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davidx Chivay - A travel report by David
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Chivay,  Peru - flag Peru -  Arequipa
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davidx's travel reports

Arequipa, Chivay and the glorious Colca Canyon.

  21 votes
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Having a digital camera stolen at Arequipa was not one of my favourite experiences but it’s a fine city. Chivay with the Colca Canyon and La Caldera hot springs is simply stupendous.

Sunset from a suburb
Sunset from a suburb
First let me deal with the matter of altitude. Most guidebooks, no doubt thinking of the greater heights at Cusco and Puno, seem to treat Arequipa’s altitude as negligible. They do their readers little favour by this. We were warned to avoid undue exertions, whilst doing enough to get a bit used to the altitude here before going higher. Our tour leader explained that over-rapid heart beat and the like were normal symptoms at this height. As far as Chivay is concerned, and even more so for the high pass traversed on the way, everybody agrees that the altitude has to be taken into account. I’m not basically a big city person. Of course I enjoyed going to Arequipa and I accept that it has far more sights than Chivay; however the smaller place and its surroundings, La Caldera Hot Springs and the Colca Canyon were possibly my very favourite part of the whole trip. Having said that, let’s start with Arequipa, Peru’s second city. One thing heavily in its favour is that in reaching it from below, you finally get up above the fog that covers Lima and much of the coast for most of the year. The air is fresh and things feel good. I’ll respond to Liz’s forum request and tell the story of the camera theft under the last section. Since that frees me to rant about the market there, I can rave about it here, equally genuinely. To say that I had never seen anything like it would be a feeble comment. That massive array of hats, sadly none big enough for me, that stretched right up the whole length of one aisle had to be seen to be believed – or photoed – but that’s enough of that for now. The vegetable and, perhaps even more so, the grain stalls actually generated immense excitement. It’s so busy and so big. Do go – but read my last section before you do!
I’m sorry that time, some robbed from us by a necessary visit to the police station, didn’t allow for a visit to the museum of the ‘Ice Mummy,’ Juanita. El Monasterio de Santa Catalina appears later.

Favourite spots:
Person watching
Person watching [magnify]
The victory for this slot goes to the Colca Canyon. We were ready with our bags for 0530 and left Chivay at 0600 to be in front of most of the traffic from Arequipa and Cusco. We were doing nicely until smoke emerged from the bottom of our van and a few small explosions took place. Tools emerged from various receptacles in the body of the van and we were far from late but much had passed us. The objective was the Cruz del Condor and we were lucky enough to see 20 of these vast birds at the same time, some soaring, some perched, all people-watching. As for the canyon itself, recent studies have re-established its claim to be the world’s deepest and it’s nearly twice the depth of the Grand Canyon in the USA. A village at the bottom would make any toy village look huge by comparison. Much of the sides of the valley, where it’s wider, have had terraces in use from way before the Incas until today, using the fertile volcanic soil to maximum advantage. [concluded below]

What's really great:
Condor over Colca Canyon
Condor over Colca Canyon
[Colca Canyon concluded] A special feature of the valley nearer to Chivay is seen in the presence of some splendid rock tombs high above the valley. Those attributed to particularly important people are painted bright red.

LA CALDERA HOT SPRINGS These springs are on the far side of Chivay from the Colca Canyon. There is a set of swimming pools and a steam room. Easily favourite was the outside pool where it was possible to float in hot water and look up to a mountain. I have never had that experience anywhere else and I loved it. The precise heat could be determined by where in the pool you chose to be. The inlet point was too hot to stay for more than a moment and the heat gradually decreased as you moved away, though it never came as low as to be called lukewarm.

In the Monasterio de Santa Catalina
In the Monasterio de Santa Catalina
In spite of its name, the Monasterio de Santa Catalina in Arequipa is what we should call in Britain a convent or nunnery, since it was exclusively for women. Different places catered for different classes and this was for the wealthy, whose families paid a substantial sum to get them accepted as novices. During their long novitiate they weren’t allowed contact with each other, though servants were allowed, but a nun who had passed out from her training was permitted to entertain her fellows in her room.
The Monasterio is like a town within a town and any thought of ‘cells’ in the normally understood sense goes right out of the window. If you should go, get a guide [very cheap and you will learn so much more than you could possibly pick up on your own.] We had intended to do without, as we were late arriving, but it would have seemed churlish not to join others in our group when we met them with a guide, a case of virtue being its own reward perhaps?

OK, so I like these!
OK, so I like these!
In Arequipa we stayed at the Tierra Sur Hotel. This was conveniently situated and the staff were extremely friendly and helpful.
Just one comic note: the public computer was always busy when I looked and they let me use the hotel’s own to send an e-mail to my sons. They even checked that I had sent it OK. However it never arrived!
They were particularly helpful when my camera went and a hotel employee went with us to the police station. One little oddity was having to pay a bank 3 soles for a slip of paper so that the hotel could retrieve the police report for us.
At Chivay we stayed at the Colca Inn, a good budget choice. We were tired and we had an early start ahead so we stayed in to eat and a good meal it was.

Contrast exemplified
Contrast exemplified
Absolutely nothing to do with clubs but I have to comment somewhere on the stark contrast between the beauty of Arequipa’s natural setting with dormant volcanoes all around, some snow-covered and the wonderful white marble of its older buildings and the ugly, unplanned edifices that obtruded into all views from the centre. Fortunately for us there are literally thousands of taxis in Arequipa searching for fares so that it was very cheap to arrange a trip out to see the sunset from two northern suburbs where the views were open.
The photo is from the rooftop restaurant at the Tierra Sur at breakfast. To show the mountains at all I've had to darken it appreciably.

A 'white city' building
A 'white city' building
I didn’t take down the names of the restaurants we used in Arequipa nor the bar on a balcony above the Plaza de Armas, where we watched the world go by but you can hardly go wrong here. Between us our group used a number of plaes and gave them all good reports.
We returned to Chivay for lunch after our trip to the Colca Canyon. A number of us ate at the Casa Blanca near the market and we found no fault with it.

Other recommendations:
Chivay from above
Chivay from above
OK, so I was silly perhaps but I’ve taken photos of markets all over Europe including ones in supposedly dodgy places – without any harm and with some fair results. Moreover some of the late night drinkers had come to the notion that we should approach the market as a group – because it does have a reputation for its pickpockets. Too late the hotel staff told us we should never have more than 10 soles in money [about £2], no documents and no cameras if we were going near the market.
Anyway, we were pretty careful there. Certainly I used the camera and I don’t doubt for a minute that I had some great shots of the market – though probably nobody has seen them!
On the way back we had to go over three crossroads. The second was busy and I waited. Some Peruvians behind us seemed impatient and appeared to jostle us aside, spitting at us with accurate aim as they charged into the traffic. I felt nothing but when we arrived at the hotel and I reached for my camera - - -. End of story.

Published on Saturday October 22th, 2005

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Mon, Jan 01 2007 - 07:34 AM rating by sajjanka


Thu, Oct 27 2005 - 02:36 PM rating by mtlorensen

You have to give crooks some credit for doing their 'jobs' well! Sorry about your camera but looks like you were still able to take some great pictures during your trip! Another wonderfully-told report. :)

Wed, Oct 26 2005 - 02:12 PM rating by magsalex

I like the condors too!

Sun, Oct 23 2005 - 12:42 PM rating by mistybleu


This was one of the areas I had to miss off my list, if I ever get the chance to go back to Peru, it's a must.

Your report makes me envious, the Condor in Colca Canyon must have been magical, I can completely understand your preference.

Sun, Oct 23 2005 - 08:27 AM rating by jesusferro

super class! you mix cultura, documentation, adventure and feelings

Sat, Oct 22 2005 - 10:04 AM rating by eirekay

David, you have my envy - my marmot has nothing on your condor! Wonderful report, so charming told!

Sat, Oct 22 2005 - 08:24 AM rating by miguelmarchi

I feel impressed! You know a country of my continent better than many South Americans. You write with authority. I also was in Peru, from Montevideo, but I was not robbed. Maybe because peruvians took me for peruvian.

Sat, Oct 22 2005 - 05:43 AM rating by rangutan

...another great report in the series...

Sat, Oct 22 2005 - 03:51 AM rating by gloriajames

Pity about your camera, nevertheless its a great report!

Sat, Oct 22 2005 - 01:49 AM rating by downundergal

Oh well, you live and learn I guess,,,great report though. The Colca Canyon sounds amazing.

Sat, Oct 22 2005 - 01:28 AM rating by toribio

David, this is your BEST!!!
I know not that that cañon is big the Gran cañon Colorado. My friends in Madrid also, stealed money in the train to Machu Pichu, here in Madrid many Peru people also steal in the metro.

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