Continuing the firsts… we headed off to Arequipa, first time on a plane together!
Arrived in good time to head out for a bite for lunch in this pretty town, a look at the Plaza d’Armas, an obligatory visit to the Museo del Pisco, and dinner at Mixtos (bit disappointing).
We presented Dan with a gift we are affectionately calling “Gay F*cks”, to keep him warm in the cooler climes:
The next day was Jim’s birthday so we began the day with cards….
“Its just your Birthday, no cause for a Llama!”
Jim was on his normal good form:
“I really bit my tongue in my sleep last night”
“I wish you’d do that when you’re awake!”
We had a lovely guide to take us around the Monasterio Santa Catalina. Interesting to see how the nuns were living until 1970, its like a small town behind walls. Every bed was under an arch, each house had a kitchen area and an altar, some had servants quarters. All beautiful white stone, with courtyards and some houses covered with bright blue or red rendering.
Afterwards we had a look around an artesana market, and what would a trip to Peru be without a purchase of some pan pipes? Incomplete.
In the evening Dan had booked ZigZag for dinner. As soon as we arrived they presented Jim with a huge cocktail in an ostrich egg, complete with sparklers and a rendition of “Happy Birthday”. We ate some amazing alpaca steaks cooked on individual hot stones, with some great Peruvian cab sav. Delicious. Dad thought this was the best meal he’s had in a while.
We looked fetching in our bibs:
Nice historic town centre, but still a bit touristy for Ma and Pa – mostly Western clothes, ladies in traditional dress holding lambs were doing the rounds for tips, millions of pigeons and tour agencies line the streets, and so on. We ruminated on the fact that this was probably as rural as you can get before your comfort level drops from 5* hotels with hot water, internet, white fluffy towels and great food. Tough balance.
Dan, Jim and I were up early the day after on a tour to Colca Canyon. Day was very foggy and we couldn’t really see much until we’d cleared the town and headed for altitude. Amazing barren, mountainous landscapes – scrubland, llamas and a few mud brick shacks here and there. Beautiful views once we reached Chivay (Chi-bye) at the start of the Colca Valley.
We pit stopped in Chivay very quickly – just long enough to try fruits and take a few snaps – we tried ‘tuna’ (fruity, from cactus plants – think we call them prickly pears) and ‘sancayo’ (like a sour kiwi). Chivay survives mostly on agricultural exports. Most interesting is quinoa, which is very traditional here but they stopped growing it until recently following a decline in demand following its association with poverty (“its what the poor eat”). Of course now it has become fashionable as a healthy super-food in the West, so the price has shot through the roof and the fields are quinoa’d up once again.
We did an afternoon trek up to a cemetery at the top of a mountain, and then pit-stopped for an absolutely delicious lunch made by a local lady – fava beans and corn to start, then quinoa soup (with black potato, barley, fava beans etc), and then fried trout (trucha) and alpaca stew with quinoa and cow’s cheese for main. My fav was the “aji” accompaniment; onion, parsley, chilli, lemon and tomato – simple but effective. Stuffed! Fell immediately to sleep on the back seats when we got back into the van.
We climbed onwards through fog (literal and sleep haze) towards Cabanaconde, a town on the edge of the canyon, opting out of another hike due to the dense fog – hardly seemed worth the trouble. We spent the evening sampling beers and sour cocktails (pisco and tumbo), and eating more lovely food. Favourite this time was a raisin like berry (Charapita) – very small but the spiciest thing we’ve tasted in ages!
“I like this music. It has a deep pan pipe base.”
“Deep pan? Hahaha”
Rather uncomfortable bed in our hotel room:
The next morning we awoke to pure fog. Dan popped out to take a peek at some peaks we could just make out between clouds, but every second saw the fog close in more:
“You’ve mist it Dan!”
Here’s a “What you could have won” vs “What you actually got” pic:
We hiked up a small hill to see the view:
We drove along the canyon and stopped to admire the view from Lookout Points:
… and by now were fairly sure we weren’t going to see any Condors, and started to make up our own Condor fun.
However, as the canyon turned to valley the fog stopped and the sun was shining. We climbed a lookout point just as 4 condors were making their way up on the air thermals – they flew right past us, you could see their eyes! Over 2.5m wingspan, they are enormous. Incredibly lucky to catch them on a foggy day, they often don’t fly if they can’t see the ground and potential scavenging material.
We actually saw three types of Condors:
Mum: “Woolly condors? At least it wasn’t woolly condoms!!”
Best shot of the day goes to Dan for this beauty:
Exhilarated, we headed to a local stall for Sancayo Sours & back to Chivay for lunch and home to Arequipa (asleep, in my case).
“That sour was really good… Jim hasn’t stopped talking!”
“So… as I was saying, the go pro is good but I’d really like a drone …”
“Yep, you keep droning on.”
Found Ma and Pa had avoided too much mischief and we shared pisco sours and sandwiches whilst downloading photos and updating each other on exploits. Dad feeling a bit crook but they’d been up to lots of visiting so good for him.
Shout out to Dan: Ma, Pa, Jim and I have all been able to sit back and let Dan lead us on a wonderfully planned adventure. Ma and Pa enjoy great hotels and meals, not knowing what the next thing is but loving every step. Jim and I have been in permanent holiday planning mode for the last 5 months so it is frankly a great relief not to be researching everything. Flights are booked, taxis on standby, nice restaurants expecting us, sights lined up in priority order for visiting… this is what people pay thousands for with luxury travel services. What a lucky bunch!