Coporaque, Peru with Volcán Sabancaya Erupting in Background
On my kitchen table, I have two guides to Peru which I consult from time to time. Even at my advanced age, I am thinking of going there once the coronavirus is but a dim memory (should that time ever come). I see in my mind a tour I took from Arequipa to the Colca Canyon area back in 2014.
We were in the Andes at between 12,000 and 15,000 feet (3,600-4,600 meters) altitude. I was chewing coca leaves with an alkaloid to keep me from suffering the effects of soroche, or altitude sickness. With meals, I would drink a tea of maté de coca, which had the same effect. Man was not made to live at that kind of elevation without some assistance. Please note that the difference between coca leaves and cocaine is like the difference between Lipton’s Tea and Bath Salts. At that level, it is simply not a narcotic.
Colca Canyon with Farming Terraces Created by the Inca
As it works its way down to the sea, Colca Canyon becomes even deeper than the Grand Canyon. At its deepest point, it is 10,730 feet (3,270 meters) deep. And the whole canyon is only 43 miles (70 km) long. (Just north is an even deeper canyon: Cotahuasi Canyon at 11,004 feet or 3,354 meters deep.)
There is a place west of Coporaque called Cruz del Cóndor where you can see giant Andean condors rising on thermals from far below. At a wingspread approaching 9 feet (3 meters), it is one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. Later this week, I’ll show you some pictures I took there.
A Fiesta in Chivay, Largest Town Around Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon area is inhabited by the Cabana and Collagua peoples. It is only about three hours from Arequipa along a high, desolate, and unbelievably picturesque route.
I spent only a single night in Colca, and I would like to remedy that. There are scheduled intercity buses that go from Arequipa to Chivay along the same route I took, and I can probably find a tour guide in Chivay. He might not speak English, but my Spanish is tolerable—if the person I’m talking to is patient.