Colca Canyon: Where the condors hang out.


Sunday, July 7

Colca Canyon Peru

Colca Canyon Peru

Day 3 of our Gate One Peruvian Legend tour. Colca Canyon.
We lost one of our 12 last night, she became ill and her blood pressure rose to a dangerous level.  Our tour guide called for a doctor and she was taken to a clinic.  The doctor suggested she not go with us to Puno, the highest elevation on our tour, and meet us again in Cusco.  She must be very disappointed.

Early morning wakeup call

For the rest of us, our wake up call was for 3:15 and we were all on the bus promptly at 4 am! Today we’ re chasing condors in the  Colca Canyon to ultimately arrive at the Colca Canyon Lodge and Spa tonight

Chilly in the early morning heading higher in altitude 

We left Arequipa in the pitch black. No moon and few street lights or car lights.  Gradually the colors became brighter on the horizon and the outline of the mountains more pronounced as the sun came up.  It’s quite chilly in the mornings at this time of year, then when the sun comes up it’s almost hot.  Layers really are the only way to dress in Peru in the winter.  However, Lilliana passed out blankets to everyone so we could try to catch a few hours sleep. (Rats,  I don’t sleep on buses either.)  Edgar keeps checking up on us to make sure we have everything and we’re comfortable.  He comes by periodically to clean the condensation off windows so we can see and passes around Peruvian chocolate and local fruit for us to try.  The bus driver is excellent as we found out later in the day.  Lilliana is our local guide for one more day and she’s also excellent. Knowledgeable and sweet. 

Feeling the altitude at 16000 ft!

As the sun comes up we’re at about 16000 ft and see snow at the side of the road. We have a long drive through the valley and our altitude will fluctuate during the day.
I’ m feeling unusually dry, even though I’m drinking lots of water and had no coffee this morning.  It has to be the altitude and I wish I’d brought saline and eye drops. 

Change is topography

The topography is barren, rock and scrub, with few buildings and few towns.  We see the odd small group of cows, sheep, wild llama, and Alpaca.  Every once in awhile we pass a tiny farm.  There aren’t roadside stands, restaurants or gas stations. The road is decent for most of the ride except for the elevation, however, the last hour or so before reaching the condors was hairpin turns on narrow bumpy roads, which in many places has been washed out and a little precarious.  That’s where Juan Carlos’s excellent driving comes in.

Feeling the Altitude 

I have a little head and neck ache – no doubt altitude related  – as well as lack of sleep. However, I didn’t feel it until we stopped for a pit stop and I had to climb some stairs.  I was winded and felt a little light headed.
By the time we got to where the condors hang out the sun has warmed us and is very bright.  I can understand why the Peruvians all wear hats all the time.

Colca Canyon and the Colca River 

The Colca Canyon is between 150 and 180 million years old – Colca river runs through catching the runoff from the three volcanic mountains surrounding us.   The canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon – 13600 ft at the deepest part – we were at about 11000 as we got closer to the condors.
It was quite s sight with these huge birds flying over us quite close. There was a crowd perched watching them and the inevitable local vendors.
 Amazing view of Colca Canyon
If you look closely there is a condor in the background.

If you look closely there is a condor in the background.

I bought water from her and asked if she would mind if I took her picture.

I bought water from her and asked if she would mind if I took her picture.


Edgar tapped as the server. 

 We again had lunch with locals at a small family run place.  Grandmom is the cook but they were so busy she brought us our dessert but asked Edgar to serve us.  She said she’s the cook and not a server and he will do a better job.  The food was good, lots of fresh veggies and good fish.  When we left lunch we started for our hotel, which was about 25 minutes away but on crazy small back roads through a small village. 

Colca Lodge and sensible shoes!

Then we turned a corner and the Colca Lodge was in the valley below with the Colca River in front.  Breathtaking.  When we arrived the staff was great and grabbed our bags, fortunately, because there were many steps and they were made of cobbled stone, I foolishly wore a pair of boots today with a small heel. (Those are going into the bottom of the suitcase! )  I’ll wear my sensible Munros the rest of the trip.  Edgar will be happy, he scolded me for wearing anything but flat rubber sole shoes in Peru.  Whoops!

Spa time

Our rooms face the Canyon walls and the river.  The hotel is spread out with paths and steps and there are natural hot springs below and a hot spring pool in the hotel spa.  My first stop was to the spa to make an appointment. Within an hour of arriving, I was in the hot spring and it felt great.

 Astronomy Lesson 

Colca Lodge and spa

Colca Lodge and spa

Before dinner, Edgar gave us an astronomy lesson pointing out the southern cross, Mars, and Scorpio. The sky is so much clearer here in the Andes, you can see a million stars.  He talked about his ancestors the Incas and their use of the stars and planets to organize their lives.  
Dinner at the hotel and off to bed. Another early morning, although not as early as this morning!
Bedroom at Colca Lodge Sacred Valley

I'm in my sixties with the world at my feet and thoughts mostly of "where to next?". I retired in 2017, sold my house in Massachusetts and most of my furniture and "stuff." When not traveling you can find me in Florida in the winter and Rhode Island in the summer. Travel has been a passion from a young age, over the years I've discovered I'm a traveler, not a tourist. I prefer traveling solo, with a travel friend, or small groups. Whenever possible I would rather spend time in one place rather than moving around. I'll never turn down an opportunity to go to France, but my travels have taken me all over the world. I've met some incredible people and had some fantastic experiences.

1 Comment

  • Gail Duffy July 9, 2013 at 7:29 pm Reply

    Keep your comments coming! What fun I’ve had reading about your adventures. As you describe everything you see, I keep thinking, “Oh, I would love to be there and see all this!”…I am wondering about the high altitude. You mentioned that one of your intrepid crew abbreviated the tour. Is the high altitude a problem? What symptoms does it produce? Any remedies to combat it? I am loving your site! Can’t wait to read more!

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