Friday, November 17, 2017

Colca Canyon, Peru, November 16, 2017

We were up bright and early and on the road at 3:30 am for a 2.5 hour ride to our first stop: Sabancaya, an erupting volcano.  It was only +1 Celsius at 4910 meters-

The scenery along the way was great-

This local was up bright and early, hoping to make a sale.  There are a lot of supposedly alpaca items for sale like toques, mitts, scarves, shawls and blankets.  Most of it is made in a factory nearby in Puno.  The odd piece is hand knitted and made from alpaca-

Our first stop was in Yanke.  The church was built in 1706.  It's in baroque and neo-classical styles.  The tower is supported because of a recent earthquake-

The front altar-

The sides of the church had huge altars as well-

Even at 6:30 am, the square is filled with tourists and souvenir hawkers-

Young girls dress in local costume and usually dance.  It must have been too early today because there was no dancing!

We carried on along the Colca Canyon.  The terraced fields are pre-Inca.  Their base is stone covered with topsoil.  The stone keeps the ground very warm and helps with growth.  New topsoil is hauled in when needed.  The terraces are also irrigated.  Locally grown crops include alfalfa, lima beans, quinoa, wheat and rice.  The terraces have to be worked manually and the young people are not interested so fewer and fewer terraces are being farmed.  Only 40% of the 10,000 hectares are used.  The idea of the terrace is to avoid erosion, maintain fertile soil and use gravity for irrigation-

The Colca Canyon is the second deepest in the world.  Kaligandaki in Nepal is deeper.  It's 1200 meters deep from where we were and from the top of Bomboya, which is a mountain, it's 2700 meters deep.  In its deepest part from the top of the mountain to the river, it's 4160 meters deep.

Condors are one of three sacred animals of the Incas.  The other two are snakes and the puma.  Incas worshipped the condors so when the Spanish/Catholics arrived, they tried to kill all the condorsl.  Their wingspan can be 3 meters but here, it's only 2 to 2.5 meters.  Juveniles are brown for 2 years and sexually mature at 8 years which is when they also get their crest/comb.  Female eyes are red, males are brown.  They can live to be 55.  They usually lay 2 eggs but only one baby will live.  They make their nests in caves and look after their young for 2 years before rejoining the group.  

We saw a juvenile and an adult male.  At first I thought I didn't get a picture-

But I did.  Condors belong to the vulture family and eat only carion.  They like the canyon because they float on the thermals-

The juvenile made a complete circle around us.  It was like he was showing off-

Our guide took us to a different lookout from the other few hundred tourists.  In fact, we were the only ones there.  However, with my binoculars, I could see that they were enjoying numerous condors and we were seeing very few.  Finally we moved to that busy lookout but saw NOTHING!

We stopped at 4 lookouts on the way back.  I would have preferred to stay looking for condors.  

Traditionally women wear hats that are hand stitched and very expensive.  Women wear the traditional costume daily-

Flowering cactus-

The valley is so beautiful.  I just kept taking picture after picture-

We stopped in the village of Maca which is 'famous' for it's Colca sour.  It's made with cactus fruit instead of lime.  Richard, Russ and Norm are waiting to try one-

The church in Maca dates from 1745 and is in neo-classical style.  The sneaky Spanish built a small church with a balcony.  They were required to pay taxes to Spain, depending on church attendance.  So, they used the balcony to preach to the locals outside and that way they didn't have to pay as much-

The front altar-

One of the side altars-

Sculptors used real hair and teeth to make their people-

Llamas are on display in the pueblo squares-

Traditional dress-

Monuments in the squares show traditional life-

Lunch was rocoto relleno.  It had a few chilies in it so was pretty spicy.  It also had alpaca - tough and chewy beef like, cubed carrots and potatoes and a slice of salty queso.  The pepper represents the volcanoes and the piece of queso is the ice and snow on top.  Usually it's served with scalloped potatoes which represent the white stone of Arequipa.  Anise is sprinkled on top of the potatoes and represents the small stones on top of the volcanoes-

After lunch we went to our hotel and then after a rest, some went to a hot springs.  It was raining so I decided to stay at the hotel.

Today has been a bit disappointing.  First, this excursion cost $110 US + $28 Can for park entry, plus lunch and supper.  Our guide took us to a private viewing spot to see the condors but we only saw 2.  I was watching the public viewing spot and numerous condors were flying around them.  We did have one fly very close so that was a bonus.  As well, both Dragoman trucks are here.  They spent the night in Chivay, then came to the lookouts this morning.  I'm not sure why we had to stay 3 nights in Arequipa instead of heading here after 1 or 2 nights?  It's on the way to Cusco and would have saved us a lot of money.  Oh well, it is what it is.

I went for a walk to the main square in Coporaque where we're staying-

While looking for a tienda, I came across 3 people butchering alpaca-

They were pretty much done by the time I got there.  This was their third of the day.  To finish, the head and legs are cut off-

The meat was all in a pile.  They thought it was pretty funny that I was so interested-

When couples get married, their godparents give them a pair of bulls for prosperity of the new family.  The idea comes from bullfights in Spain.  On the front of the bulls you can see intestines - nobody knows for sure the meaning but one anthropologist said it was to add humour.  Bulls are used to plough the soil in the terraces so that hopefully leads to prosperity-

Tomorrow we have a 6 am start to meet up with the truck at 8 on the way to Cusco.

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