Arica, Saturday 11/04/15

After the floating islands of Uros, we carried on to Taquile, apparently “famed” for the fact that the men there knit. There’s not a great deal to do there except climb up the hill and then down the other side. It does provide some good views of Lake Titicaca, though.  

   Our guide, who is from there as I mentioned, told us quite a bit about the place over lunch. 

There was a demonstration of the importance of hats. Baby girls wear a red and brown pointed hat and boys red and white. It changes at seven years of age and then again the boys wear it a different way round in adolescence. At that time the girls are supposed to be covered in a black veil, but I don’t suppose this is practiced much these days. Boys used to get round the problems this caused to communication by using a mirror, both to see the girl’s features but also to signal to her and if she liked him she could signal back. 

Men and women can live together as a couple for two years without being married, but after that time, or if she gets pregnant, they must be wed and it is “for life”. 

The three Inca laws in Peru were “do not steal, do not lie and do not be lazy”. Our guide explained that these have little relevance on the island, as there is nothing to steal, it is such a small community that everyone knows everything about each other and if you don’t work hard you would starve. They do get some support from the mainland, such as solar panels, but elect their own pair of mayors, (who are allowed to wear a special hat). 

The next day I was intending to take a bus to Arequipa. I had spoken to the woman in reception, who was the only staff member who spoke good English, and she had said she would book a seat, took my details and said I could pay at the office in town when I came back from the lake. 

There was obviously some kind of mix up because when I asked at reception the woman was nowhere to be seen, there was no reservation and the office in town was closed. I had no option but to take a taxi to the bus terminal and buy a ticket for the same day. It turned out OK, because afterwards I decided to walk back to the main square and came across the fruit and vegetable market.  

   

This was certainly the most interesting thing in Puno in my opinion. 

Once I was in Arequipa I went for my customary stroll and was surprised to see the snow-topped volcanoes from the main square.  

 There are three of them; Pikchu Pikchu, Chachani and Misti, which is active. The city itself is known as “the white city” because of the volcanic stone used in the buildings.  

 The following day I had a bit of time on my hands, as I had arranged to go on a tour to Colca Canyon the day after. I had lunch in a place recommended by Trip Advisor, where I had a dish of seven different types of potato with typical yellow chilli sauce, (Salsa de Aji),  and the large corn.  Great for a vegetarian. 

I took advantage of a free city walking tour. This is the Church of La Compania, with a mixture of Christian and pre-Christian imagery.  

 Behind it is an old Jesuit monastery.  

 There is a theory that the carvings on the pillars represent female reproduction, which would appear to me to be a little unlikely.  

 I found the historical old Arequipa attractive, but my main reason for being there was the tour to Colca. The canyon is more than twice as deep as The Grand Canyon, but the deepest valley in Peru is not easily accessible. 

The trip took me to my highest altitude yet.  

 There were little piles of stones all around, both to mark the trail but now associated with good luck.  

 In the afternoon I went to the hot springs at La Calera, very relaxing and not too smelly. After a night spent in Chivay we headed for “Cruz del Condor” early in the morning to see the Condors themselves. This is a prime spot for seeing these huge birds and we had beaten the majority of the tourists to the place. Within ten seconds of arrival I had seen four of them, flying in and out between the rocks, with two adults flying in unison. I found a good lookout position and settled down for the hour and a half we would be there. 

Three of the original birds I had seen settled on the rocks in front of me and began preening. It was still quite cold and nothing more happened for a while. Then the sun broke through and  suddenly a number of birds came swooping round the canyon straight at me. The others took off with them and they were soaring above and around me. I was very emotional. At one time, ten of them were flying in a circle above me and four more diving down below. I could hardly believe it – by the time I had to go back to the bus I had seen twenty-two Condors, and the last four had flown around constantly. 

I’m sorry I have no pictures, for all the usual reasons, though my binoculars allowed me some superb views. 

We went for a walk along the top of the canyon with the tour guide, when two more white-winged Condors surged up from below us and swung away into the distance. 

Though I have no photos of the birds, here are a few of the canyon and the valley, which I found very lovely.  

       

That was the final peak of my Peruvan adventure. I returned to Arequipa and then on to Tacna for one night before crossing the border to Chile. 

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