M/Cing to SA: We hang in Arequipa

Chivay in Colca Valley. We spend two days visiting a part of Peru that is more reflective of the past than the future.

We hit the pause button on forward progress in order to go back in time

The hotel room that I’m writing this from has four foot thick walls of carved stone and a domed ceiling which is somehow appropriate for a hostal with the name of Casablanca.   We’ve spent six days in Arequipa, Peru, much of it in this wonderful room (with CNN World, Speed TV, a shower that works, pretty damn good coffee in the morning all for less than $40/night) which is emblematic of the Peru we’ve experienced in the last six days:  ancient culture being updated with new technology.

How and why are we here?  Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city (behind Lima) and many argue its most beautiful with a great representation of colonial architecture.  It’s big at one million people and its high up at 7,500 feet.   We arrived on Friday night and took two days to look around and attend to all the administrative/logistical things that need to get done to keep our little expedition rolling.  We then got on a bus and spent two days visiting the Colca Valley, the deepest, longest valley in the world and were exposed to a different Peru.  We were planning on leaving once we got back from the tour, but I got pretty sick and have been in bed for three days.   During that time, I’ve taken full advantage of our room’s bathroom infrastructure .

Our two days in the Colca Valley were wonderful as we got to see a part of Peru that is off the beaten path.  The valley is about a five hour drive north west of Arequipa high  into the Andes.  We cross a peak at 16,000 feet which breaks this trip’s record.  The Valley is famous for a number of things including it size (62 miles long and very deep), the terraces that were carved into the valley walls more than two thousand years ago, the fact that much of the area’s culture has been preserved for centuries and …. you can see condors if you go all the way down the valley (I’m renaming this trip the FW and KR Bird Chasing Expedition).

Here’s what the last couple of days have been like in pictures.

KIller bees. The first thing we experienced when hitting Areuqipa was the traffic -- 90% of which were Fiat 500-sized Renault taxis. Unlike Chile and Argentina, most Peruvians can't afford a car and these taxis serve as the main mode of transportation. Evidently people get married in them as well as this Taxi procession shows. Riding a large motorcycle in this swarm has its challenges as found out.

Sunday morning I awoke to a pretty elaborate ceremony in the main square. The town's politicans were out in full force as well as its miliary. We've now been to a lot of South American city plazas, and this one is the best so far

Santa Catalina Convent: a small colonial city within the city which was recently opened to the public. It was home to 200 cloistered nuns and their 200 servants for over four centuries.

Chivay is the gateway city to the Colca Valley. My guess is that its about 12000 feet up. We spent the night there in our worst yet hostal, but had a wonderful time that afternoon and evening.

Chivay viewed from the moutain road leading to it

Typical Chivay street

That afternoon we went to a natural mineral hot spring with 108 degree water temperature. It was great sitting in the pool with freezing rain coming down at the same time. Locals were puzzled when I suggested that it needed a swim up bar.

Chivay version of Indian Tuk Tuk has fully enclosed back and a motorcycle engine to serve as heater.

That evening we were treated to a really bad meal and a really good dinner show. The show included a traditional "band" as well as dancers dressed in various traditional clothes.

My favorite ceremony appeared to women dancers paying special homage to coca leaves.

Chivay is known as the village of love, but I"m not sure why. Appropriate, I guess that we were there on Valentine's day. This dance has the woman laying on the ground and the man swinging a rope and beating her around the legs. Then the roles are reversed and the guys hit hit in the balls with the rope. Sounds like love to me.

The show ended with everyone joining in to the Peruvian version of a conga dance.,

We then go back to our hotel room and yours truly breaks a cardinal rule: don't drink the water in a dump of a hotel. Result is three days of Montezuma's Revenge.

There are a half dozen little villages sprinkled along the valley. Each one has the required plaza and ...

Woman and her daughter, dressed in their local dress, along with a their small llama pose for a picture

Call of the wild.

Colca Valley is mainly known for the terraces carved into the canyon's walls. These Inca terraces were made two thousand years ago. Each is served by an elaborate system of irrigation canals and ditches. They obviously work as the valley seems to be a hothouse of food production.

Well at least one of us is getting closer to their Inner Peruvian Self

Karen as she walks down the street of Chivay after a happy couple of days exploring the past

4 replies
  1. Chuck Brown says:

    Looks a little rough. To bad you got sick, though after so many “good” days, what the heck.
    What was the bird? Oh yeah, keep away from girls with ropes.

  2. Maria says:

    The Peruvian name for the tuk tun is moto-taxi! Have them in many parts of Lima but none in the upscale neighborhoods. I was warned they were dangerous and to not ride in them. They also told me that the moto-taxi drivers decorate their moto-taxis for Xmas! I just loved them…not having seen a tuk tuk…they look strangely futuristic in a mad max way.

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