At 3,270 m the Colca Canyon is one of the deepest on the planet.
Peru is full of amazing sights and Colca is one of the best – more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, as holes in the ground go, it is impressive to say the least!
The minibus picked us up bright and early from our hostal and immediately the guide advised us that we may have to make a long detour as the road had been blocked by a landslide! An hour or so into the journey, he decided to risk it as he had been informed that the road was now open. No it wasn’t!!
As we drove down the mountain road toward the main town of Chivay ours was one of the first vehicles to arrive at the landslide blocking the road. The next hour or so was spent watching the bulldozers clear the road.
Eventually we arrived at our destination, the small town of Yanque. We were shocked by the devastation we saw. Many peoples homes of the had been destroyed; some completely, some partially, many were totally uninhabitable. The church on the main plaza had a gigantic crack down the entire side of the tower an didn’t look as though it would last too much longer – though it didn’t stop the local priest running services for his flock!
A tented camp had been set up in the main plaza by the emergency services to house the people made homeless by the quake. Many of the older folks, standing by their ruined homes were in a state of shock; all their worldly possessions, crushed by fallen walls and collapsed roofs. The children were playing football and seemed to be treating it, as kids do, as one big adventure.
Although the quake only happened two or three days previously, the clearance of the roads and destroyed buildings was well underway – a testament to the amazing resilience of the people and the efficiency of the Peruvian government and emergency services. There were constant deliveries of food by massive trucks. Everyone queuing quietly for their turn to collect supplies to take them away to their temporary homes. I was told that it would probably be many months before the people could return to rebuilt homes.
Temperatures often drop to minus 10c here at night. We have coped with that for a few days, but months??
Arriving at Killawasi Lodge was a pleasant surprise. Although the perimeter walls had been destroyed, the lodge itself was largely untouched and functioning perfectly normally. We had a terrific room with a great view and the food was superb.
The lodge was a hundred metres or so from the Eco Lodge where an American tourist had been tragically killed in the quake. That place fared far less well and was completely closed, as were most other places in the village. All the more tragic when one consider that half the population relies directly on tourism to survive.
On our last day, there was an aftershock which had our bedroom shaking. Concerning for us, but I can only imagine how terrifying it must have been during the actual earthquake and for your home to collapse around you.
We set off bright and early for a trip along the canyon through some of the small settlements, stopping at a couple markets and viewing points. This canyon really is something to behold. I can’t believed the sheer size in terms of length, depth and width.
By mid morning we had arrived at the Condor viewing point. We had heard it would be really packed but presumably because of the earthquake, there weren’t too many people occupying the viewing platforms. We waited and waited with no guarantee that the condors would arrive but, after 20 mins or so, the giant birds arrived and were soaring high above us, below us, alongside us.
They truly are magnificent birds and we felt privileged to see them up so close. Sadly, they are an endangered species.
We had planned to do some hiking in the afternoon but the trails had been closed due to the quake so instead we headed to the hot springs. Great views from the pool but not quite as relaxing as we had hope due to the strong winds and dust storm blowing up the canyon!
Part of the deal I had arranged with Killawasi Lodge was an onward transfer to Puno. We set off after lunch in Chivay. Our first driver was a complete lunatic obviously intent on getting us to the collection point as soon as he could. We made it in one piece – just! Such is bus travel in South America.
Our second bus to Puno was larger, had a sane driver and a guide who pointed out the points of interest along the way. The route across the altiplano is stunning. Herds of alapaca and vicuna, beautiful lakes, flamingos and mile after mile of high altitude desert, at times reaching 4900m above sea level!
Eventually we reach Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca around 8.00pm. The bus deposits us at our hotel, we dump our bags and head out to explore the city centre, find a restaurant, eat and then hit the sack. A very, very long day!