Saturday, September 16, 2006

day of the condor

We have less than a week left. We woke up at 5am today, the 4th time in a week that we have been awake at that time, lets you know that travel in South America is different than Europe or the States!

We have really enjoyed Arequipa to this point, a town with much fewer poor beggars and people who seem to have a life with some purpose, along with all of the restaurant touts who will do just about anything to get you in their restaurant! I know it sounds jaded but after Bolivia and the first part of Peru, it was disconcerting the blatant poverty with tourists spending their money right around it. Dont worry, I wont get on my pedastool, most of you couldnt see me anyway.

We went out with a couple of girls from couchsurfing two nights ago and that was after getting to see the best preserved frozen body found in the Americas, a 12 year old girl who was sacrificed by the Incas about 500 years ago and was hidden in snow the whole time until a volcanic eruption melted the snow around her and some hikers found her. We went, not the frozen girl but the other two, two an Irish bar and had some mojitos for about a euro a piece and then Assiyeah and I booked our trip to Colca Canyon.

Colca Canyon was a place I had been excited about over a year. It is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, its deepest point having been verifed at 4160meters or nearly 14,000 feet deep! We paid 18 bucks that included the bus, guide, hotel and breakfast and the rest we had to pay for. We got picked up a little after 8am yesterday and it was a good mix of people out of the 25 or so, Dutch, French, German, Peruvian, Argentine, Spanish, American, Australian and Brazilian. The guide kept us in good spirits and along the 4 hour drive out to the town near the canyon, we got some chances to shop, see llamas and other animals and had a nice buffet lunch. Afterwards, we checked into our place, the Star of David it was called, a very basic accomodation where the rest of our floor was still being built actually.

We took off on a 2 hour hike and saw some skulls and some old burial sites and pre Incan terracing for agriculture before being driven to the thermal baths nearby. I had been once in my life in Germany and now twice in one week, go figure! That was very relaxing after the hike and then the Dutch guys and us found our own restaurant which was tasty but a bit chilly. It seemed that there was activity in the town of about 10,000, with a concert going on and lots of people out and about. After getting back to our room for an early night, we clearly noticed another party or two in action not far from our windows. They went on in some capacity until 3.45am but luckily I only heard it until 11pm before my old bones wore out.

We were up at 5am, breakfasted and on the bus by around 6.10am and then went to a small village with some kids doing traditional dancing for tips to pay for their prom dance and stuff and then continued to the place to see the condors, birds that can live up to 50-60 years and have a wingspan of about 10 feet. We didnt see any right away so it was another hike, this one just about 40 minutes and then, towards the end we got to see them along with about 200 other tourists. There were two of them and the grace with which they floated below us and above us was quite astounding, as in we were in the middle of nowhere, somehow someone had noticed that these birds are there around 9am everyday and over years time tours have been built with this as the main focus. It was fantastic.

With the tourists come people selling stuff. Assiyeah got a great belt and we had some awesome avocado sandwiches freshly made for 25 cents each. We made it back to Chivay, where we had stayed the night before and the Dutch guys and the Australian girl found our own lunch which was a 3 course meal for less than 2 bucks. We had a long bus ride back after that and stopped at the highpoint of the trip, 4910 meters or about 16,300 feet! We werent even on a mountain for gods sake, it was pretty flat there! We got back around 5.30pm, checked into our old hotel but a different room and in the middle of showering, the power on the whole floor went out. They gave us a different room.

We are flying to Lima tomorrow, our final destination on this epic journey. I am looking forward to it, getting back to Germany and our new apartment, trying to find my clothes and books and all that jazz in our enormously full cellar before starting work in about 11 days. Wow, work, I almost forgot what that was like!

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