25, 26, 27-9-2010: Day 15, 16, 17, Arequipa-Cusco-Lima

I spent a couple hours resting in the beautiful and European Plaza de Armas in Arequipa, full of pigeons. It´s an amazing view when they flew!

A bird-eye view of Cusco.

In late afternoon, a thunderstorm started to come, and Plaza de Armas of Cusco almost looked like a little island in the middle of nowhere!

An ancient temple at sunset.

Cristina stood before the camera when I was taking a picture of the fountain view at night. She and John came to Cusco this week, and we met on Sunday and spent a day together. I spent a lot of time helping them plan their trip to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, and then we wandered around the city, did some shopping and stopped by a cafe and had some fresh fruit juice. I had chirimoya, and it was sublime! In the evening, we had a nice fusion Peruvian dinner and went on to another place for dessert! I had 3 scoops of vanilla ice-cream with hot berries and a big piece of house brownie! Com´on, it´s my last night of the trip!

Before heading to the airport of Cusco, passed by the famous 12-sided stone and took a close-up picture of it.

Look like some paradise island thing? It´s actually taken from the plane from Cusco to Lima. There were a dense bed of cloud below some mountain top. It was like heaven! In about half an hour, I will see my boys and girls again! Can´t wait!


24-9-2010: Day 14, Cruz del Cóndor, Cañón del Colca

Me at a jam-packed dusty truck on the way to the Cruz del Cóndor at 6:30am!
With the other travelers and locals who went there to lay out their goods for the tourists.

Cóndor, here it is!

The beautiful bird glided through the canyon like airplanes!

A nector-eating bird resting after feeding itself.

Some friends glided together in the sky.

This cóndor has a white ring on its head.

I was lucky to have this picture taken by chance! A white-wings cóndor flew pass the camera while I just wanted a picture of myself!

Of course, this is the most touristy place in the Cañón del Colca, but once you are there, you can totally ignore the touristy stuff and enjoy watching the cóndors floating about.

The majestic cóndor at a very close range of us!

The splendid view of the canon on the way back to Arequipa.
Ok, I didn´t plan to go to the Cruz del Cóndor, as I thought it´s gonna be so touristy that I would hate it. But since I bought the tourist ticket two days ago, I might as well go and see what´s the fuzz all about. I woke up at 5:45am, getting ready to get when the bus left at 6:30am. The bus didn´t come, instead came a big truck. All the locals started to load their goods into the truck, and it almost seemed like there wouldn´t be any space for me or other travelers. After consulting them various times, we finally managed to squeeze in, and really we ´squeezed in´! It was a rough 1.5 hour ride, very dusty and very cold. When we got to Cruz del Cóndor, the locals tried to charge us 3 nuevo soles, when the bus only costed 1. Here it goes again, the Peruvians tried to rip us off again. Fortunately, all the travelers refused to pay 3 and we all fought over it. We finally got through, but it was ugly.
So really I still didn´t know why I was there, until after standing in the mirador for 15 minutes or so, I saw a cóndor gliding through the sky, and I screamed, "Cóndor!" The second time when I saw one, I screamed again! And in the next 1.5 hours, I was intoxicated by the smooth and relaxed movements of these Andean kings, who by the way seemed to be quite used to tourists and weren´t afraid of us. In fact, sometimes they flew very close to us that I felt a bit freaked out. One turned its head and looked at us while flying. It was quite funny. The time passed quickly with these majestic birds, and soon it was time to take the next bus and go back to Arequipa, where I will pass the last couple of days and chill out before heading back to Cuzco and fly out to Lima. On the way, I saw a lonely vicuña standing in the middle of the National Reserve. It´s a very skinny and slender animal, which in not many ways looked like its related families, llama and alpaca.
It has been a growing experience, in which I had seen so many wonderful things and been to many amazing places. Now I´m ready to go back to the orphanage and see my boys and girls. I miss them so much, and can´t wait to give each one of them a big hug and kiss!

23-9-2010: Day 13, Sangalle, Cañón del Colca

It´s like a tropical paradise that the surrounding is so lush and green!

A pool that the water is streamed from the mountain. It felt so good to swim in a natural pool with no chlorine!

Almost like a little island between the canyon, this oasis features so many types of plants including banana plants and palm trees.

At 2pm, I started hiking back up to Cabanaconde, an altiplano (highland) town at 3200m.

I´m half way through!

Finally I reached the top! It was so beautiful with massive active Inca terrancing.

Beautiful scenery behind an Inca wall.

I woke up at around 7:30am, so I slept 12 hours straight! Well, thanks to the 9-5 hike yesterday. After washing up, I immediately went out to the pool and enjoyed a little bit of ´luxury´in life! haha. I sunbathed, swam and sunbathed again. I didn´t get a cocktail, but a bottle a Fanta which easily costed like a cocktail! 5 nuevo soles, well, like I said, I need a bit of luxury. It was fantastic! I almost forgot how much I love tropical weather!
At about 2pm, I started climbing up another way back to Cabanaconde, which supposedly take 3-4 hours depending on your speed. Over 1200m climb, it´s not going to be picnic but I was mentally prepared. When I looked down to the oasis again, I couldn´t seem to say goodbye. It was such a lovely rest for me. The hike wasn´t as bad as I thought, although it´s steep and rocky. There was a pair of French Canadians and their guide walking along with me. Suddenly, the guide yelled, "Cóndor!" There it was, a cóndor gliding around the canyon. It flew under the sun but suddenly disappeared as if it had flew into the solar planet. It was such a mermerizing scene. After almost 3 hours, I made it to the top. When I saw Cabanaconde from afar and its Inca terrancing, it was as if I saw light again. It was such a satisfying experience. As the sun started to set, I wearily walked back to my hostal and got ready for tomorrow´s travel.

22-9-2010: Day 12, Cañón del Colca

Actually taken the day before in the bus, overlooking the little town of Chivay.
The next day at 8:45am, I started hiking one of the deepest canyons in the world.

Prentend to be a cóndor!

The deep canyon with Río Colca in between.

I reached the bottom of the canyon in 3 and half hours, reaching a suspension bridge crossing to the other side and began to climb up again!

The rocky but clear Colca river.

Ready to cross another suspension bridge, going to the little village of Malata.

Passing through some amazing Inca terrancing which the locals still use.

Almost arrived to the Sangalle, an oasis deep down in the canyon where is almost tropical.

This is the inside of the cabaña that I spent a night. Very basic and rustic, but very clean and comfortable.

If you wants to die, you should come to Cañón del Colca. Well, not because there are many options (but trust me, you constantly feel you were dying!), it´s because you would probably appreciate life a lot more. For starter, walking often over the edge of cliffs makes you feel like you can fall anytime. Secondly, you can feel like you would get lost easily in the poorly marked trails if you go to the less touristy and more strenuous hike. And not to mention the steep and slippery rocky and dusty road that if you were not concentrated, you would slip and fall. And the constant feeling of being so small as a human when you are among the gigantic mountains. Despite all these, the Cañón del Colca is an unforgettable experience. Not just because it´s one of the deepest canyons in the world, an impressive 3191m deep which is double of the Grand Canyon in the USA, but because on top of being in such gigantic canyon it has a twist of rawness of South America travel and its history.
I started my journey at 8:45am, leaving my hostal in Cabanaconde, a town which is most accessible to the canyon. At the entrance of the trail, an tourist official checked our tourist ticket which I didn´t have, so I had to buy one. The 3.5-hour walk down to the bottom of the canyon was not challenging at all, but the scenery was just breathtaking. The difficult part had come, which I didn´t know at that point. I was supposed to pass through 3 little villages, but the poorly marked trails made me scratch my head many times. I made it to San Juan de Chuccho, and made a detour to some Inca ruins and then back on the main road. The major problem started: I was supposed to go to a village called Malata, but instead I went up and almost made it to a 4500m town called Tapay! Fortunately there was a family who lived on the road, and a gentleman showed me a way from Tapay to Malata. So extra hour detour. Before I knew it, I went down the canyon again, and another problem came: my water ran out! I thought, "I´m going to die with no liquid!" Thank God, I saw a spring flowing down from the rocks onto the river, and I thought to myself, "this is spring water!" So immediately I refilled my 2.5L bottle. It was delicious! To be safe, I added some antioxidant stuff in it. But it was definitely a save from God! I continued on the rugged and over-the-cliff road, and finally I made it to Malata. And after another hour of walking downhill, I finally reached my finally destination, the Sangalle, the oasis down in the canyon! I spent a night there, and when I laid in my bed, it almost felt like heaven! I had simple but delicious vegetarian meal with some other French travelers before I called it the night at 7:45pm.

Gastronomy Peru: Exotic foods

Looks regular? Yes, fries, fried egg and rice are, but the meat is alpaca steak.

Coca leaves, the centre piece is plant ashes which is a catalyst.

Arequipa´s traditional soup, chaque, with vegetables and pig´s intestines.

Arequipa´s cheese ice-cream.

Rocoto Relleno (stuffed hot pepper with cheese and meat) and potato cake.

Fried trout from Lake Titicaca.

Wheat bread from wheat grown in Isla Taquile and a very tasty salsa.

Salteña ... a Bolivian fare. Stuffed deep fried dough with a very spicy sauce. In Argentina and Perú, it´s called empanada, while in Venezuela it´s called arepa. Pretty much the same things.


20-9-2010: Day 10, Arequipa

The city´s active volcano, El Misti sits in the backdrop of the city.

A local woman dressed in a national costume selling "queso helado arequipeño" (Arequipa´s cheese ice-cream). It´s delicious!

In the centre, the majority of architecture is built by this off-white volcanic stone called ´sillar´. That´s why Arequipa is called the white city.

A beautiful European architecture with a palace-like interior, now it´s a bank.

The Plaza de Armas of Arequipa in daylight, filled with pigeons and visitors. Having been to most of Perú´s major cities, I must say Arequipa´s is the most beautiful!

Beautiful flowers bloomed in the gardens of the Plaza de Armas right in front of La Catedral.

La Catedral at night with a gazing moon.

Another view of La Catedral, that has been rebuilt many times due to earthquakes.

The Plaza de Armas at night with its fountain.