30 October – Day 100!!!!
Chivay, Peru to Arequipa, Peru (via the not-so-forthcoming condors…)
Distance: 267 kms
We rose early to be in the at one of the highest points in the Colca Canyon – and also the best place to spot condors – by 8.30am… apparently, that’s the best condor viewing time. It took a solid hour to get there, mostly on very (VERY!) rough, unpaved, unsmoothed, un-everything roads. Honestly, it felt like someone was shaking my brain inside my skull, that’s how corrugated the road was.
The Colca Canyon is stunningly beautiful. Really, truly amazing. It is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the US… and just under twice the height of Mt Kosciusco. So yeah, it’s high. It’s also breathtaking. And just very impressive. We sat for a while admiring the canyon in her full morning splendour while we watched/waited for the condors to show. We did see one, a juvenile, a few hundred metres away. Although.. I didn’t have my glasses on, and it could also have been a black speck floating across my eyeball. Hard to tell!
After the canyon, we headed back to Chivay to pick up the panniers from our hostel and hit the road to Arequipa. Today was the day we crossed the highest point on the trip… 4,900m above sea level. That’s my new personal (non-plane) record! Above the 3,500m mark, I’ve definitely noticed that when exercising – or even just walking up stairs really – I lose my breath more quickly and it takes longer than usual to get it back.
We made good time to Arequipa and eventually found a reasonably priced hostel with parking for the bike – inside the courtyard, of course!
29 October – Day 99
Cusco, Peru to Chivay (Colca Canyon), Peru
Distance: 387 kms
We left Cusco by 9am to continue our journey southwards… with Adrian doing his usual trick of riding out through the front door of our accommodation. We made it all the way to Chivay, which is the nearest town to the Colca Canyon – our touristy activity for tomorrow morning.
We were told the previous day by some Argentinian riders not to venture through Juliaca due to the fact that either they or their friends had been mugged while riding their motorcycles. We also heard later that it is one of the ugliest cities in South America so our decision to ride the straightest road to Chivay proved to be a good one.
It was a 50/50 road/off-road day with the first section being winding and smooth as silk followed by a rough road-works section, followed by asphalt once more into the isolated city of Espinar. From here it was either the graded ‘truck route’ or the unknown alternate dirt road. With road tyres on we chose the graded truck route which was smooth enough to enable a pretty good pace. We climbed to over 4,800m on that road before finishing up in Chivay at 3,800m.
I think the off-road section had Lauren yearning for the train ride with free cocktails she had spoken with Allison and Chris about yesterday…