A Travellerspoint blog

Mirador Mountaintop

The Majestic Condors of Colca Canyon

55 °F

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Colca Canyon was carved by the Colca River, located 100 miles northwest of Peru's second largest city, Arequipa.

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The ride from Arequipa to Colca Canyon was stunning.

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We passed many herds of llama, alpaca, and vicuna grazing along the way.

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Many locals keep llamas as pets, dressing them in adorable neck warmers (kind of like a Peruvian version of the doggie sweater).

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This little baby alpaca was only 3 days old!

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A highlight was Mirador de Los Andes.

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At 16,000 feet above sea level, we could see 4 volcanos.

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The piles of stacked rocks are from locals who build their wishes and dreams at this highest peak in hopes that the gods will receive them.

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While some towns were founded by the Spanish in colonial times, most of the villages in the area are still very rural.

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We stayed overnight in Chivay, the largest "town" in the Colca valley.

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Chivay and most of the smaller villages are inhabited by the Collagua and the Cabana cultures that speak Quechua, a native dialect that pre-dates the Incan civilization.

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On the afternoon of our arrival, we hiked down to the Colca Canyon hot springs.

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On the second day, we woke up at 5AM to fully explore the canyon!

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There is only one road through the park, filled with many precarious edges. We made it through this tiny tunnel too!

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At 10,725 feet, Colca Canyon is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.

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The local people maintain their ancestral traditions and continue to cultivate the pre-Inca stepped terraces throughout the valley.

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Here, locals farm 300 kinds of potato, 54 varieties of quinoa, and 12 varieties of corn.

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The tallest mountain is Huaca Huaca volcano, and the locals offer up the best of their harvests in hopes that the gods will continue to bless them.

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They Colca valley is also habitat for the giant Andean condor.

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The species that has been the focus of worldwide conservation efforts, likely because it's so majestic.

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We spent the whole morning catching glimpses of these epic birds.

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They build their nests in the steepest sections of the canyon.

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The Andean Condor lives about 60-70 years. Brown condors are teenagers, while the black ones with white collars are fully grown adults.

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When sitting they look like giant vultures.

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But in flight they are easily recognizable due to their 7 "fingered" wing structure.

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Adult condors have a wingspan of about 7-9 feet!

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It was a truly unique experience to visit the countryside of Peru.

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Wishing you all a happy Friday!

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Posted by wintermaasz 15:58 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

By Plane and By Pony

The Nazca Lines

sunny 75 °F

The city of Nazca is on the Southern coast of Peru. The city is named for an ancient culture that flourished in the region between 100 BC and 800 AD. These people are responsible for creating the Nazca Lines, a series of ancient petroglyphs, which were the reason we came to visit.

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We lucked out when we rented a horse ranch hacienda to ourselves for our stay. It sleeps 18, but we were the only 3 there!

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We woke up to these stunning views before heading to catch a plane.

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At the Nazca airport, we boarded this little 8 seater plane to get a better view of the lines.

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The Nazca Lines were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. They stretch over 50 miles between the towns of Nazca and Palpa.

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The designs are shallow lines made in the ground by removing the reddish pebbles and uncovering the whiter sand underneath. They are amazingly naturally preserved due to the high windless climate on the Nazca plateau (in spite of Peruvians constructing a highway through them).

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Most scholars believe the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca culture before 500 A.D. Hundreds of the designs are simple lines or geometric shapes, like these trapezoids:

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Other shapes are more complex. Here are some highlights:

Whale:

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Hummingbird:

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Monkey:

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Parrot:

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Hands:

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Tree:

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Astronaut (although we are still debating what we think the Nazca people might have called this little guy):

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Some figures are relatively small and more difficult to spot, like Dog:

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or the fainter Condor:

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The largest image is Flamingo at 660 ft across:

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Scholars differ in interpreting the purpose of the designs, but most agree they were of religious significance.

After our ride, we opted to enjoy the scenery and sun, and spent the afternoon by the pool.

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Sarah made friends with the ranch caballero, Silvio, and he let her ride Malta around the side yard:

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Cock-a-doodle-doo!

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Posted by wintermaasz 17:08 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

The National Drink of Peru!

Pisco City and Pisco Sour

75 °F

Pisco is a city located in the Ica Region of Peru. Pisco is also the name of Peru's national spirit.

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While we have taken full advantage of many opportunities to taste this clear brandy throughout our travels, we also visited a couple of wineries in Pisco to check out the unique distillation process (and taste the free vino!)

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After the dune buggy ride in Huacachina, we were brave enough to get in one of the many 3 wheeled taxis.

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In case you're wondering, there was no need for seat belts, because we had this cage to keep us safe:

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Our favorite stop was Vista Alegre Winery:

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There are only eight official grape varietals, as the Pisco process was developed by 16th century Spanish settlers.

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At 28 feet above sea level, the arid climate and dry soil are perfect for growing organic grapes which we tasted from the vine during our tour.

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Pisco was the first distilled spirit made in the new world.

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As there were no glass bottles in the 16th century, the brandy was shipped in clay containers sealed with beeswax.

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Turns out Pisco is also integral to San Francisco history! During the California Gold Rush of 1849, it was readily available in San Francisco in the form of the mixed drink, Pisco punch:

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In Peru the famous mixed drink is Pisco sour:

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Cheers!

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Posted by wintermaasz 16:58 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Huacachina Sand Boarding

Our Death Defying Dune Buggy Ride

sunny 77 °F

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Huacachina is a village in south western Peru that was built around a small oasis in the middle of desert terrain.

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Beyond the lagoon that supports the local population of only 100, sand dunes seem to stretch endlessly in every direction.

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The dunes also tower several hundred feet above the ground, and were unlike anything we've ever seen before.

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As soon as we got to town, we signed up for the local dune buggy ride having no idea what we were in for.

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First, we signed our lives away on a suspiciously all encompassing waiver in Spanish. Then, when a Mad Max-style rust bucket rolled up, Sarah turned to the driver and said, "Alfredo, mi vida es en tus manos."

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Afredo gave a devilish grin, and we were off:

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It was like an hour long roller coaster with no track. The video at the end of this post shows some highlights, but no video could ever truly do the experience justice.

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We never knew which way we would turn, or nose dive, or loop de loop and we had no idea what would be over the next dune: a hundred foot drop or an incredible view.

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We took a break mid-ride to try sand boarding, which is essentially sledding on a snow board face first down a mountain of sand.

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Nathan was in his element:

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So was Tre:

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Sarah white knuckled at first, but when the adrenaline kicked in, she was having a blast:

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As the sun set over the dunes, we sighed in relief that we lived to tell the story...

Posted by wintermaasz 16:11 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Paracas y Islas Ballestas

Penguins, Sea Lions, & Candelabras

sunny 75 °F

Paracas Bay is well known for its abundant wildlife and the town itself is a beach vacation destination during the summer.

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We took the opportunity to capitalize on the fact that it's off season, and stayed at a resort hotel overlooking the bay.

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They even had a pirate ship bar. It was pretty rough:

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The unique ecosystem of the bay is insulated from thrashing ocean waves and currents, which results in shallow warmer waters and stimulates remarkable growth of seaweed and algae.

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We took a boat out to the Islas Ballestas to check out the wildlife for ourselves and we were not disappointed!

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Composed largely of jagged rock formations, these islands are an important sanctuary for marine fauna like the guanay guano bird, the blue-footed booby, and the tendril.

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We also caught a glimpse of Humboldt penguins,

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many fur seals and sea lions,

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and thousands and thousands of birds.

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The Paracas National reserve was established in 1975 to protect the Ballestes Islands from over-cultivation of guano - the richest form of fertilizer in Peru - also known as bird shit.

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On the way back we saw the Paracas Candelabra, also called the Candelabra of the Andes. Although the exact age of this prehistoric geoglpyh is unknown, archaeologists have found pottery around the site dating back to around 200 B.C.

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The figure is 595 feet tall, large enough to be seen 12 miles at sea. The reason for the Candelabra's creation is unknown, although it is most likely a representation of the trident built as a sign to sailors.

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Wishing everybody an amazing 4th of July weekend. We celebrated American Independence in style by eating Alpaca burgers in front of an American flag in Cusco!

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We'll be back tomorrow with some Mad Max-like dune buggy adventures!

Posted by wintermaasz 14:55 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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