Wednesday, 14 May 2008
It´s cold up there!
We took a 2 day trip into the Colca Canyon, high up in the Andes and made one major mistake - we didn´t take any socks!
Our tour picked us up and we started to climb into the mountains, and we climbed, and we climbed, and we climbed. We were very proud of ourselves in Arequipa, not having felt any effects of the altitude but this soon changed. After about an hour and a half of driving we stopped at a roadside cafe and I was having chest pains, had a headache and we were both having trouble breathing. I am now a huge fan of Coca tea (watch out for a seperate post on Coca tea soon) as it really does help. It tastes like leaves in hot water but after a few sips it´s ok. So a mug of tea, some lemon sweets and 2 snicker bars later we were feeling better and got back in the bus.
The Altiplano is beautiful, if you can use the term beautiful for a place that is really just rocks, lichen and moss. We stopped at intervals for Kodak moments, the highlights being seeing Vicuna and Alpaca (smaller cousins of the Llama) and spectacular views of the volcanoes and mountains. At lunch we both had Alpaca - they are very cute but very tasty too (apologies to the veggies among you!), and we went to the local market for some much needed socks.
I keep mentioning socks (or rather our lack of them) because Mike & I were quite unprepared for just how cold it was going to be once we left Arequipa. We had taken a jumper and fleece each but had left our socks and boots (and all other cold weather clothing brought for just such tempertaures) safely locked in our hotel's left luggage room. As we got on the bus and noticed everyone had boots on I had a suspision that we may have made a mistake and boy was that an understatement.
Chivay (the town we stayed in) at 3630m was freezing (like January in the UK) and our meagre jumpers and fleece just couldn´t cope. But 2 pairs of Alpaca socks (with pictures of Alpacas on them) and we were at least a little more comfortable - we´ll say nothing of the fashion faux par of socks and sandals!
An early start the next day at 5am (I thought this was supposed to be a holiday!) and we were back in the bus to visit 2 local villages and the Canyon. The villages were a little touristy but the journey between them gave us a chance to see what rural life is really like. Donkeys used for transport, fields ploughed by hand and generally a way of life we couldn´t imagine, way up in the mountains. The highlight of the day was going to the Cruz del Condor, going to the look out point over the 1200m drop and waiting patiently to see if any Condors would appear (something I doubted immensely) and we were amazed that over the next hour we saw about 5 or 6 adult birds, some within just a few metres of us. A truely awesome sight, watching them glide on the thermals.