Our overnight bus from Nazca provided us a beautiful view of a sunrise over the majestic mountains surrounding Arequipa. The canyon (not Colca) that flanked the road added additional depth and beauty to this already awe-inspiring awakening of a new day.
We settled into our new hostel and tried to recover some of the lost rest that is inherent in overnight bus rides.
Upon awakening, I went to explore the town alone for a bit. We had decided on having pizza for dinner and I wanted to get a small backpack to tote some of the newly acquired items. After a while of tromping through the city I found no backpacks, but there were an incredible number of wine stores. Perhaps I was in the wine district. I found a supermercado. Lots of well priced items, but no backpacks. It was close to the time we were to leave for the pizza so I decided I needed to abandon my quest and head back. One problem: I was totally lost. No worries, I'll just catch a cab. Unfortunately, there wasn't a single driver that I could find that had any clue where Sol de Oro (our hostel) was. I became worried. This was a total rookie maneuver. How could I pull such a stunt? I find a different hostel and go inside, thinking they'd know where Sol de Oro was. No such luck. Perhaps they could call information? Sure, but again with no results. Yellow pages? They had them, but the didn't seem to be in alphabetical order (that'd be too easy). After a while of trying I finally told the woman it was fairly close to the square. She gave me directions there and I hoped I could grope my way back. As I'm heading to the square I find myself smack in the middle of the backpack district. There are rows and rows of stores that sell only backpacks. Miley Cyrus (sp?), Barbie and some conventional ones. I purchase one quickly knowing I'm still lost and running out of time. My new backpack in tow I pick up the pace and find myself in some familiar surroundings. I still have no idea where the hostel is.I find another hostel. I go inside with more luck. The woman knows where Sol de Oro is (she probably should, it was about a hundred feet away).
I make it in time to go to pizza with my concerned friends and nephew. Whew. We have some wine with dinner, but don't over do it. The next day would come early. We leave the restaurant and explore the main area of Arequipa. It's a nice little city.
In the morning we catch the bus for Colca Canyon. This is in the Chivay valley. I'm disappointed to learn that the trip we booked was not a hike into and out of the canyon. It was a good trip though, with lots of hiking to various sites. After a day of site seeing we hit the local hot springs. The air in Chivay is effin cold! It's around 45 degrees and the warm water feels really nice. Getting out, though, is almost impossible.
After a good soak we wonder the streets and try some street vender alpaca on a stick (free potato too) for $.40. It's pretty damn good! Dylan (the carnivore) is particularly impressed. The altitude is starting to get to me...along with the cold. We head back to the hostel (like always there are no heaters). It's effin cold!! The blankets on the beds are plenty and nice and thick thankfully. The cold air makes it easy to fall asleep. After what seemed like a very long time I wake up worried that we overslept our bus. Nope. Still early. I go back to sleep and after what seemed like several hours wake again. It has to be time fro breakfast now. Nope. Hours to go still. This goes on for a while and I suspect the cold and altitude have conspired to create some form of sleeping time machine. I'm okay with this. Eventually it is time to wake. We begin our tour of some small towns along the way to the point where we hope to see condors. Each little town has its charm and offers various photo ops. When we arrive at the point there are many buses and vans already there and people are scattered across the canyon's lip all with the same hope: condors. After a half hour we see one young condor in the distance for about two seconds. Each of us worry that will be it and feel slightly underwhelmed.
Then it happens. Two condors (the largest flying birds in the world) majestically float to canyon top. They fly effortlessly, seeming to never flap their wings but simply use the wind currents. These two chase each other in a thrilling display right in front of us. Eventually a couple more join in the fun. At one point it seemed like two of them where coming right for me before they zoomed off in another direction. The crowd of people are oohing and ahhing in many different languages. Wow seems to be a ubiquitous word to many languages. After a while of showing off the condors seemed to simply retreat back into their private lives and we all leave the scene feeling quite whelmed. We walk down the lip of the canyon a while (I won't lie, it gave me some anxiety being on the precipice of the deepest canyon in the world). Along the way we see some hummingbirds (no lie probably 5 times larger than any I've seen before). Im not sure how these larger hummingbirds still hoover and do their hummingbird thing at that size. We enter the bus to return to Arequipa. Along the path to and from the valley we summit a peak that was 16,300 feet above see level. On the way there we drank some tea that was supposed to help with the altitude. for me nothing seemed to help. The feeling of not getting enough breathe is a very uncomfortable one. This causes me to be extra excited to return to Arequipa which is only about 10,000 feet (still high).
We arrive in Arequipa and prepare for our departure to Puno and Lake TIticaca.
Viva mas amigos!