Thursday, July 2, 2009

Day Four - June 13, 2009 - Colca Canyon

After breakfast and coca tea in the freezing cold dining room of the lodge, Irene gives us a small tour thru Yanque's Cathedral, the Catedral Imaculada Conceptiòn.  When the people were force-fed Catholicism by the Spanish, they mixed in all kinds of their own ancient spiritualism.  It makes for a really interesting melange of cultures.  All of the carvings, sculptures, and paintings in cathedrals have traditional Catholic Saints represented alongside the icons of the Inca and Pre-Inca, most notably Snakes, Pumas, and Condors.  Also a mix of the cultures can be found in their traditional dress, their art, and their music, among other things.

We have been in the Colca Valley, but now we drive into Colca Canyon proper, where the walls are super steep.  

We stop at Condor View, a park set up where the condors tend to soar.  

There are probably a hundred or so other turistas here.  There are 4 condors perched on a rock outcrop nearby, and I clamber down a trail to get photos of them.  Irene says that people show up earlier to see the condors fly, but in winter the birds wait a little later to take flight. 

 She's right, clearly many turistas have been

 waiting for awhile, 

and not long after we arrive the condors slowly, one by one,

take flight.  I shoot about a billion pictures here.  The birds and the setting are amazing. They fly right overhead, sometimes almost close enough to touch, and they're huge.  In all, we probably see about 12 or 14 condors, sometimes as many as 8 at a time, and are told that we are really lucky.  Indeed, we run into people later in the trip that were in

 the same place on a different day, and saw very few, if any.  

Here, as with any place where turistas congregate, there are women selling handicrafts, and we buy some more stuff.

We eat at another buffet in Chivay, also excellent, and then head to the market complex there.  It is a semi-enclosed complex of booths, and a mix of places that turistas shop and places that cater to locals.  There are booths with all sorts of handicrafts of the sort that we've been seeing at our roadside stops, booths with all sorts of counterfeit backpacks and sportswear (Adidas, The North Face, etc) booths with meat, hardware, toys, electronics, pretty much everything.

We are taken to a hot springs complex in Chivay, where we say goodbye to our guide for the last few days, Irene.  She has been excellent and informative.  We'll miss her.  The hot springs feel amazing.  We soak for about an hour, then Juan drives us back to the lodge in Yanque.  We have a couple of hours to kill before dinner, so we walk into town, where the festival is still going on.  A small, ragtag little brass band is marching around town blaring music, and we follow them for a moment.  We stop into a small co-op shop that sells local artwork, and buy a few things, then head back for dinner.                                                                                                             

After dinner we hole up in our room for a few hands of cards.  As close to the heater as was possible.


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