Wednesday morning (June 2nd) Thomas and I crammed ourselves into a van and headed out on our two day Colca Canyon tour. We left Arequipa about 9am and started driving north towards the village of Chivay. We finally arrived around 2pm after making a few stops at random barren locations where women had set up souvenir stands. Once in Chivay we had our lunch then got carted off to our hotel. A bit later that afternoon I went with the rest of the group to a hot springs near town for an hour long soak. It was very relaxing and had some super hot water in the pool. At night we went with the group for our dinner and were treated to a traditional folk show, which included some guys playing traditional instruments (guitar, flute thingies and drums) and a couple dancing all over the place.
Thursday morning we got up nice and early at 5:30am to drive two hours to see the canyon and watch condors (really big birds). We got picked up last so I had to sit in the jump seat that folded down in the isle way. A couple minutes after getting in the van I leaned back to reach into my back pocket for a tissue and (SNAP) the seat broke. I put too much pressure on the seat back and it broke the little bolt holding it up. We were going to spend all day in the van as we were headed back to Arequipa that night and the seat was bad enough in working condition and without the seat back it just totally sucked. So at the first stop I talked to my buddy the driver and he monkied around for a bit and ended up taking a bolt out of a different seat to fix it. Whew!
We got to the Colca Canyon around 8am and hung out for about an hour watching the condors fly around. It was absolutely amazing scenery and a very big canyon. I think it was 3,300 meters (10,800 feet) from the top of the mountains to the river flowing through the bottom of the canyon. After our hour was up we went on a little walk to another viewpoint a bit away and were treated to some more great views. Afterwards we loaded back into the van and started back towards Chivay. Along the way we stopped at a lookout where the canyon turned into a big valley full of farms and terraces. Amazing stuff! Once back in Chivay we were treated to another substandard lunch and eventually made it back to Arequipa around 5pm.
Thursday night Thomas and I had our final supper at La Italia and Friday morning Thomas left to make his way towards Santiago, Chile for his flight home on Monday night.
Friday I also departed Arequipa and made my way towards Puno. I got on the noon bus and was cruising along until we reached a town about an hour north of Puno. There all but eleven passengers got off the bus so the bus company sent us the rest of the way in a colectivo van. Most of the ladies on the bus with me got really mad about this but I just went with the flow. We got in the van and started going with no problems. About half way there though there was a pick up spot on the highway and we pulled over and a few more people got in. We ended up with nineteen people in a regular sized van. It was a little crowded and the ladies from the bus with me got all riled up. But we only had like 20 mins to go so it was no big deal. Once in Puno I hoped out at a point I figured was somewhat close to the center of town and the hostel I was planning on going to. The ladies in the van with me were overflowing me with information on how to get to the center of town and where it was so I ended up not really sure where I was. But a friendly bike taxi guy made the fatal mistake of approaching me and asking me if I wanted a ride. So I told him the hostel I wanted to go to he said “Cicno Soles.” (About US$1.40). So I hopped on board and we headed towards the center of town with the poor guy pushing me most of the way. He really earned his dinero on that trip so I gave him a bit of a tip which he seamed very happy about.
Today I am going to visit some Inca ruins near here and then in the morning head off for La Paz, Bolivia.