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Hitting the Heights in Peru

semi-overcast 17 °C

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As we watch the Andean condors soaring off into the clear blue sky above an erupting volcano we drive back along the Colca Canyon to the town of Chivay and pass the incredible vistas of ancient terraces that have tattooed these mountainsides for millennia…
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The Colca Canyon is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona but its remote location in Southern Peru ensures that tourists arrive in dozens not thousands. The starting point for visitors is the small town of Chivay, an eight hour minibus ride from Arequipa across some of the highest passes in Peru. At times we were 15,000 feet above sea level. This is how part of the canyon looks from above...
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The weather was perfect for our trip and the mountainscapes and volcanoes were magnificent as were the herds of alpacas and llamas that live on the sparse vegetation in the alto plano, (the high plain)…
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Along with the domesticated alpacas and llamas we saw many herds of wild vicunas and their cousins the guanacos. However, we have to admit that at the end of the day we couldn’t always tell one from another – something these cuddly looking animals apparently do by smell…
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In bad weather the narrow twisting road is notoriously dangerous and the entire route is marked with hundreds of shrines commemorating the places where people have died, (often in bus sized groups of 10 or more). But, thanks to our excellent driver, we arrived in Chivay in time to visit the market where the women who work the high altitude, steeply inclined, terraces of the Colca Canyon sell their produce…
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Life is very hard in this remote mountainous region and the steep gradients mean that everything has to be done by hand or by animals. Donkeys are the favourite pack animals as they are apparently stronger than the traditional llamas…
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Potatoes are a staple in Peru, along with a particular kind of white corn called ‘choclo’. and many of the market women in their traditional dress had numerous varieties of spuds on offer…
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Many other local women make a few dollars, (Soles here in Peru), by posing for photos with their animals at the roaadside...
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Women’s hats are unique to each region of Peru and here in the alto plano and the Colca Canyon they wear an embroidered bonnet that matches the elaborate blouses and dresses introduced by the Spanish ladies in colonial times.

We loved our time visiting the colourful people and the magnificent condors of the Colca Canyon, but we must press on. Our next stop is the highest navigable waterway in the world – Lake Titicaca – where Peru meets Bolivia at more than 12,000 feet above sea level.
And for those of you who have expressed concern about altitude sickness – we came prepared but found that we weren’t affected at all, so we donated our medication to a young American girl who was suffering badly.

Posted by Hawkson 19:42 Archived in Peru

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Comments

Each day must be the best day for the two of you. The beauty of your surroundings seem endless. Such a talented people. The women's costumes are gorgeous.

by Sue Fitzwilson

Hi forks..I am so glad that the height doesn't affect you. I couldn't stand up when I first arrived in Bogota in Colombia. I just wanted to go to sleep. But some of those heights where you are have been very much higher.

by Jean McLaren

The two Cast Iron Travellers!! You are the most resilient people I know....they should study you to find out how it is possible to travel so much, and have so few side effects. I had jet lag going to B.C.!

by Sharron

Tending those cliff-side terraces must take nerve. Also curious re all that embroidery and no eyeglasses to be seen. Must be the brilliant, smog-free light.

by R and B

The skies are so wonderfully blue and mostly clear. Here's hoping you come home to the same!

by Tom

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