We departed Chivay for the Colca Canyon which descends more than 10,000 feet and is the deepest canyon in the world. Despite low agricultural prices which make farming unprofitable, people still cultivate some of the canyon’s many terraced fields.
The Colca Canyon is also home to Condor Cross (Cruz Del Condor) where Andean condors make daily appearances, soaring within feet of the tourist hordes. These magnificent vultures have up to a 10-and-a-half foot wingspan and come in brown for juveniles and black & white for adults. There are also giant hummingbirds, the world’s largest. Everything is bigger in Peru.
While the highways are recent and were privately built to service the mining industry, Peruvians have been traversing the canyon for a very long time. The word “colca” means storehouse as, due to cyclical climate swings caused by changes in ocean temperature (El Niño), the canyon was used to store food for use during lean years.
We visited two Spanish-style towns, each dominated by a Catholic Church on a town square. Despite the tourist influx, they maintain a nice feel and gentle vibe. The town of Yanque had a lovely earthquake-damaged church, the Iglesia Inmaculada Concepción de Yanque, with Sunday Mass underway. The town of Maca boasts its Iglesia de Maca. There’s a story to these towns, known as “reductions,” which were founded by the Spanish to resemble Spanish villages. Beginning in 1570, more than a million Inca farmers were relocated there, often by force.
We were off to Puno and our Lake Titicaca adventure.
Next post: Floating & Climbing on Lake Titicaca
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