Colca Valley

South America 2005

Another day, another bus journey. The three of us (Suzie, Autumn, and I) left Arequipa yesterday at eight in the morning to travel up through the Andes and the Colca Valley to spend a night in a mountain town. It took five or so hours to get up there on the bad roads in uncomfortable seats but the alpacas, llamas, people, and scenery kept us amused. We got up to about 4,500 metres (about half the height of Everest) and were surrounded by volcanoes and vast agricultural terraces that pre-date the Incas.

The indigenous people there also almost exclusively dress in the traditional garb — including alpaca-wool hats, jumpers, and five-layered skirts in the heat of the day. The Peruvians (or peruaños) are incredibly friendly, and it was great to get out of the bustling city finally. Everything was so quiet up there and the night sky was so clear there were stars everywhere.

In the afternoon we took a two-hour trek up to some tombs. It was super cool but for the fact Suzie and I were suffering from altitude sickness (who knew it could hit you so badly?), but we managed it. We came across random peruaños along the way, herding sheep, dragging a pack horse or some such, and it was just great.

Just when our tired legs were threatening to give up on us we went to a hot spring. Heated by the surrounding volcanoes we sat in waters at forty degrees celsius for an hour. Oh yeah, this is the life. Later that evening we went to a restaurant that had a traditional Andean band and dancers around us. I thought it was great (they looked like barbarian warriors taking a break from all their slaughter), although I think the girls were less than impressed.

Today we got back on the bus at six-thirty a la mañana. That was tough. We went through a part of the valley renowned for condors, and managed to see four flying only a few metres from us. Awesome. (Sorry, too long hanging around with Americans to not use this word!)

Many fantastic views, villages, and shanty towns later we are back in Arequipa. And completely knackered. We’ll be here tonight, but Suzie and I are going to try and leave tomorrow if we can and get down into Chile, while Autumn will be heading north into Cusco. If we’re very lucky we’ll get to meet up with a couple of pals, Eric and Tom, before we leave, but unfortunately it looks like we’ll just miss each other.

We have a tonne of pictures from the last week and we’ve found a place in town that’ll put them onto CD for us. If we get that done tomorrow I’ll try and upload some so you can see where we’ve been. There’s some crackers.