6am, a horrible time to be awake, especially when the hostel then tells us there has been a strike on the roads heading out of Arequipa and our bus to colca canyon is leaving 2 hours earlier. Anyway the staff at our hostel were great and rushed us out with a bread roll in hand for breakfast!
So becasue of the strike the bus decided to take a detour through the mountains and on a road that wasnt even a road, more like a hiking trail! So So so bumpy, I think Sam and I were the only ones who found this very funny, the russian girls sitting behind us certainly didnt. However the novelty soon wore off and we were on this road for about 2 hours!
Stopped for Mate de Colca tea which is made from colca leaves and supposed to stop altitude sickness. Smells totally horrible but seemed to do the trick. We were literally in the midde of nowhere when we stopped, there was just one small shop serving tea and a market with loads of ladies and their children selling peruvian goodies (mostly knitted stuff with loads of llamas on - they love their llamas here!!) But these ladies and childing must walk for miles each morning to get here for the tourists, and the worst part is its so high that it is actually freezing!
At the highest point - about 4000 meters above sea level the tour guide tells us that we should chew these colca leaves becasue we were so high - chewing them apparently cures all altitude sickness and gives you energy. Why not we thought. It lastes all of about 2 minutes before we could do it any more - the most horrible tasting thing we have experienced yet!
We finally arrived in Chivay and all got dropped off at different hotels. We thought we would all be in one hotel but apparently it varied according to how much you paid for the tour. A slight worry crossed my mind when i remembered we only paid $30 for our tour!!! But is was fine, our hotstel was fine, very cute but very very cold!
Chivay is just full of tourists, its is where everyone going to the colca canyon will stop off. The locals have got wise to it and walk around in their full traditional dress with pet sheep, llamas and goats which are somethimes dressed up too (honestly) asking you to take a picture of them for money. The kids are trained to try and get stuff out th tourists too, sweets, money, jewlery, anything really. One little girl came up to us grabbing sams necklace and asking "does this come off, can I try it?" She spoke no english and our spanish is terrible but we managed to have a bit of a chat with her, with her eying up our stuff the whole time!
We met the rest of the tour in the main sq to head to the hot springs. The Russian nippy sweeties were late so we left without them and headed to the hot springs in the mountains. Was so nice and roasting at first. Once we got used to the heat we got a beer. We were in a happy place. The russians did turn up only to go balustic at the tour guide for leaving without them. Poor guy!!
As a typical tourist group we all went together to a resturant at night. We were told to wrap up warm, so, not having too many clothes with us we just put on almost everyhing we had and headed out. The resturant was freezing. Chivay is so high that it gets so so cold at night. All around this resturant were tourist groups with hats scarfs, gloves and big jackets on, quite a funny sight actually. Fun stopped when our food came though. So bad!! Half the menu wasnt available and the half that was sounded horrible. But we thought we would make the most of it and order a peruvain dish, Alpaca Goulash. All im going to say is....very bad idea!!!
So its was another early morning th next day - 5am breakfast at the hostel and then to the Colca Canyon via many little traditional towns selling the same peruvian knit wear. We couldnt help ourselves this time, it was so cold - we had to buy a hat, the typical peruvian style with little bits covering your ears! I dont think other types of hats exist in Peru!
The route to colca canyon took us through lots of tiny villages then onto the first viewing point of the canyon. Our tour guide kept telling us to keep our fingers crossed we see a condor. We weren't really that fussed at first, possibly because we were unsure exactly what a condor was!! We soon learned that it was the biggest bird in the world and you could only see them at a certain point in the canyon at a certain time and only if it was a certain temperatre! Fussy birds!! Anyway we arrived at the "condor cross" in the canyon to find everyone gathered by the cliff, cameras in hand, waiting for the condor. We thought it would be rude not to join on so there we were, cameras ready waiting for a condor to appear. And they did, 5 of them! The are pretty massive actually, I'm just saying that as you might mistake them for a pigeon in my photos as they were so far away!! The canyon itself is amazing, you only get a glimpse of it at the condor cross where we were. To really see the canyon you have to go on a hiking tour for 3 days and with getting out of breath doing nothing at this altitude we settled with the condor cross.
The local ladies were selling hot drrinks and food from big Tupperware dishes they had brought from home. They would also serve it to you with plates and cups from their homes. Quite cute really. Our stomachs are not and probably will not get accostomed to street food!! So we got a mate de coca tea in a christmas mug from a local and sat on the cliff playing bird watchers.
It was then back to chavay for lunch and then back to Arequipa on the normal road which had opened back up thankfully. The road to Arequipa is pretty amazing you go through a nature reserve pass a volcano and a mountain called ampatu. Our tour guide then told us about janita the mummy that was found frozen on the ampatu mountain. We hadn't heard about this but it sounded quite interesting. She was frozen so quickly after dying that her body was very well preserved. The most interesting part was that you could visit her in arequipa. And that's exactly what we did when we got back.
The museam is only open for 6 months out the year. The other 6 months the mummy is between labs so they can try find out more about her. She was only about 12 when she was sacrificed. She was "given to the gods". National geographic found her after a nearby volcanos smoke melted the ice she was encased in. So we actually got to see her in the museam. She is tiny!! Was quite wierd seeing a frozen mummy but I'm sure it's not the wierdest thing that will happen.
We got back to the hostel in arequipa where we left our bags and just relaxed for a bit as we had a long night ahead of us - another overnight bus journey to cusco.
We got a taxi/toy car to the bus staton. Bit of a white nuckle ride as all drivers are crazy. Every car you see is scraped and bashed in all over. Luckily we got there with no scrapes!!
We noticed a huge group in the train station playing guitars and singing. They looked like a big family choir!!! Of course they were on our bus weren't they! Luckily the guitars didn't come out on the bus!