Colca Canyon, Peru - 1998


From July 8th to August 4th, 1998, truk and Katherine traveled through various areas of central,
southern and coastal Peru, northwestern Bolivia, and northern Chile. The following text is
taken from their diaries, with truk's writing in a normal font and Katherine's in
If you have an corrections or comments, please email them to us [].

4 Augusto 1998 ­ (COLCA CANYON; written in LIMA). Today we depart for the States, but while Kath and I are definitely ready to be home for a while, we are left with the strong feeling that we will miss this place. Not Lima, in particular. Rather, the whole culture, the guys that sell candy and cigarettes in the stalled traffic on the expressways, the cops that are so bored they fight amongst each other to help find this or that museum, the movie theaters that show a Disney flick and a porno as a double-feature. We are already feeling the desire to return, and we have yet to leave.

The ride was long and bumpy! 5 hours to Chivay. We stopped at several points along the way to see things - the Vecuna Sanctuary was first. It was difficult to see them because they are a bit skiddish and stayed far away fro the tourists. The sanctuary is actually a vecuna, llama, and alpaca sanctuary and we saw many of the llamas and alpacas as we rode up toward Chivay. The canyon is high and we passed over a point almost 5000 meters. There are two active volcanoes there, as well as some dormant ones. As we climbed the canyon, the roads go worse and worse - bumpier and bumpier. Before we got to Chivay, we stopped at an overlook where you could see the town below and the terraces around.

Chivay is a small town and, supposedly to avoid the crowds, we had lunch at 4 pm at one of the hotels . It was a bit expensive, but Stacy tried the alpaca, a local specialty. After eating, those that choose to, could go to the hot spring pool area. 30 to 40 degree Celsius waters with natural calcium, sulfur, iron etc. Who am I to turn down a hot bath experience? The source of the water is a volcano heated stream which comes out at about 80 degrees Celsius, but because it flows into the pool area through open air channels cools to between 30-40 degrees. The water was delightful and I spent my time there chatting with Frek, a guy from Holland, and Hugo and Diane and friend of theirs from England. Being the bath person that I am, I was the last out of the water and had to hurry to dress. It was warm even outside of the water, although the temperature was probably around 40 degrees F. I didn't get cold until I took a shower at the hotel. The water was tepid at best and now I have a bit of a cold from the whole experience. We had dinner and folk music entertainment at another hotel around the street from where we were staying. The music played while we ate and people danced. I had fresh trout and tomato soup. Stacy has alpaca again. The music was ok, but for the most part, Peruvian folk music gets old after about 20 minutes.

The Colca Canyon tour went very well, but all of the English-speakers on our bus agreed that the direct trip, which leaves Arequipa at 3 in the morning and gets back at 6 pm, would be a much better choice. We journeyed all day in a dusty tour bus over dusty roads looking at dusty animals, houses, villages and people. We peaked at over 4,800 meters, stopping long enough to lose our breaths and stack a few rocks on top of one another, as is the tradition there when you are bored and there are stackable rocks just lying around. In Chivay, where the tours stop for the night, we were treated to a little alpaca late lunch and Kath headed off to bathe in the hot baths just outside of town. Sometime during the dinner later that night, in the middle of the "complementary live music," it occurred to me that they should have called this tour the "Bunch-of-Stuff-You-Wouldn't-Pay-For-Unless-We-Called-It-Something-Cool Tour."

When we finally arrived at the Colca Canyon, or, actually this curve in the road that just happens to be the best place to see the canyon, we were wonderstruck. Perhaps it had something to do with the distance traveled to get there, but we were suddenly glad we had come. The canyon is not so much a traditional canyon as a deep river basin, but you really don't care when confronted with the view from the edge. Huge condors, the largest birds in the world, circle above your head. As if sitting on a ledge thousands of feet above a white-water river while forty pound flying scavengers .circle your head isn't enough, you immediately remember the guide saying something about how condors occasionally knock baby sheep and vicunas over a cliff and come back later to munch on the leftovers. It does have the effect of making you hold on just a little tighter. On the way through the canyon, there are small openings to caves only discovered about twenty years ago. Inside, workmen found mummies dating back to pre-Incan times.

Continuing on, we reached the Condor Lookout around 9:00 am. We could see the depth of the canyon well from this place. There were about 100-150 tourists all waiting to see the condors. They did not disappoint. There were about five active in the area within the view. Three adults and two young birds.

Kath and I got to see a strange sight in a small village early that morning. The bus stopped to let us take pictures of the church in small village square. Little kids gather at these spots where they hope you will take a picture of them and give them some change. By the time we were about to get back on the bus, the kids had grown in number such that it was just about impossible to pay them all something for the pictures. Some of the kids simply starting mobbing the photographers who didn't drop a coin in each open, grabbing hand. Some of the foreigners just turned and ran from the six to ten year old children, as if they were fleeing a robber.

Lima -> Huancayo -> Ayacucho -> Cuzco -> Machu Picchu/Puno -> Lake Titicaca ->
La Paz -> Arequipa -> Colca Canyon -> Nazca/Pisco/Lima

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