Tag Archive: Chivay

Sunday Travel Tales

Back to our Peruvian story this week.

Chapter 8 – Colca Canyon


Breakfast in the garden, as we had come to expect, bread rolls, strawberry jam and coffee, once again with white cheese and fruit juice, we also had the choice of tea and coca tea liberally served to the tourists as Arequipa was situated at 2,200m a.s.l. and we were fast approaching higher altitudes where people suffered from sorochi, altitude sickness. The group had formed the previous day, most of the same people we had been travelling with. Twelve people in all, after breakfast, bags downstairs and we were ushered into a microbus. Our guide was Freddy, he was young and gay. He was a perfect tour guide, great sense of humour and knowledgeable. He conducted the tour in English and Spanish.


Our first stop was a roadside restaurant, where Freddy advised drinking coca tea because we were ascending slowly from Arequipa and would soon be passing a plateau of 4,500m a.s.l. We dunked our coca leaves in the steaming enamel mugs and were joined by a nosy alpaca who had entered the place like he owned it. The amicable beast visited each table in turn looking for friendship in the form of tidbits. Photos were taken as the animal wandered among the tables.



Herds of vicuña on the high plateau – image: AV

Again, on our way, we passed vast expanses of plateau, herds of guanco and vicuña were pointed out guanaco are a smaller version of alpaca, and the vicuña smaller still and the bearer of the finest wool of any animal, making it very expensive and very sought after, this fact had consequently placed the animal on the endangered species list. The vicuña was now protected, but still subject to poachers.


Some of our number began to feel woozy. Headaches and nausea, the first signs of altitude sickness. We all felt the need to gasp for air in this rarified air. The oxygen bottle was assembled and distributed amongst those who needed it, the mood was very quiet in the bus as those who did not suffer could sense the obvious discomfort of those suffering.


At last, we came across the sight of Chivay, way down in the green valley, and the bus started its long windy descent. Into Chivay, it appeared a sleepy hollow as we stopped in the main square, surrounded by trees and neat little paths.. We were herded into a small restaurant where we were told we could sample alpaca steak. I did, I wasn’t impressed despite being told it was a local delicacy. The meat was as tough as old boots, so tough as to be unpalatable.



Our hostel in Cabanaconde – image: AV

We didn’t stay in Chivay, but continued along the Colca Valley stopping at a small town for refreshments. We arrived at Cabanaconde, several degrees more primitive than Chivay. Streets were not paved, no power after 8pm, extremely simple lodgings with friendly people. “Mate de coca” was freely available and our sufferers began to feel better now that we were at 3,600m a.s.l. With no light other than candles, we were in bed early.


Woken in the morning to a mountain fresh day, a walk before breakfast. Yes, our bread rolls and strawberry jam were waiting with hot steaming mugs of coca tea.



Cruz del Condor – image: AV

Now for the return journey to Chivay. Our first stop was “Cruz del Condor”, a high point above the canyon where the Colca River flowed 1,200 metres below us. Here, if we were lucky, we would see the giant condors flying from their nests in the canyon walls to soar gracefully on the updraughts out of the canyon.


Condors soared gracefully out of the canyon

We were lucky and the condors did appear as graceful and magnificent as we had been promised. Some groups are not so lucky due to the fickle condors deciding to spend a morning indoors. Several of the great birds soared out of the canyon so they sported themselves above us on massive 3.5m wingspans. Camera action was immediate and frantic.


Around the area several women and children dressed in traditional garb sold wares, souvenirs and “tuna” (no, not the fish) tuna is the fruit of the prickly pear cactus. The women and girls peeled the fruit in various stages of maturity, green, yellow and red. Each with its unique flavour. The rock hard seeds were hard on the teeth, but the flesh quite tasty.



The hanging tombs - image: AV

The hanging tombs – image: AV

After the condors we travelled on down the canyon, Inca agricultural planning was shown to us, as were the hanging tombs on a cliff face, long since raided for their textile riches. We stopped at Achoa, a small dairy shop. Here we tried natural yoghurt and local cheeses. The yoghurt was fabulous, quite unlike anything you’d find in a home supermarket and much superior to the taste. The 90 day cheese was quite tangy, seemed like a good idea, so I bought a wheel that weighed about a kilo.


Rumillacta (Stone Village) our hotel - image: AV

Rumillacta (Stone Village) our hotel – image: AV

By then it was already after lunch and we continued on into Chivay where we stayed at Rumillacta (Stone Village), a three star hotel. Billeted in stone chalets. Lunch was served and the rest of the day free. Most of us went to sample the local hot pools, hot natural spring water, the smell of sulphur and a luxurious scolding in the pools soothed our travel wary bodies.


The evening was taken by a small band who played local music with zamphir of varying size. Complimentary Pisco Sours, dancing and dinner were the finale. The group also sold several CD’s of their music which was hauntingly beautiful.


Bed and a cool night under massive covers. The temperature here dropped to below freezing during the night.


A walk in the crisp morning air removed all vestiges of sleep as we circled the square and returned for, yes, bread rolls, strawberry jam and “mate de coca.”


After breakfast, back into our microbus for the return to Arequipa. I was travelling on by plane to Juliaca, most of the others were going to Cusco by bus or south to Chile. I collected my left luggage from the hotel and taken straight to the airport by the travel agency for my flight to Juliaca.

Sunday Travel Tales

The last two posts we have looked at the Colca Cañon and Cabanaconde; this week we have a brief look at Chivay, the main city (town really).

The first sight of Chivay as you descend from the five hour journey from Arequipa

Rumillacta (Stone Village in Qechua), the best lodgings in the area

Plaza de Armas, the main square

Kids in the plaza during the Women's festival, even the men and boys dress as women and girls during this festival

In the centre of the photo is a boy, he has the face mask on. The Festival de Mujeres dates back to the times of the conquistadores, when a Spanish soldier fell in love with an Incan princess; he dressed all his men as women so he could attend the royal ball.

One of the side streets near the centre of town

Kids playing on top of the cathedral during the festival. Boys will be boys wherever in the world

Just a quick look at Chivay with some of the old photos I have.

After our return from the canyon, we stayed the night in Rumillacta and had a local group of musicians with pan pipes and dancers entertain usa long with dinner. In the morning we returned to Arequipa. This clipe found on YouTube from 2005, looks pretty much like the same group (I was in the area 1997/98).

Next week, something different.

Sunday Travel Tales

Last weekend was a rough one for me, I got tied up with a job and didn’t get to posting Travel Tales.

Cañon del Colca

You can find Cabanaconde and Chivay here, and the points in between that we visit in today's story, Map courtesy of Rumillaqta Hotel, Chivay

Returning the next morning from Cabanaconde our first stop in the canyon was Cruz del Condor. Here is the deepest part of the canyon, 1.2 kms (3,900ft+/-) deep. Colca is considered the deepest canyon in the world.

By arriving from Cabanaconde our tours were among the first to arrive before the main influx of tourists that stayed overnight in Chivay.

Cruz del Condor

An adult juvenile condor cruising above the canyon. I don't know who to credit for this magnificent photo, if it's yours, please advise

All my photos of the condors have gone or been destroyed, this is the only one here that is not mine.

You can see the sheer majesty of these big birds. They are the heaviest flying bird in he world and have a wingspan approaching four metres (12ft+/-).

They nest in the walls of the canyon, and around 9am – 10am they begin their daily ritual of soaring gracefully out of the canyon on the thermals.

Women from the area sell 'tuna' (prickly pear fruit) and tamales to the tourists

Yes, where there are tourists there are Peruvians making a living. For many it is the first chance they get to try the tuna or fruit of the prickly pear cactus.


The church in the village of Pinchollo

Pinchollo is the poorest village in the canyon due to its agricultural terraces being the narrowest on the steep canyon sides.

Hanging Tombs

Mirador de Choquetico and the Hanging Tombs


The church at Achoma

Achoma was our last port of call before returning to Chivay.

Local cheese

It was near here that we stopped at a small queseria and tasted some of the locally made yoghurt and cheese. You have never tasted anything so delicious, so totally unlike any western supermarket product.

Well, that’s our tale for this week.

NB: Once again, you can see how the ravages of time have taken their toll on my old negatives;

Sunday Travel Tales

When writing about travels one tends to write about the famous places, the places that people already know exist somewhere along the tourist trail. I have been equally guilty, although I do try to get off the beaten track and I will try today.

In the south of Peru, usually after a 12 hour overnight bus from Nazca where one usually wakes as the bus leaves the coast and heads inland towards Arequipa. Arequipa is a nice place with the convent, the Ice-Maiden and its famous backdrop volcano, El Misti. But we aren’t stopping there.


We are heading for Chivay at the head of the Colca Canyon where most tourist base themselves for the tour of the canyon. But we aren’t, we lunch in Chivay and head away again, traveling the full length of the canyon to Cabanaconde.


I was last there in 1997, so some things may have changed. They may have electricity 24 hours a day now, but I suspect it is essentially the same little sleepy hollow as it used to be.

We stay overnight in a simple hostal, have dinner in the one restaurant and return for an early night. There’s simply not much to do there.

Waking early before breakfast a stroll in the fresh mountain air and you get a chance to see the town.

The altitude is 3,600 (11,000ft +/-) metres above sea level, so the air is brisk and you wrap well.

Pretty rudimentary

The neighbours are always curious

Looking back down from the high spot

Just as much home for the cows

The kids are curious too, and hang around to watch the tourists

Yes, the kids watch the watchers. After a simple breakfast, it’s everyone on the bus and we head off back up the canyon to Cruz del Condor, our first stop.

Cruz del Condor is the deepest part of the canyon and will be another Sunday Travel Tale.

NB: These photos are all mine, salvaged and scanned from old abused negatives. I apologise for the quality, but there you have it.

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