A Travellerspoint blog

Alpaca, Llama and Vicuña


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And we are off again, this time taking the coach 3 hours north to Chivay to see Colca Canyon. It was a beautiful drive, the snowy mountains above and the lush green valleys below, it was like something on a postcard and the photos just don’t do it justice! Along the way we stopped to take photos of the gorgeous landscape, which is where my llama selfie obsession began. All the way through the mountains we came across alpaca, llama and vicuña and I already have hundreds of photos of them. Vicuña are protected in Peru and are all wild, they are also the most valuable, as their hair is incredibly soft (it is 7 times thinner than human hair and grows very slowly). Every year the locals from the nearby towns round up all Vicuña and shear them, so their wool can make VERY expensive clothing. They are then tagged and cannot be sheared again until two years later. Also if you hit one by accident with your car, you can be sent to prison! Llama’s are the white ones with the long faces and are most commonly used for wool and alpacas…well they are also used for their wool, but sadly these are also the ones the locals eat too. All of them are gorgeous though and the llamas’ and alpaca LOVE a selfie.

As we drove through Colca Canyon we climbed to around 3270m above sea level and it was time to test out the coca leaves. The locals from Arequipa and higher all chew, suck or drink coca leaves in some form to help them with altitude sickness and give them energy. Our guide assured us that this was completely save and the leaves would not affect us in the same way the white powder would (unless we consumed around 50kg of it within a 30 minute period). Lynden has already successfully mastered chewing the leaves, I failed miserable on the first attempt and ended up with a mouthful of mush, so am opting to stick to the tea and candy. They also have this delightful stuff called Agua de Florida, which smells like lemon toilet cleaner, but inhaling a few drops rubbed between your hands, clears your headache within seconds. However even with all of these and drinking lots of water, most of us all still felt the altitude and at the higher lookout points, we had to take it much slower to stop ourselves from feeling worse.

Early afternoon we arrived in the town of Chivay, our home for the night. After a short rest we all got back on that bloody bus again, but this time it was just to take us 10 minutes down the road to spend the afternoon at some natural hot springs. It certainly was a treat for the sore muscles after all those long bus journeys. The temperature outside was around 18 degrees, so we were quick to jump into the first pool which was 34 degrees and slowly we worked our way up to the 38 degree pool, which many of us ended up standing up in rather than sitting in because it was too hot! Just as it was time for us to leave, we started to hear thunder in the distance and then suddenly the skies opened up and it was pouring with rain, which then turned to hail stones. None of us had bought a change of clothes for our wet bathers, so had to run back to the bus through the hail stones with just a towel wrapped around us. It was not a pleasant way to end a relaxing afternoon.

Back at our hotel, we cranked up the heater and curled up in bed under 3 blankets to warm up (it’s a very different climate here to Arequipa). For dinner we were reluctantly dragged away from our warm beds and down into the town for food and to be entertained by a local band and see some traditional dances. Now the band was great, but the dancing was peculiar. Each dance told a story, the first we worked out easily – it was about planting and harvesting crops, the next dance dumbfounded us all though. The man wore what looked like a wrestling mask and a farmers hat and he chased the lady around trying to get her to eat an apple. Then he caught her and maybe knocked her out we think, then to try and wake her he whipped her…then the rolls were reversed but this time the man got whipped, but it finished with the lady putting her skirt over his head and kind of sitting on his face…we are still not sure what story they were trying to tell with that one.

In the morning (after a night of very weird trippy dreams, thanks to the altitude) we had another early start to drive further into Colca Canyon to try and spot condors. We were incredibly lucky to see a juvenile on the rock face and then 2 adults flying quite close overhead. After this, we completed our first short altitude walk, it only took us about 30 minutes, but we got to see what kind of pace we would have to do for Machu Picchu – unsurprisingly, the pace will be SLOW. Before we headed back to Arequipa we made 2 final stops, one at the highest point (4910m above sea level), where we all just about had the energy and breath to get out, take a few photos, get back on the coach and fall asleep. And the last at the small town of Maca to see the Santa Ana church, a gorgeous white colonial church from the 16th Century and to get 5 more llama/alpaca selfies.

Next stop Arequipa again!

Posted by sdyzart 19:48 Archived in Peru Tagged mountains honeymoon travel peru colca_canyon southamerica mrandmrs

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