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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

22 June 2011

Toured out

20th June 2011

It’s actually the 21st as I’m writing, because we curled up for a nap at 7pm last night and didn’t get up again until 7am this morning. Discounting five minutes at 11pm to actually undress. We’ve been to the Colca Canyon and now we’re back in Arequipa and have had our first proper night’s sleep in four days.

The last two weeks have been quite hard work. When you’re on a tour itinerary, you don’t get the chance to take a day off if you’re tired or have eaten something dodgy. And in our particular case, if the friggin’ locals decide to close roads then you can’t sit back and wait a day or two, or choose something different to do. You have to leap for an unplanned flight or take a monstrously long bus journey because your tickets to Machu Picchu are for one day only and your Colca Canyon tour is already booked and paid.

Anyway, a combination of all the travel time along with the altitude and the cold has killed us both off pretty well. Cusco was at 3,300m, La Paz was 3,500m, Chivay likewise. And yet unlike Nepal and Tibet we don’t seem to have gotten used to the altitude here – still wheezing and coughing after a walk uphill. I think it’s probably because the air is so dry. It’s also been just too cold for comfort. Not so much outside, but in the evening in our hotels. They haven’t been freezing like a Nepali trekking lodge, but the tiny heaters have made them just-bearable while fully clothed in jackets, rather than a cosy place to unwind after a long day.

But before I wring every last drop of pity out of my tiny violin, I should tell you about the condors.

The Colca Canyon is definitely one of nature’s wonders, right up there with the whales at Hermanus or the devils of Loongarna. Condors are the largest flighted birds on earth, and here at the edge of the canyon you gaze down on them as they gradually sweep and soar upwards in the warming morning sunlight until finally they are level with you and sweeping past barely a few metres away. They’re utterly unfazed, passing close enough to count their feathers. And just as we watch them, they watch us. You could clearly see the condor fix his gaze on a particular tourist and then crane his neck to keep an eye on them as he swept past. Presumably he was looking out for knackered specimens like us who might drop dead at any moment.

Awesome. And I can reflect on them much more charitably after a good night’s sleep.

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2 Responses to “Toured out”

  1. Tim says:

    Amazing! I had no idea there was a place you can go and see them so close up.

    • shortclaws says:

      Indeed, and according to some literature it has become the second biggest tourist draw in Peru after Machu Picchu. Splendidly ugly birds.

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