Road washout between Cusco and Chivay. We either abandon Colca Canyon altogether given our time frame, or take the expensive option and fly into Arequipa. Colca wins so we book another flight.
Just a 1 hour hop in the plane through the Andes. As we approach Arequipa, Colca is right there out the window and we seem to be not much higher than the snow caps. Very spectacular.
Arequipa is a bit lower in altitude than Cuzco but we will be ascending even higher again over the next couple of days
Heavy fog covers Arequipa as we head out on a pretty dodgy long detour. So lucky to fly in on time early the day before. The fog and cloud continues for several hours as we slog up the mountain behind slower vehicles. Next to nil visibility means passing is impossible.
Headgear worn by the women in these parts consists of beautifully embroidered white hats. Many women wear blankets wrapped around over their other clothes. The clouds close in again and as we stop to pick people up on the side of a hill, snow is falling.
This is the coldest it’s been so far and condor sightings are really looking a slim possibility in this weather – we do know we are in the wrong season but there’s always a hope.
After a barren landscape covered only with rocks, small bushes and spiky grasses that look like an army of smurfs positioned between the rocks, we finally start to get some canyon views.
When we do eventually get to Chivay, we are grateful to be going direct to our ultimate destination of Cabanaconde because the bus is full and everyone getting on at Chivay has to stand for quite a while.
Sitting on the right side of the bus is pretty important as the aisle full of standing people out of Chivay means there is nothing visible from the left.
In spite of fogged windows with droplets running down, the compulsion to snap away is strong. Plenty of alpaca are around and many are in such a picturesque landscape. Some good views of snow caps as well.
Only about an hour late into Cabanaconde but safe and sound after a fairly arduous weather impacted drive uphill, up mountain really, most of the way. I spot our hostel as we drive in to the tiny village in the rain and dark, but someone is waiting to meet us anyway.
We park straight in the restaurant close to the wood fire pizza oven to indulge in a glass of Argentine red and a very welcome huge meal, alpaca and pizza respectively.
In spite of an obvious zero chance of condor sighting, we break out the thermals and head out the next morning in the Pachamama kombi van to the main viewing spot. We are practically the last to leave the viewing site because it is so beautiful in the clouds. There are two other viewing spots, again no luck, but some spectacular views. It is now possible to see the trekking paths down the valley and up the other side, along with villages on the other side where the trekkers stay overnight.
Back in Cabanaconde, we are perhaps the only tourists in town not trekking for 2 or 3 days, but we head out on our own mini hike. Valley views are beautiful and in the far distance there is a waterfall pouring out with tremendous force.
Plenty of livestock to be seen in rough stone pens and the valley below is just covered in a patchwork of farms. A woman who has just fed her pigs is keen to have a little chat.
Cabanaconde has obviously attracted a few characters. We find a food spot that looks interesting and get a couple of great coffees from one such character.
Banana late lunch on the terrace of Pachamama watching the ever changing clouds hiding and then exposing the mountains surrounding us. Yet to see the volcano but who knows what tomorrow will bring. It is an amazing part of the world.
The road to Puno beckons and yes, we do end up seeing both the volcano and the condor. A phenomenal performance from several of the massive birds as if tracking us on the road and then swooping right alongside our viewing point.