Our journey to the town of Chivay began with an earlier than expected 5AM departure from Arequipa, due to a planned political strike blocking a major road within the region. Along the way we reached one of the highest points in Peru, approximately 5000 metres above sea level. We also saw some amazing volcanoes, including the still active Sabancaya volcano! The name of this volcano roughly translates to “tongue of fire” in the Quechua language (the indigenous language used in South America).
When we arrived at Chivay we spent the afternoon soaking our weary bones in the local springs. Chivay is located in the Colca Valley and is a small town, with approximately 4,000 inhabitants. We also had ample time to walk around the town, stopping to play soccer and volleyball with the local children. This town was so peaceful and was our first real insight into the traditional culture of the Peruvian Highlands.
The next day, we woke up early to go to the Colca Canyon. This canyon stretches for over 100 kilometres and is the second deepest canyon in the world, almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the USA! The main purpose of our visit to the Canyon was to observe the majestic condor in flight. These sacred birds nest on the side of steep cliff faces within the Colca Canyon and can only be spotted early in the morning as they rise with the wind currents to search for food. With some luck, we were able to observe the condors fly for over an hour! The are massive in size with a wing span of approximately 3 metres. We were honestly in awe of these birds! Condors are sacred animals within Peru, as the locals believe in the trilogy of life, represented by the snake, puma and condor. The snake represents the rivers, the puma represents courage and internal strength, and the condor represents the future and the possibility of life in another dimension.
That night, we took a 10 hour overnight bus to the town of Cusco (also Cuzco or Qosqo). We were fortunate enough to spend two days exploring this city and its multiple picturesque barrio’s. The mix of Incan and colonial architecture is a prominent feature of the city and was unlike anything we had encountered to date in Peru. In order to learn more about the city’s past, we explored the Inca Museum, which details the Inca Empire in a chronological fashion (both pre and post-colonisation), and Qorikancha (the Sun Temple), once the richest temple of the Inca Empire. The remainder of our time was spent admiring the spectacular Plaza De Armas, wandering through the San Blas barrio (Cusco’s artisanal neighbourhood), and tasting new foods at the San Pedro Market.
Until next time (and the long-awaited Inca Trail!)
DT and AP