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20 July 2024
Alan Morris in the Andes mountains, Peru.

Today, we travelled from Arequipa through the Colca Canyon to Chivay. We passed through many small villages in the rugged volcanic landscape, where farming was still the major source of work & way of bringing money into the local economy.

Colca Canyon.

Passing many raised terraces from pre-Inca settlements that had been cultivated & used for growing crops like potato, corn, tomato, onion & local vegetables, I wondered how many people had been injured or even killed whilst working on the steep, narrow terraces. I wouldn't want to work them without a safety rope tethering me to the ground to stop me from falling over the edge.

We stopped at a small shop, & café for a rest break. After a cup of Coca tea with mint, I looked at some of the clothes & craft ware on sale. I purchased my first gift for myself while here. Because of the warfarin I am on, my hands get very cold back in England. Sometimes, even inside a building, they are cold, so I buy Alpaca gloves with no fingertips. These will keep my hands warm but allow me to use my camera when out or, in some cases, when I'm really cold, allow me to use my computer when I'm indoors. So I won't lose these gloves, I safely stow them away in the backpack I take with me.

As we continued our journey getting higher, we passed hundreds of roaming alpacas & lots of small streams coming from the mountain tops & glaciers above us. At just over 16,000 feet, we reached the highest point you can go without requiring a licence to climb these mountains. A few years ago, the Peruvian government became aware of the number of people dying while attempting to climb mountains, volcanoes & glaciers. When they realised this didn't look good for their tourist trade, they passed a law forbidding people to climb without a licence, proper equipment & local guides to help them.

Unfortunately, I had not been made aware of this new law before I got here, so my planned solo attempt to climb these lofty summits unaided by a guide, special equipment, oxygen or even a large Llama was thwarted before it began. I will have to plan better in the future, for now, I pose for a photo at the altitude marker at this point.

We soon arrived at Colca Canyon, which is deeper than the Grand Canyon in North America & is the home of the Condor. This large bird is actually a member of the vulture family & soars very high in the sky, looking for dead carrion to feed on. We went to the area where the Condor nest & there were a couple of lookout points to view them from. Although I would like to say that I saw some Condor, they were flying so high that even with the zoom lens on my camera, it was difficult to say what they were conclusively. I was able to see many smaller brightly coloured birds & several types of hawk or kestrel, as well as many high-up birds that the local guide assured me, were Condors.

Driving through the canyon, I saw hundreds of llamas & alpacas that the natives farm & shepherds look after for their wool. Apart from the tourists that now visit the canyon, it was like going through the land that time had forgotten. The landscape & the way of life that these people lead has been unchanged for generations. The roads here are very narrow & dusty & in some places, landslides mean we have to make small detours across hurriedly built dirt roads.

Our hotel had a planetarium & a show tonight, which I bought a ticket to see after dinner. After a very nice dinner, I go to the bar to be told that the planetarium has a fault & that tonight's show has been cancelled. I took the refund for my ticket & decided to invest it in the local community at the Casa Andina Hotel bar where I sit with an Englishman & a Welshman to discuss Football. I jumped in front of the large open fire to warm myself up, because of the altitude here the nights get very cold & the temperature drops quickly.

After a few beers, I return to my room for the night. On the way, I remember my tour guide Rosario telling me to expect a nice surprise in my bed when I retired for the night. Imagine my disappointment when I jumped into bed to discover a hot water bottle, Rosario you are a tease.