Flight of the condor!
05.10.2008 - 06.10.2008
Hi. So about our Colca Canyon issue yesterday, we decided to do the option that left at 3 in the AM, and cost three times as much as our original schedule, which the hotel apparently forgot to book for us.... even though we have an email saying it was confirmed. So after we made that decision last night, we went to dinner at the ZigZag restaurant. It´s a super fancyish place in Arequipa, and it has an iron spiral staircase supposedly made by Gustav Eiffel. It was a nice place to eat, except that the service was so slow. It´s just a funny thing here in Peru I think, things work differently. You have to hunt down your waiter or waitress and ask for your bill, or you could sit there allllll night long staring out the window. Which, in a way, is nice because its less stressful than the American way, where you are basically shoved out the door the second your fork hits an empty plate. However, it would be nice if there was just a happy medium between the two. Anyway, I digress. At the restaurant I had beef, alpaca, and ostrich meat, served carpaccio-style (sizzling, on a stone slab). The beef was pretty good, but nothing new to me. The ostrich meat was alright, but tasted strangely like pork (who saw that coming?). The alpaca meat, however, was AMAZING. I wonder if I could get someone in MT to raise alpacas for me. If you are ever in Peru, absolutely try it. Amazing.
Oh yah, all of that meat also came with some mashed potatoes that would make you cry tears of joy. I love the food here!
So then we went back to the hotel and pretended to sleep until 3 AM, when our tour people came to pick us up. Turns out the tour was just the two of us, which is probably why it was so expensive. So off we went, on our way to Chivay and then up the Colca Canyon. I tried to sleep, but it was FREEZING. You´d think for so much money they could at least toss us a blanket? A scrap of fabric? A throw pillow? I basically just sat with my eyes closed for 3 hours trying not to chatter my teeth. At one point I started to feel slightly warmer, and was pretty sure hypothermia was setting in, but then I realized they had turned on the heater. Which they promptly turned off all of five minutes later, at which point I´m pretty sure I heard my muscles sniffle and then start to cry.
So after lots of driving we stopped at a similarly freezing hotel in Chivay to drink some coca tea. Annnnd since neither of us are very interested in coca tea (and we didn´t have any problems with altitude today at all), I had some coffee with about five pounds of sugar in it, and Laura had some tea... with slightly less than five pounds of sugar in it. I think it was supposed to warm us up, but all it did is make my legs jealous of my warm stomach.
THEN we finally set off to the Colca Canyon. Our tour guide told us all kinds of fascinating things about the Canyon and the previous inhabitants. Basically two groups of people lived there first, and then the Incas came through and took over, and then the Spanish came through and took over. Pretty much the same story as everywhere else in Peru. But I don´t mean to make it sound boring, he was very interesting and informative. At one point we got to see a bunch of earth that was pure white, supposedly from all the bones of the animals that used to live in the canyon when it was a lake (oh yah, it used to be a huge lake, like Missoula, right?), that died when the lake disappeared. And then we saw a lagoon with a bunch of cows in the middle. It looks like they just want to go for a swim, but apparently they really like to eat some plant that grows in the middle of the lagoon. Let´s see... oh and then we stopped and saw a stone with terraces carved into it to represent the terraces of the valley, so they could bless that one stone before the sowing and harvests instead of having to bless every single terrace. Did I mention the terracing? No. Sorry, I´m assuming you all have been here with us the whole time learning all about the culture. So this valley, and many others, have lots and lots of terraces for growing crops. The reason they are terraced is because the stones used for the terrace gain heat during the day, and keep the soil warm during the (previously mentioned) freezing nights, so that the crops don´t die! Those ancient cultures were so darn clever.
Hmm... Oh and then we saw a tomb up on the high cliffside where an important person was buried. They basically believed in three worlds, the underground, represented by the Snake, the now world, represented by the Puma, and the aboveworld where the really important people and gods were, represented by the Condor. So this person that was laid to rest in the tomb was considered someone really important, so instead of actually being buried underground, they were "buried" up in the sky with the gods. They were also put on a cliffside that gets the morning sun, because they believed in reincarnation of sorts (not exactly by that term but kind of the same), so the morning sun was kind of a rebirth, and they were also laid to rest in the fetal position, so they could start their new life anew. Whew. Got all that? Sorry, time is money on the internet (I know i´ve said that before) so I´m kind of rushing, like I have been with all of these entries.
So THEN we went on to the area where the condors show up in the morning, riding the thermals. (I felt so cool because I knew all about this since I learned it in one of my classes!). So we got to see... oh, 10-15 condors maybe? It was awesome! They really are huge, its hard to believe. I don´t know if I got any good pictures or video of them, so I´m hoping Laura got some good ones. It was kind of hard because people really like to get in the way of my pictures on this trip apparently. Especially french people. Zut alors!
Oh YAH, while we were sitting and watching and waiting for the condors (and shivering uncontrollably still), we felt a small tremor in the stone....area...thingy...that we were sitting on. Laura and I both felt it and looked at each other questioningly (its a word, don´t look it up). No one else seemed to have felt it, but later our guide showed up and said that there had been an earthquake a little ways down the canyon and a bunch of rocks had fallen and done some pretty good damage to a tour bus (no one was inside). So since we were the only two in a ten seater van, we let 4 of those people ride with us, along with 4 other people who ... I don´t really want to talk about this much. Two of them were a couple from England who were pretty nice, and they asked if they could ride back to town with us, and then promptly included two other people they knew, who were two girls from Belgium (?) who were possibly the two most annoying human beings I have had to spend time with. Our tour guide continued to talk to Laura and I since we were technically still on the tour we paid for, but then the annoying girls kept interrupting and-or talking so loud we couldn´t hear him... and-or following us around like they were part of the tour they didn´t pay for. I got kinda cranky about it, but I´m done talking about it now
So on the way back to Arequipa we got to stop and see some interesting Andean birds, OH and we also stopped at the highest point on our trip, at 4,900 meters (around 16,000 feet?). It´s the highest we´ve been on this trip so far, so that was pretty exciting. Up there you can see all the volcanoes of the area, including Ampato, where Juanita was found. Juanita is one of the best preserved mummies in the world. We are going to go to the Museo Santuarios Andinos tomorrow to see her! We are also going to go to Cafe C.V. which gives most of its profits to an orphanage, and we´re gonna try to give them the rest of the school supplies we brought down with us. Back to the highest point, its really interesting because there are little rocks stacked up on each other all over the place there. Our tour guide said that the ancient people knew that it was the highest point, so they brought rocks and stacked them up there, representing leaving all of their troubles behind up at that highest point close to the gods.
I have pictures of all the interesting things I´ve talked about from today, but apparently there is a pretty low limit on photos you can upload to this blog per month, and I already exceeded it with all of the five or six photos I put up. Lame.
Our tour guide also explained the difference to us between alpaca and llamas, and we got to see wild vicunas, which are so cute! It´s all really quite interesting. There´s even a hybrid between a llama and an alpaca that is SO SO SO CUTE! Its this adorable tiny little white fluffball.
Hmm... I think everything else was pretty uneventful from there. We tried to go find some really nice restaurant for dinner, and couldn´t find it. So we ate at Trufa instead, which was also good. Instead of the Peruvian food, this time we got fetuccine (sp?) alfredo and sprite (hehe). It was a delicious little taste of home. Annnnnd then we came here, to the internet place. And then I typed that last sentence. And that one. And that one.
Yep, you´re all caught up. OH. I remembered a few things.
One, I don´t know if I told you about the drink we tried in Urubamba. Havier picked it out. I guess it´s corn...something... cooked with pineapple... and served warm? I didn´t understand all of the details, but it was really really really good! I´m going to try to look up what exactly it was when I get home.
Second, we also saw a really neat plant called a yareta up in the canyon. I didn´t get any good pictures of it, but you should look it up. Neato frito.
Third, the website that I told you I would give you, for the corn necklaces, I believe is www.pumaruna.org (under conservation?). Unfortunately, its´apparently under construction right now. Maybe later. Darn.
Fourth, I forgot to tell you that once the sun actually came out it got boiling lava hot, and I have this really awesome sunburn on half of my forehead but not on the other half. Silly Peruvian weather.
Okay, that is all for now I suppose! Tomorrow we go to the museum and the cafe (and maybe to this one store to buy a purse I´ve been obsessing over...), and then we fly to Trujillo! Then after two days there its off to the AMAZON!!!! I can´t even TELL you how excited I am about that. Hooray!
Bye bye for now!