January 26th, 2008

Seventh report from Peru.

Well Jim and I spent a couple of days planning our trip to Colca Canyon and in the end it was totally different from what we planned but probably much better, certainly safer and easier since we weren´t hiking the canyon in the dark. We did have a wonderful hike yesterday afternoon but it was easy and enjoyable.

We were picked up yesterday at 8 am and once the van was filled we set off from Arequipa. Its a long drive higher and higher and higher and going took us five hours due to several stops. We saw hundreds of lama and alpaca and the smaller wild form called vicinia. The landscape initially is rolling mountainous rubble, quite without any trees. In the distance there were volcanoes and snow capped peaks. At one point we saw a south american wood pecker; obviously misnamed because he lives in a huge area where there is absolutely no wood. Upto about 4000 meters the landscape grows cactus. From 4000 meters to 4500 meters there are no cactus but there is a scruffy staw like plant that is used for thatching roofs. About 4500 meters (and we did get to 4830 meter) the only thing that grows is a sort of moss that grows a cm a year and looks a bit like a very green pillow. (of course we are in the rainly season right now so it may not be green most of the year.) After several hours of driving we left the rolling rubble and entered the Colca valley followed by the Colca canyon which is twice as deep as the grand canyon. The beauty was spectacular, huge and rugged and filled with tiny preIncan terraces, and the snow capped peaks in the background, and the river far far far down below at the bottom of the canyon. This morning we saw Condors soaring overhead!

Of course the highlight for the trip for me was watching the women and children. They milked cows, used pick axes, herded sheep and sat and washed their clothes in ditches, all the time wearing their fantastic traditional clothing. Woven skirts, embroidered blouses and vests and woven ponchos and then gorgeous embroidered hats. The people have long black braided hair, dark complexions, high cheek bones and distinctive noses and I just loved to watch them. When it wasn´t too intrusive my camera was clicking away. Thank goodness for the 10 time optical zoom as often I could capture the photo without disturbing the natural rhythym of the day.