The Colca Canyon is one of the more famous and attractive tourist destinations of Peru in the vicinity of Arequipa. It is with approximately 3200 meters (south side) respectively 4200 meters (north side) depth mightier than the Grand Canyon in USA. The upper valley is a fruitful gorge with many terraces and picturesque little villages like Chivay and Cabanaconde. Thanks to the glaciers on the upper slopes of the valley and a perfect irrigation system, water is plentifully available.
Other highlights are some hot springs and trekking down to the bottom of the canyon, to the little paradise Sangalle. In this oasis bananas and other tropical fruits are growing.
But the star of the Colca Canyon is the Condor, the king of the Andes and biggest raptor on earth. Cruz del Condor is a holy place of the local people because every morning many Condors start their daily journey from here. The steep eastern walls provide perfect nestling places for them.
Condors fly mainly by thermal up winds; thus they have to wait until the sun heated the rocky walls. We came to Chivay at lunch time on July 8th 2012 and it begun to rain, which is very unusual in the dry season. Chivay is the local district capital with reasonable facilities like good restaurants.
We headed down the marvelous valley to the unbelievable stunning viewpoint Cruz del Condor. Few km East of it is officially the upper starting point of the Colca Canyon at the village Pinchollo.
At Cruz del Condor the gorge is 1200 meters deep and very narrow. We slept there totally alone but in the early morning some buses came with indigenous people for business. In the late morning many tourist buses came. We headed few minutes after sunrise to the viewpoint and observed under us some younger impatient Condors to gain altitude. But the thermal up winds were too low; consequently they had to rest soon. The difference between youngsters and seniors is the color of the upper wings - youngster: brown, seniors: white.
The starting sequence of this Condor is in the picture section. One hour later the wall was heated sufficiently and also the seniors came out of their nest. We were speechless, it was better than any movie. More than 30 Condors were below us, circling above us and flying into their hunting ground.
We were so amazed that we stayed another night at Cruz del Condor few days later and watched the spectacle in the morning again.
Next we hiked down into the gorge starting 2 km East of Cabanaconde. The first day is a endless descent to the settlement San Juan de Chuccu followed by a ascent to the villages Cosnihua and Malata and finally the descent to Sangalle. In this paradise we stayed the night for a ridiculous price and enjoyed the swimming pool.
When we came back in the late afternoon to Cabanaconde, the festival to honor the virgin Virgen de la Carmen had started with endless dancing, common free of charge meal in front of Carmen's chapel and later in the darkness huge fireworks. We spent also the following day (the second of four festive days!) there and we were happy to meet Kristina and Urs from Switzerland, again.
Dancing and music did not stop the whole second day. A lot of beer and other hard stuff were consumed. The fireworks in the late evening was even more impressive than on the previous night.
By coincidence we found a nice pool with pleasant warm water on our way back to Arequipa. Three Peruvian people were there and we had to drink some beer with coke with them.
We had so much fun - Thanks a lot Hortensia, Ellu and Victor
Back to Arequipa we explored one of its main attraction, a world heritage: The convent Santa Catalina. It had been built in the year 1559 for women and it is a town in the town. This area is quit large with several streets and several more or less apartments for richer nuns including their maidens. In the prime time 400 maidens and 150 nuns had lived here. There is a huge dormitory for the less wealthy nuns, which is now used as the pinacotheca. Today still 17 nuns are inhabiting this convent.