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6.30.10: Chivay, Peru

Colca Canyon Day 1

Today was the start of our two day one night trip to Colca Canyon. The 20 passenger van snatched us up at 8am as we headed off on the long drive ahead of us.
We climbed, steadily, from Arequipa, up the dusty, gravely, Peruvian roads into the mountains.
We passed through the Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca and caught a glimpse of some grazing vicuñas en route.
Vicuñas are a national symbol of Peru which is home to, more than half, of the world’s vicuña population.
Vicuñas are the smallest member of the camelid family as well as the most prized and endangered.
A scarf made of vicuña wool can be sold for as much as $1600, as it is the warmest and softest fiber in the world.
Luckily there were a whole bunch of the little guys munching on the grass just along the highway, so we got an opportunity to hop out of the van and snap some photos.
We continued on our route for another hour or so & stopped in a small village for some coca tea, for the altitude, and souvenirs.

There was also a large pen, ran by two young children, which housed around 20 alpacas for people to take pictures with.
I snapped some pics of the furry critters and the children who wrangled them.
We were on the road again and the scenery along the drive was divine. The sky was a dazzling aqua blue and you could see clearly to the mountain tops.
Our next stop was the Mirador de Los Andes, the highest point in the Colca Valley, ringed by eight snow-capped volcanoes.
After another two hours of driving, we stopped at our last breaking point at the top of the town of Chivay, where we'd be spending the night. We stopped at the perfect point to overlook the whole city and get some aerial pictures.
After about five hours of driving, we had finally arrived in our destination town of Chivay. Chivay is a quaint little town that, not long ago, got along just fine with no electricity. Tourism is clearly the basis of their income and they have a nice array of restaurants and hotels around the area. Our first stop in Chivay was for lunch.
We walked into a giant buffet table displayed with all the trimmings.
Three kinds of soup, chicken, rice, rocotto rellena, alpaca skewers, cheese wontons, guacamole, potatoes, you name it. I piled my plate full, anxious to try all the native grub I could fit in my hungry belly.

The rocotto rellena was the spiciest one I had yet and it was glorious! I had been waiting, this whole trip, for some kind of zing to knock my socks off and I finally got it, like a punch in the face. Eyes wide and sweat dripping down my brow, I longed for refreshments! I ordered an apple juice and when in came out I knew it was fresh and going to be just what the doctor ordered! Good apple juice is never transparent and this was, by far, the best apple juice of my life!

Back to the food... The alpaca was juicy and tender, the guacamole was creamy and delicious and then I got a bite of something not so hot. When I dug a little deeper into that section of my overflowing platter, I noticed something that looked like tongue, but smelled like ass. You can imagine my excitement when I found out that it was intestines. Apparently they hadn't been cleaned all that well, hence the faint fecal odor. That lovely stank was enough for me to ditch my plate of food and start over. By the end I was stuffed and content.
We went and checked into our hostel, a basic, cheap room with hot water, which is all I ever need, and then went out to explore the town.
I went down to their plaza de armas and walked around their market and shopped for a bit before heading back to the hostel to get ready for the hot springs.

La Calera Hot Springs are soothing, clean, natural thermal baths, centrally located in Chivay, with spectacular views of the mountains all around.
The water was to die for! One huge jacuzzi of awesomeness! They had poolside bar service, and I don't mind if I do, so I ordered an Irish coffee and relaxed in my overgrown tub. The only thing that could have made it better would be my very own rubber ducky.
It was a relaxing way to spend the evening and I stayed there and watched the sun set over the mountains until it was dark.

After some cleanup and a change of clothes, it was time for dinner. Our guide told us about a spot that had live music and a dance show along with dinner and I was all about it.
First there was a four person Peruvian flute band that serenaded me through my quinoa soup appetizer before the dancers came out.
A boy and girl, no more than 16 years old, entertained us with traditional Peruvian moves throughout dinner.
They were pulling people up to dance and gettin' down. I dined on a nice alpaca steak during the festivities and dodged invites for dances by hiding behind my fork.
After the dancing, the band members performed a traditional Kintu ceremony, invoking the Andean masses through chanting and drinking amongst sacred coca leaves.
It was an interesting and entertaining night! I grabbed some ice cream bars on my way back to the hostel (still can't kick this sweet tooth) and went to bed.

Posted by emichele 12:36 Archived in Peru

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