We are in Chivay for one particular reason: to visit Colca Canyon and see condors flying by at Cruz del Condor. The best time to get to see them is early in the morning and around 6.30 we are heading towards Colca Canyon.
On the way to Cruz del Condor, our driver Marco Antonio stops at a couple of tiny villages such as Yanque and Maca, where traditionally dressed women are trying to convince tourists to take pictures with them and their baby lamas or alpacas. We pass… we just want to see a couple of condors!
As we drive up to Cruz del Condor, a single condor hovers over the canyon. Unfortunately, by the time we reach the viewpoint, it’s gone. Anxiously we stare into the deep canyon, together with many tourists. And so we wait… please let someone throw a piece of meat? 😉
Ten minutes pass and suddenly a guy screams “condor!” The whole crowd starts to run towards the edge, all for a glimpse of this huge bird. “Oh, it’s just a baby..” I hear a woman next to may say. Ah, well, maybe not as impressive as an adult, but still, we’ve seen a condor.
Again we wait and then suddenly the wind picks up and that must be a signal, because in no time there are about 6 condors flying around, higher and higher above the canyon. Suddenly getting closer to us and we get to see these ugly huge birds up close and personal. The “Ahhhhs…” and “Ohhhs..” go through the crowd, it’s quite impressive.
Chivay to Arequipa
We are at 3650m here in Chivay and there’s a pass at 4910m ahead of us today. We are ready to leave at 7.30 and immediately the climbing starts. We thought it would be best to camp no higher than 4400m tonight, but as things go smoothly, we have reached that altitude already at 10.30 in the morning. It’s a great place to camp too, but it’s just too early to stop. That means we have to reach the pass today and find a place to camp on the other side, and so we continue.
No more than a kilometer up the road and I start having stomach aches, I guess last night’s pizza was not that good in retrospective… nature calls… we keep riding and than at 4600m all hell breaks loose again: dark clouds, thunder and hail. We quickly put on raingear, but it’s a scary situation. The road turns and as far as we can see the dark clouds are moving away from us, so we continue to ride. Temperature has dropped and an icy wind blows into our faces. As we reach 4700 meters I’m done… because of the bad weather we haven’t eaten that much: I’m cold, tired and hungry. Elmar quickly grabs us a chocolate bar to regain some energy. With the headwind, I start to walk a bit towards to what seems like a pass… but it’s not: a snow covered slow climb on a straight road leads us towards the actual pass at 4910 meter.
A handful of volcanoes are hiding behind the mist, there is no reward for our efforts. We quickly put on some warm gear and start with the descend.
After a short descend we ride onto another pampa with a long straight road and an icy wind. We hide behind a stone wall and finally have ourselves some crackers with tuna. At the national park information center (4450m) we are allowed to sleep inside, which is a good thing, it rains all night and it’s freezing cold here.
What a night… I barely had any sleep. I couldn’t warm myself up and apparently yesterdays ride has been a bit too much; headache and throwing up. Broken, we leave at the crack of the day and for the first time the sun ain’t shining in the morning. We haven’t had breakfast and we are not descending at all, actually, there are a couple of climbs which are pretty hard to ride with empty stomachs. Then Elmar spots a small store by the side of the road, where we buy ourselves an Inka Cola and a Gatorade. The friendly woman asks us if we would like some tea. Nice and warm and with fresh herbs. “Good for the stomach”, she says.
I actually start to feel better as we continue to ride towards the highway to Arequipa. It’s 9.30, we’ve done 35 kilometers and we are at an altitude of 4000m. There’s a restaurant here, that actually serves real espresso! Elmar enjoys his coffee, I’ll stick to coca tea, together with a chicken sandwich.
We really need to get going, as we hear the thunder in the distance. And as we reach the highway, we immediately cross it and leave the busy trucks behind us. We want to ride on the dirt road, right between two volcanoes: Misti and Chachani (5822 and 6025m). Both completely covered by dark clouds.
No traffic on this corrugated road, where we climb back to 4200 meter.
We are done for today and leave the descend to Arequipa for tomorrow. Behind a couple of hills, we find a perfect spot to camp, right between Misti and Chachani; what a view!
Last night we fell asleep at 19.00 hours and we didn’t wake up until early this morning as the sun rises behind Volcan Misti.
Who doesn’t want to camp here! It’s been a cold night, our frozen water bottles are proof of this. Elmar starts making breakfast and I clean up the tent. As we pack our tent, no less then 5 little scorpions 🦂 come crawling from underneath! We take extra care and make sure we leave them here.
Everywhere we ride, we get to see Misti. It’s a perfect cone and a great view.
One more climb and then a 35 kilometer rocky descend towards the centre of Arequipa lies ahead of us. Many hairpins later we find ourselves on Plaza de Armas in beautiful Arequipa. And the oxygen.. wow! At 2400m we have plenty! 😉