by Jerome au Perou
Sat Aug 11th, 2012 at 08:55:14 PM EST
Very early start the next day to go visit the Culco canyon, as the condors are best visible in the morning, plus we had a long drive after that.
With the sun rising behind our canyon as we left:
We start moving down along the canyon.
The highly typical terraces of the valley are already visible in that picture - basically every square meter of the (definitely not horizontal) valley seems to have been made productive through painstaking work to build terraces. This dates back apparently to the pre-inca period.
A lot of them are still being cultivated today, and this cannot be done with mechanical equipment, so oxen or donkeys or other animals are still in use, and we saw a number of local farmers walking to their fields with their animals and their plow (we even saw some wooden ones):
After a small while, the road turns to a dirt track (still of decent quality). I show this picture to note the presence of trees, which I found quite amazing at that altitude (we are somewhere between 3,500 and 3,800m high):
The valley gets steadily deeper and more abrupt as we get close to our destination:
And we finally get to the cruz del condor the site where the canyon is more than kilometer deep and where one can see condors flying in the morning (which we did - indeed, they fly by quite close):
After that rather spectacular sight (sorry if the quality of the pictures is not great), we had to drive back to Chivay, and then back up to the pass we had come across - except that this time we were allowed to stop (the previous day we were told it was safer to do after some acclimatation to the altitude).
Given the altitude changes, the roads are actually not that curvy and are decently easy to drive.
At the pass, and near all summits or points of interest, people have built stone pyramids. Above the pass, there are literally hundreds of them all around.
There is also a sort of high altitude moss which grows only above 4,000m (this one must be near 5,000m as I walked a bit above the pass to a nearby elevation) (in the far background, the volcanoes of Arequipa).
After coming back to the main road (with a couple of small wind turbines at the local pitstop/tourist trap), we moved towards the lake Titicaca area. There was quite a long strech on the altiplano (that's where I took the pictures of the rail line shown in the Peru train blogging), but as we moved down, the vegetation - and colors - started to change, especally after we drove past the Laguna Lagunidas
After that, the land became much greener and welcoming - and almost completely flat:
We crossed (but did not visit) Juliaca, and just had the time to enjoy the traffic with all the narrow tuktuks - their narrowness quite useful given the narrow streets and the generally disorderly (but not aggressive) driving by everybody. (As a side note, this is where we see how our cities are now built for and around the car - it takes very little to create gridlock in cities with very few cars (most of the traffic is taxis, minibus services and the like), and it takes a lot of organisation - and priority given to car traffic in various ways - to avoid it)
Finally, our last visit of the day was to the tombs in the village of Sillastuna, between Juliaca and Puno, our final destination:
There's a whole lot of them, but the diary, as the day, is long enough already...