The journey from Huacachina to Arequipa was not enjoyable. One of the main roads had been washed away, and we were stuck for several hours between Ica and Nazca. Unfortunately the delay meant that it was dark by the time we got to Nazca, so we didn’t get to see the famous Nazca lines from the viewing tower. We were all very disappointed, but it was nothing compared to the tragedy that was unfolding in northern Peru.
We used Arequipa as a base to do a tour of the Colca Canyon. We decided to go with the two day / one night tour because we had the time, and we didn’t want to be rushed. I’m glad we did, because I suffered through altitude sickness on the first day – at one viewpoint I couldn’t even bring myself to get out of the van. No amount of coca leaf products alleviated it (although when you added a few teaspoons of sugar to the inca tea, it tasted like a non-alcoholic mojito). While the rest of the tour went to the hot springs, I stayed in bed, and by the time dinner rolled around I managed to get through it.
The canyon is one of the deepest in the world and popular for hikers. Traditional agricultural villages are dotted along the canyon, as are pre-Incan terraces. Cruz del Condor is a well-known viewing area for giant Andean condors, and we were lucky enough to see about seven of them. It was incredible watching them soar over the canyon without beating their huge wings. A face only a mother could love though! Ugly critters!
We saw vicunas, llamas, and alpacas, and I admit that I’m still not 100% sure if I can tell them apart! I would definitely recommend a visit out to the canyon if you ever get a chance.
Arequipa itself had a nice main square in the historic centre, but otherwise was fairly unremarkable. Too many pigeons. We went to Crepismo which was featured in the guide book, but it was pretty pricey for the serving size. We booked our own accommodation at La Puerta del Sol before and after the tour as it was cheaper than the suggestions made by Peru Hop. It was very basic, but comfortable enough, although we couldn’t get our laundry done because they had run out of water! We ended up having to go out and buy extra underpants to get us through to Cusco…