First of all, let me wish all those concerned a ☘️ HAPPY ST PATRICK'S DAY! Usually on this day you can find me bolted to a bar stool in an Irish pub somewhere sucking down way too many pints of Guinness, toasting (multiple times) probably one of my favourite celebrations on the annual calendar.
Not today, however!
Today, was the day I travelled out to the breathtaking Colca Canyon!
Rising early after a great night's sleep in our Hotel La Casa de Mamayacci I headed down to the dining hall where I found a few of the crew already tucking into cereal and bread, and making faces at the resident hotel pet llama who was milling around on the patio just outside.
Once we got all the crew out of bed and ready to go, it was onto the coach for the drive up to the world famous Colca Canyon. Along the way we stopped at a few small villages, affording us the chance to have a bit of a poke around a number of small churches and other community buildings.
There were customary gatherings of locals in brightly coloured traditional clothing pretty much every spot we stopped, eager to show us their wares, or in one gentleman's case, hand off his large, impressive, incredibly sharp-taloned bird of prey for a photography opportunity or two, in return for a few soles.
Continuing on, gradually climbing through lush, green terraced farming land as we went, we began pausing less in little villages and more at impressive miradors (lookouts) where we had the chance to grab some photos and, if we hadn't already, purchase any number of Peruvian hats, scarves, gloves and other trinkets from the awaiting, smiling vendors.
What can I say about the Colca Canyon other than – WOW! Being almost twice the depth of the Grand Canyon in the USA, it is marketed, here in Peru anyway, as the deepest canyon in the world and it's hard to argue with the promotional tag line. While it didn't blow me away to the same extent the vista did when I perched on the edge of the Grand Canyon a decade ago, it sure was impressive as the grass and shrub covered cliffs dropped away, sometimes further than the eye could see, down to the Colca River rushing along below.
We spent an hour or two hiking the well groomed tracks that rimmed some of the deeper parts of the canyon, eventually arriving at the tourist-ridden "Cruz del Condor" a section of the canyon known for its excellent and reliable opportunities to view soaring Andean Condors.
While it took a little patience, we were lucky enough to eventually lay eyes on around 3 HUGE condors that were cruising the rim of the canyon, which was about 3,960ft (1,200 m) deep at this point. The condors, which have a wing span that can reach up to an incredible 3.2m or 10.5 ft in length, were using the morning thermals to hunt roughly 10m below our position on the trail.
Try as I might, with my new Canon G12, I wasn't able to capture a decent (non-blurry) image of one of these magnificent beasts, but the wonderful Florian (German), who had the luxury of having his SLR camera with him, has kindly allowed me to post one of his great pics (see below)!
Making sure I was positioned on the right side of the bus to maximise the views on the return trip back to Arequipa, I was able to enjoy more sweeping, green vistas like the one below. Both these images and the images taken of the canyon (above) really don't capture the scale of the country and therefore don't really do the region justice, but it should give you a pretty good idea nonetheless.
We were making good time back through the high alpine country and down towards the Arequipa when all of a sudden our bus decided to break down due to a broken fan belt.
Evidently, our bus driver wasn't as savvy a mechanic as he was a driver and we were divvied up into 3 smaller groups which hitched rides with other tour operators that arrived on the scene, back to our hotel in Arequipa.
An eventful end to what was a pretty fantastic day exploring an impressive geographical wonder, and a couple of days spent up in Peru's true alpine country.
Links & Credits
- All images // Rob Masefield
- Colca Canyon // wikipedia.org
- Hotel La Casa de Mamayacci // lacasademamayacchi.com
- Cruz del Condor footage // Chicago Media Productions youtube.com