From Arequipa in Peru, we ventured onto Colca Canyon about 160 km to the northwest. Colca Canyon is said to be twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and is a good place to spot the Andean Condor which is in danger of extinction and is also the symbol of the Andes Mountains. We chose to stay at Colca Lodge with its four hot spring pools right on the banks of the river. There is a pool with water that is super hot, up to 80 degrees celcius! I started feeling the altitude here which is about 3,600 meters. I have tried Diamox on my last trip to Cusco and I didn’t think it worked for me. So this time, I tried the Tibetan herb Hong Jing Tian. That together with chewing coca leaves and drinking coca tea really helped. I had a low grade headache and was a bit tired the first two days but then was fine except for being a bit short of breath going up stairs etc.
Early the following morning, we visited Yanque village in the canyon. Most of the villages here are surrounded by agricultural terraces from the Inca times. These villages are usually made up of several dirt roads and have colonial churches in their main squares which are all very well preserved. We were fortunate enough to see youngsters doing the Witite Dance in the village square of Yanque. This is a courtship dance common in Colca Canyon where boys also dress in skirts and dance with the girls so that the elders don’t know they are wooing the girls. The boys have red hats and a thin piece of cloth under their eyes.
On the way to Maca village, we stopped to see some locals with their pet alpacas and llamas. There is a pet alpaca named PePe who is only 3 weeks old and had the softest fur ever.
There are two main tribes in Colca Canyon: the Collawas and the Cabanas. It is easy to differentiate them by the color of their hats. The Collawas women wear colorful hats full of embroidery like PePe’s owner, while the Cabanas women wear white hats that usually have two flowers embroidered on the sides. Most of the women at the market in Chivay are Cabanas.
The main highlight of Colca Canyon is to see the majestic Andean Condors. We went up to the Cruz del Condor cliff lookout to spot these giant birds glide between the steep canyon walls. I was lucky to see one perched on a rock right below where I was standing.
From Colca Canyon, we move onto Lake Titicaca. Stay tuned!
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