modify the shapes of their babies' heads in the pre-Columbian days.

We also stopped for a photo with O.

Lunch was another buffet like yesterday, with slightly different cuisine. Still tasty, and a great variety. O showed us photos of his daughter Maya (Maja?), who is two and has huge eyes.

Incidentally, there's a tune that Paul Simon made famous in the states called 'El Condor Pasa.' The lyrics Americans may know start out 'I'd rather be a hammer than a nail...). Well, not only is that a real Peruvian tune, but it's super-popular here. We've heard it five times today already, and as I write this, the day is only half over. Wait, make that six. I asked O, and he says it's not just a song for tourists. It's a real song that Peruvians identify with.

We left Chivay and headed back up onto the high plains. S and I almost immediately fell into a light sleep. Again, we passed the highest point in our journey, but this time we stopped for photos. This is Fozzie Bear's favorite volcano.

O took his leave from us at a rest area where three roads converge, so we said our goodbyes and continued east to Puno with just R at the wheel. He doesn't speak much English, so S and I were able to have a nap. Thankfully.

Puno is dirty and poor. Our hotel is freezing, and the heater only turns on when the temp gets below 64 F. S ran the hot water to warm up the room, and I read, wrote, and watched Italy beat England. Then, I went out to find some pizza to bring back to the room. Bad pizza. Then we watched Ivory Coast beat Japan and snuggled.

Today is one that we don't need to ever repeat. The condors were nice, but they weren't worth the two days of driving at altitude, sometimes along nasty dirt roads to see. Puno is definitely not a destination we'd return to. O was a great guide, but other than that (and the nice lodge we stayed in last night), this leg of the trip was not worth it. Peru has some beautiful things to see, but their infrastructure needs a lot of work.


1 comment:

The Girl In The Polka Dot Dress said...

My favorite sentence is: This is Fozzie Bear's favorite volcano.

Took me a second.