Saturday, 6 June 2015

Crossing the Andean Plateau

Peru’s second largest city, Arequipa is a mix of beautiful old colonial architecture, plazas, narrow cobbled streets and cloistered courtyards surrounded by concrete and illegal settlements as people flock to the city from the countryside looking for work.

We arrived on the night bus from Nazca at 8am, picked up our hire car and headed for the nearest exit, away from the car per-fumed smog of the city. We climbed steadily out of the Arequipa valley and into the high altiplano. The huge volcano Misti (5822m) stood sentinel over the city as we climbed higher. Guanacos and vicuna appeared along the roadside, the wild relative from which the llama and alpaca were bred. The highest point on our route to Colca Canyon was a nameless pass at 4910m. We got out to stretch our legs and admire the ring of volcanoes that surrounded us, snow capped giants in excess of 6000m. I noticed immediately that breathing was much harder as I walked across the car park to the viewing point, then waves of dizziness hit, but no nausea, which was good news. Sarah didn’t seem to notice the altitude at all! Once we got back to the car I waited for the worst of the dizziness to stop before carrying on driving – how considerate!!

We passed numerous herds of alpaca and llama being cared for by traditionally dressed women and girls. The animals’ ears often adorned with bright ear markings in luminous pinks and greens.

We stopped for lunch at the town of Chivay, the gateway to the Colca Valley. Here we experienced our first taste of grilled alpaca and coca tea to help with the altitude.

Our 12 hour bus ride had tired Fraser out although Chris didn't seem to notice

Climbing out of the city, it was nice to see traditional lawnmowers still in use by the council

Giant volcanoes everywhere you look

Reaching the high altiplano at around 4000m

Distances seem vast over this huge high plateau

A wild vicuna, similar to the guanaco but much daintier

A beautifully dressed herd of llama by the roadside

"Ready for a night out girly?"

The smoking volcano Hucica Huaka 6225m as viewed from our high pass

Feeling a bit dizzy, 2000m to 5000m in one and half hours can do that to you!

The town of Chivay nestled in its green fertile valley at 3633m

Most of the women still wear traditional dress

The Church of our Lady of the Assumption in Chivay's central plaza

Interesting waymarker!

Why did the alpacas and llamas cross the road?

To have a nice dust bath to start the day

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