Colca Canyon 1

The first day’s track of three to Colca Canyon and back
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We’re headed over a high corner of the altiplano. This will be my fourth time. The elevation profile – we top at nearly 16,000 feet
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It’s a late start because of the military parade. We climb the cactus covered hills out of Arequipa. Alvaro’s bike is the all-new 2014 1200GS, watercooled and packing 135hp. He painted it a metallic brown before taking delivery, it’s sharp. A twenty-mile surround of Arequipa is dust and dirt – climbing out of it is a relief
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As the chart shows we’re climbing constantly
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Past 20,000 foot peaks
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At about 14,000 feet vicuna are grazing on tough alpine plants. They’re extremely beautiful animals. Leaner and more athletic than llama or alpaca
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An exotic landscape that can change rapidly. But the consistent thing is how vivid the color and definition is in the clear air at this altitude
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We round a corner and incredibly, there’s a huge marsh and a small pond
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It’s very cold
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Up against a small hill there are ancient walls. Everywhere we’ve been in Peru there are ancient abandoned settlements at high altitude, and always near water with the exception of outside Nazca. A flock of long-beaked birds patrol the shore for whatever passes for food up here

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I disturb them with as little fuss as possible to see them in flight. Oh well, it’s worth the shot
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Ducks with huge blood-red feet chasing each other
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Further along are more of the giant Andean geese
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A huge escarpment with hoodoos stands alone. You see a unique feature here for a few minutes and then everything changes. The constant is the intensity of the sunlight
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With a small village at its base. Being a sea-level city boy I really haven’t given a damn about UV or other hocus-pocus radiation talk but everything up here is fried
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Nearing the top
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The landscapes are huge. Those cliffs are miles away
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At the summit are huge clumps of Raoulia and little else
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In no book have I seen such gigantic specimens. They must love the baking. Alvaro and I talk about the effects of being at 16,000 feet. The climbers I know of following this blog will laugh at the relative lowness of this but you do feel it. I bring it up now because I wandered off to get the below picture through the soft sand aways and by the time I was back I was noticeably shorter of air when I climbed back on the bike
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On the descent we see huge herds of llamas in the valleys. The higher we get the more we see. Click to see them
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Giant black bluffs on the western slopes. The road ahead cuts across the lower flank
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Down much further villagers wait for rides. Alvaro talks with them while I take photos. It’s interesting watching a Peruvian businessman from Lima chatting with his countrymen from the extreme opposite social environment
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Then we can see the first village in the valley below, thirty miles away from the Colca Canyon
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The good fast road down
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Under a stone arch announcing the village of Chivay. We pass through three villages with these arches in this valley
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We stop for lunch snacks
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And head into one of the most beautiful valleys I’ve ever seen (better pictures taken the next day)
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And around the river becomes oasis-like
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Terraces everywhere built by centuries of Incans
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The road turns to dirt and we head down the valley to the town of Yanque. It’s still the volcanic base rock that turns to dust instantly
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And park the bikes for the night. Lucinda is not well
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Comments

One Comment so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Loving what we have to look forward to in the spring. Almost feels like you are pre-running the route for us so thanks! Hope Lucinda is over her illness.

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