Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Chivay, Canyons and Condors

Our next stop was Chivay.  We had a long drive to reach it, passing through a snowstorm at around 4500m.  Much of the journey was over rough roads and so it was boneshakingly bumpy - literally.  We passed some of the time playing cards, but frequently had to grab hold of the ones on the table to stop them from falling off from the vibrations.

Chivay is a small town on the edge of the Colca Valley.  There is very little there and although the tourists come here now, the valley and canyon were only 'rediscovered' by the outside world, including much of Peru itself, in 1979, so the area is still quite traditional compared to most places.  It was only then that they built the road around the canyon, so  even access to the villages and towns was quite limited until the 1980s.

Colca Canyon

Our guide for the day told us that the Colca canyon and valley, and the river that runs through them, are named after the caves found in the mountains either side.  Apparently the original settlers created cave rooms in the mountains which captured the cold air and which they used to store their food. These Colcas were their refrigeration system, and the area is named after them.

Condor at the Colca Canyon

The canyon is the deepest in the world and is certainly very impressive.  Both the valley and the canyon are worth a visit for themselves, but the main reason that people come here is to try to catch a glimpse of the condors.

Condor at the Colca Canyon
 The condors nest in the canyon and in the morning, if you are lucky, you can see them starting to take flight on the thermals.  We were warned that other groups brought here have sometimes not seen them or only had a limited view of them, so we knew that there were no guarantees.      But still, ever optimistic - if a bit sleepy still, we set off for the canyon at 6am.

Condors at the Colca Canyon

When we arrived at the lookout site, we were just about the only people there, so we could get the best viewing spots over the edge of the canyon.  And almost immediately we spotted a couple of condors a little way off and below us.  Then we waited to see if they would get closer.

Condors at the Colca Canyon

It took a while, but gradually they did get closer.  A lot closer.  These huge birds, with an average wingspan of 3.4metres, circled below us for a whole and then directly over our heads.  A few perched most helpfully on a rock about 20metres away from us, so we had an excellent view of them as well as those flying above  us.

Condors at Colca Canyon

I'm not especially into our feathered friends, but still this was quite an exciting experience to see them so close and the ease with which these huge birds glide around.  We managed to count eight condors, some younger brown ones and a couple of older black and white ones.

This was a good sighting.  Plenty of other bus loads of tourists arrived while the condors were flying,  but we had prime viewing thanks to our early start.
Nic with llama and hawk

After condor watching was over we set off back through the valley and stopped at a couple of villages along the way.  Nic had his picture taken with a llama and a hawk in the first village - not touristy at all !

Izzie, gossip llama and llama

More amusing though was our driver Izzie's encounter with the llama.  Izzie has a woollen hat that looks like a llama, generally known as gossip llama.  She was wearing this hat when she met the llama in the town and it seems the real llama wasn't overly impressed as it tried to bite it.

On the roof seats at Colca Canyon
 But the best bit of the drive back was that we finally got the opportunity to try out the roof seats.  It was great to be sat in the roof with the wind in our hair and an excellent view of the valley.  That is definitely something to be repeated when the opportunity arises again.

Back in Chivay, we had a buffet lunch before heading back for a relaxing afternoon and evening.

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