Saturday, April 23, 2016

Jamisons Do Peru: part 3

It was time to ditch the touristy Sacred Valley, and move on to the more remote parts of Peru. Plus, the family had to get a little taste of what overlanding was all about. We picked up the rental car, and in true Peruvian form, it was a humongous hassle. Most simple things tend to be like that in the third world... But once all the commotion was done, we hit the road!! The day would be spent driving for eight hours down to Colca Canyon. The views out the windows would be the entertainment, as it was a day full of stunning endless mountains, remote Peruvian life, and Andean wildlife.

As lunch time drew close, we found a perfect little pull off, somewhere around 15,000ft, overlooking a beautiful lake! Time for the tailgate to come down and an overlanders' lunch made from whatever we happened to have in the back of the car. Jordan and Felicia decided to test out their young healthy lungs with a little high altitude sprint... the rest of us passed on it, seeing as how we were huffing and puffing just walking around while trying to find a place to pee! The race was close, and no one passed out thankfully, but the oxygen levels were probably at an all time low!! Would have loved to have a pulse oximeter to see what they were sat-ing after that!! Oh to be in your 20's again!!

Back on the road, everyday occurances for Chris and I surprised the family... no biggie as we dodge stray llamas and wait for a herd of cows to cross in front of us, swerve around a half way collapsed road, and abruptly find ourselves cruising on a bumpy dirt "highway" wondering when we would have our nice smooth pavement back. The answer is never, we will never get the pavement back. Ooopps, maybe we should have gotten a 4wd rental car! Welcome to our lives guys!

The dirt road seemed to go on forever, and once the most fabulously bright and stunning mountain sunset was over, we were all really ready to be out of the cars!! We pulled into Yanque, making turn after turn down skinny dirt roads, which at the time in the dark seemed as if we were literally in the middle of nowhere. We checked into our rooms at a tiny bed & breakfast called Miski Wasi and headed to the little town square for a peculiar bite to eat in the smallest restaurant, strolling back through the empty dirt roads wondering where the heck we were! Yanque is not necessarily the tourist destination Cusco was, it is actually just a tiny town a little west of the small Colca Canyon town of Chivay. Not knowing what to expect when we woke in the morning, we looked out to see a smoking volcano off to one side and roofless houses turned into ruins all around. There wasn't a gringo in sight, no English spoken, and definitely no one trying to sell you stuff in the streets! As we sat around sipping our coffee and watching the random llamas and donkeys stroll by we realized we were in a whole different world now, and it was good! Hello to the off the beaten path Peru!

Smokey volcano
You know something has been around a while when it has this as its security fence!

The next few days at Miski Wasi would end up being a highlight of the vacation. We were happy to sleep in and enjoy long breakfasts as we felt super pampered by the staff. We were the only guests at the simple six room B&B, and we were ok with that. The people running the quaint place were some of the sweetest people ever, even letting Chris and I sleep in our car in a gated area while simultaneously enjoying the benefits of the B&B.

We made a quick trip to the Chivay market for some fresh foods, and little did we know how fresh it was going to be until we were standing at the cheese stall and a pile of alpacas formed next to us. Don't mind us, we are just a few gringos who are not used to fresh carcasses being dumped on the ground. The only logical thing to do was pose with them for some pictures of course! Oh you gotta just love Peru! Loaded up on some olives, cheese, bread, and avocados, we enjoyed a few minutes of incredible people watching in the main square before heading "home" to meet up with our afternoon tour guide.

Mom enjoying some sun in the courtyard.
Cathedrals in the middle of nowhere
The little girl is wondering why we are staring at her eating jello next to the alpacas.

The owners of Miski Wasi had set us up with their wonderful daughter to give us a tour of the local sights. Unlike most American teens these days, this little girl was bilingual, responsible, and extremely well versed in her local culture and history! Amazing. She, and her dog "negro", led us on a hike around the terraced countryside of Yanque, answering a million questions about every little thing. We saw farmers in action, unique landscapes and plants, and even ancient Incan tombs set into the canyon walls and crumpled pre-Incan ruins that are off most tourists radar. The best part... natural hot springs, being fed by volcanic spring water into little rock pools. After the high altitude hiking, it was bliss to desend into the valley, step into hotsprings situated right on the riverbank, and soak our bones in the rejuventating waters! We had the place all to ourselves, and took our time absorbing all the rare trace minerals and healing properties we could. We stayed as it rained a quick afternoon shower on us, beers in hand, enjoying the process of moving back and forth between the hot, hotter, and hottest pools. Feeling zen, we fueled up on a quick picnic lunch of avocado cheese sandwiches and sweet pepinitos (a local fruit that tastes like a cucumber and melon), before making our way up out of the canyon and back to Miski Wasi.

Chris and Negro exploring Uyo Uyo ruins
Incan tombs
Without any expectations, and just kind of wanting to stay in for the night we arranged to have dinner in the hotel restaurant... Placing our orders a few hours in advance so that they could go get and prep everything (seeing as how this wasn't exactly the type of place that people randomly come into for dinner.) Well, this was not any average dinner in a tiny hotel in the middle of deserted no where Peru... this was a three course candlelit, mind your manners cause this place just turned all fancy on us, kind of dinner! Still being the only guests, we felt pampered in what seemed like our own personal restaurant. We drank, enjoyed the Peruvian panflute soundtrack in the background and watched a handful of people shuffle in and out of the bustling kitchen with ingredients, the air filling up with the delicious smells of our dinner... all for us! The food came out, and not only was it decoratively plated, it was delicious! Turns out those fresh alpacas from earlier in the market make a pretty tasty dinner when mixed with veggies and a red wine sauce!
Early the next morning we hit the dirt roads headed for Colca Canyon. We had a mission, cause in addition to looking into the second deepest canyon in the world, we wanted to see the elusive giant Andean condors! Condors being a national symbol in Peru, they play an important role in past and present day folklore and mythology. We had been seeing the condor paraphernalia all over Peru and even the huge "Temple of the Condor" at Machu Picchu... It was time to see the real deal! Joined by a whole hoard of tourists on day buses from Arequipa, we got situated at the Cruz del Condor. This place is famous for condor watching and attracts tons of people everyday between 7am-9am, hoping to get a glimpse of the largest flying bird in the world. As the temperature rises in the morning, the condors use the heat thermals to aid them in rising out of the canyon. In this particular spot they are known for putting on a show for the spectators below because they will circle around the viewing area, swooping low over the crowd, seemingly egged on by the ohhing and ahhing. The thing is, you can't control nature, so as we were waiting around and enjoying the views, the later it got the more we thought that today would be a no show! The tour groups started heading out, but we stayed... Not ready to give up quite yet, because even though none of us necessarily ever knew anything about condors before, we were all the sudden very very set on seeing them!! In the mean time, we let the crowds clear out, keep hoping for a show, and enjoy the stunning canyon views in front of us!
As the crowds cleared a little we decided to move to the higher overlook. As we made our way up the steps, a huge condor that had been perched on a rock all morning finally decided to make his move, and as he warmed up his wings he swooped around over our heads, casting a gigantic shadow beneath his 9-11 foot wingspan! As he flew off into the distance the show went on with more condors swooping around, giving us a chance to appreciate their colors and features a little better! The last two rose up out of the canyon together and flew circles around each other in opposite directions like a dance for the finale. Super cool! The Cruz del Condor cleared out, leaving only those of us with our own cars (just us!) to hang out a while and buy up the remaining 50 cent avocado sandwiches for sale by some smart local entrepreneurs!
10+ foot wingspan on this guy!!

With the condors long gone, we headed out to see one of the remote towns on the ridge of the canyon, and take a walk to get some more crazy views! As we stood on the cliff edge, looking down into the canyon, we tried to grasp the fact that this is more than twice as deep as The Grand Canyon in the U.S. The distance that we could see, not only down but also out across the mountain tops was mind boggling!!! Nature is freaking amazing! The pictures don't do it justice, not even a little bit!!

Hang on for dear life!
On the way back to Yanque we stopped at an overlook for a little picnic with intensely terraced landscapes so unique to this area that Chris and I had never seen something like this before or after this on the whole trip! A scenic canyon surrounded by terraces, still in use but made before the Incans! Wow!
They think they look like they are holding up the tunnel...

Later that night we found a little pizza joint in Chivay and indulged in some beer and pizza, wishing that time would slow down and the family vacation wasn't coming to an end soon!! We said goodbye to Miski Wasi, the amazing people there, and the reisdent neighborhood alpacas. It was sad to leave another great place, but with only two days left for the family in Peru we needed to move on!
The tiniest spoons in the world
The dead hamster on the wall was a mystery



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