A visit to the Colca Canyon in Peru’s Andes is well worth the effort, even if you don’t actually get to see a condor fly by! The stunning beauty of the landscape in this region makes the trip well worth it, from snow-capped mountain peaks & rugged mountainsides, to lush fertile valleys and the near-death experience of Peru’s mountain roads.
The fotos here were taken near the ‘Mirador del Condor‘ (or condor viewpoint), which we are told is at the canyon’s deepest point, of some 1.2km down, of very steep sides – making it arguably the world’s deepest canyon!? The Mirador is at a height of some 3400m above sea level, and is surrounded by mountains reaching upto 6000+m, some of which remain actively volcanic, which is why we were quite literally up in the clouds at times (fortunately in a coach) – giving the whole area a quite mystical feel, as the ground touches the sky, and who knows what occurs hidden in the clouds?
Colca is a 3-4hour bus journey from Arequipa along narrow roads that twist & turn up & down the mountains, it’s not a trip for anyone with vertigo. It was our misfortune that the trip coincided with some appalling wet, misty & cloudy weather across a swathe of Peru’s Andes, which meant at times visibility was less than 10m, although the bonus was you quite literally couldn’t see the drop off the edge of the road. We were fortunate to have such a cool & safe coach driver. However for many campesinos in the Andes the weather has been a disaster, bringing floods, crop damage and ruined homes. Whilst this rain may help alleviate Peru’s chronic water shortage problems, one suspects the infrastructure is not there to capture the water for later use.
Whilst we only saw one condor (too fast for our camera!), we did also get to see some wonderful fertile agricultural land where the valley was much broader, including miles of Inca & pre-Inca agricultural terracing, much of it still in use. Also too there was the opportunity to visit some small Andean towns & villages, where apart from the influx of tourists, not a great deal has changed in centuries. Here, despite the ever present dominance of a catholic church in the main squares, much of the Andean peoples’ culture, including their Quechuan language, has been maintained and its history remembered.
For these Andean people the condor is much more than a bird us westerners rarely see, for them it’s a link to both their mountain deities, and the other world that exists after death. Where the call of the condor means one will soon join again with those family & friends who have already passed onto the other world.