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December 08, 2004

Colca Canyon and Capachica

Hello all,

This is Lisa, writing from a fantastic little internet cafe in beautiful Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, where just a few short months ago their mayor was lynched in the city square. That seems to have all blown over now and things here are pretty peaceful (besides the fact that today is a holiday... feast of the immaculate conception I believe). We arrived in Puno yesterday, on a bus ride at the end of which I was almost puked on (oh so narrowly avoided) by a little girl who was very sick. I felt sorry for her, the bus ride was 5.5 hours and she puked about 4 or 5 times.

Anyhow, we were just returning from Arequipa, where we spent our last two days trekking in the Colca Canyon, the SECOND deepest canyon (ask Sandra which is the first). It was very fun but also very exhausting. We got up Sunday morning at 1am to catch the 2am bus to Cabanaconde, a small farming town on the edge of the canyon. At this point Alistair had a confirmed case of the stomach badness, which I am convinced he caught from the half eaten breakfast burrito that he bought off e-bay. We (or rather I) had breakfast there and left for out trek at about 7:45am. We were pleasantly surprised that it was only us and our guide on our hike, and we could go our own pace. We were much faster than the expected times, which left us more time for relaxing between legs.


We hiked almost all downhill, across bridge and into a small area for the trekkers, with huts and such (which took about 3.5 hours), for a nap and lunch (it was alpacca!). Then we hiked for another 2.5 hours to get
to a nice little oasis. We had a short swim and dinner and to bed. There were some crazy biting flies there, which impeded the enjoyment of the oasis, I would have liked to have spent more time with the cutest lamby ever that was grazing in the field. There was no electricity there, so early bed (in our luxurious THATCHED ROOF COTTAGE. The other highlight of the place was the fireflies, which I have never seen before, and were very cool. The next morning we got up at 2:50am !!!! to hike for 2.5 hours of which the 1st 2 were uphill (I getting up that early to hike. The stars were incredible, and produced quite a lot of light. It was hard but fun. Halfway up Alistair reminded me that it was "halfway, time to break through this brick wall." The altitude was noticeable at the top, my steps kept getting smaller and smaller. I think that my hematocrit is higher now (I think that the top was around 3300m altitude). We had breakfast at around 5:30am and hopped a bus at 7am (mandatory $6 fee to get off
) to this condor watching place where we didn't see any condors (well one from very far away). I was very exhausted. We met up with another tour run by the same company, who were doing a van tour, and they took us back to Arequipa in their van. The ride home was long, but comfy, we stopped at various lookouts and such. I just wanted to get home.

One of the highlights of the van ride home was that we got to see vicuñas (surprisingly, they were in the vicuña zone). They are very cute cammelids, of the same family as llamas and alpaccas, but they are wild! Apparently they can be very aggressive. I still think that I want my very own vicuña.

After a little rest, we went for some dinner, where I decided to sample the traditional dish of cuy (or guinea pig). It was pretty yummy, but there were a lot of little bones, and his (?) head and most vital organs were still attached. Do I eat the lungs? I didn't, but the heart was good. I don't think I would eat it again, maybe if the head wasn't attached.


I'll let Alistair tell you about our experiences in Puno so far and our little pilgrimage that we made today...

Today Lisa and I visited Capachica, a small town two hours by micro bus outside of Puno. My mom worked as a volunteer in Capachica for a couple of years in the early 1970's. As long as I can remember, I have heard stories of Capachica and Lake Titticaca and so it is a place that I have always wanted to go to.

A good friend of my mom and Rebecca was a priest in the town until recently. He is now living in Lima but while he was in Capachica (for something like 25 years) he was part of a major effort to get running water and electricity for the town (and many other things such as improvements to the road). You can definitely see the difference he (and his parish) have made to the town and the locals.

The town itself is quite small, basically a town square with a church and a number of surrounding adobe houses. Lisa and I walked from the town to the lake (about 3km). Along the way we were always greeted by the locals and some stopped to talk to us. They were probably the most friendly people that we've met so far in Peru.

Along the lakeside young guys were coming in on boats covered in reeds from the lake. They use the reeds for lots of different things including making boats!


All in all it was a great day. Awesome to get to go to such a small town and mingle with locals - away from the gringos! And, it was great to visit a town that has somewhat been part of my family!

Tomorrow Lisa and I are going to visit the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, and then - we are off to Bolivia! We will update again soon!

Posted by Alistair Howard at December 8, 2004 03:14 AM


Those reed boats look very cool..I am looking forward to your update about the floating islands. The whole idea sounds so bizare!! It would be much appreciated if you take heaps of photos so I can procrasinate and look at them to avoid studying. :)

Posted by: Sarah at December 8, 2004 05:51 AM

That reed boat (with the chancho) is made by the Urus of the floating islands - Thor Hyerdahl (?Sp) copied their technique for his famous boat. The line of reeds in the distance on the lake is actually where the floating islands are (or used to be when I lived in Capachica). I think if I search through my slides I probably have one that is almost identical, taken at the same spot!

Posted by: Anonymous at December 8, 2004 07:10 AM

Hola! The name of the deepest canyon is Cotahuasi, just so ya know. I'm excited to hear about your adventures in Copacabana -- 'cause it just sounds cool!

Posted by: Sandra at December 9, 2004 10:29 AM

I like the reed boats... and these ones too:! More boat photos!!!!

Posted by: Scott at December 10, 2004 01:49 AM

I love the SWINE!!!

Posted by: Sandra at December 13, 2004 09:08 AM