Its 5am. I’m not suppose to wake up for another two and a half hours. However the constant early mornings mean I can’t fall asleep again. So head down to the hotel lobby and spent the time I’m supposed to be sleeping on the internet. I’m joined in the lobby by someone who has just arrived in Arequipa and waiting to check in. I’m not a morning person, so the best I can muster is one of those mumbled good mornings.
A couple of hours later, I get ready as I’m going to be picked up by the tour bus. I only have two days left on my trip and I’ve decided to spend them doing a tour of Colca Canyon, which is the second deepest Canyon in the world. The tour would consist of crossing over the mountains where we would see llamas and alpacas and a stop another very touristy market; this would be followed with stop for lunch in Chivay, the town where we would be spending the night. The next morning we would head out early towards the canyon itself, to spot some condors, before heading back to Chivay for another lunch and then journey back to Arequipa.
At 8:30am, I was on the bus, with several other tourists. We made our way out of Arequipa only stopping to buy some supplies for the drive (cocoa leaves for the altitude and water). We were soon climbing higher and into the Andes. You could actually feel the air getting thinner and soon most of us were chewing tobacco leaves. Our first stop was to check out some llama type animal, which name eludes me at the moment.
From here we drive higher up into the Andes and make a pit stop at a touristy souvenir market. Though the good thing was that we could get some tea from cocoa leaves which helps with the altitude. The folks on my bus seemed less inclined to buy souvenirs and more inclined to take photos, with at least two of the group (A Peruvian with his Brazilian girlfriend) were proper photography enthusiasts.
We are on the road again and heading to the highest point on the trip, 4910 m. Here you can clearly see three massive volcanoes in the distance, which surround Arequipa. Snap. Snap. Snap. More photos.
We are back in bus and heading towards our destination for the day, Chivay. We arrive in Chivay and immediately had lunch. For once, the buffet on offer on the these tours was very good. Had some Alpaca meat, which was quite tasty.
After lunch we are given the option of going to the thermal baths in the area, or just explore the town. I opt for the latter, as I didn’t pack a bathsuite. Chivay, reminded me very much of Aguas Calientes, another tourist soulless purgatory before the prize of the organized tours, the Colca Canyon.
I wandered around for a while and then headed back to the hotel for a mid-afternoon nap before dinner.
Dinner was another organized tour type fiasco, with some local musicians playing music infused with the horrible, horrible noise of pan pipes (I detest the sound of pan pipes!) and some local dances. I hate things like this, the organized prepackaged gift of culture. It’s one thing seeing these dances and music in the context of a local festival (like I’ve seen Portugal and Turkey), where it really is a celebration of culture as opposed to seeing a contrived and staged performance which many tourists on organized tours are usually subjected to. I was sitting next to a Spanish couple who actually told me the same thing, and together we cringed.
Soon afterwards we were back at our hotel where I finished my second book of the trip before falling asleep (out of boredom).