The Colca Valley leads into the Colca Canyon, the head of which is about 1.5 hours from Chivay. The valley had been a prehistoric lake (similar to Lake Bonneville in Utah), and when the natural dam burst, the water drained through the Colca Canyon.
As I mentioned before, the Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world (only two others are deeper), and it’s home to the Andean Condors. Fortunately, we didn’t need to climb into the canyon to see the condors. There was a point fairly near the head of the canyon where a family of condors nested and, when the stars align, can be seen by tourists like ourselves.
To maximize our chances of seeing the birds, we needed to get an early start. This meant getting up at 4:30am so that both Amanda and I could be showered and breakfasted in time to leave. Gettting up at 4:30 wasn’t hard — I was so cold in our unheated hotel that I was sleeping only fitfully anyway, and I was looking forward to getting into the hot water. Unfortunately, when I went into the bathroom, there was no hot water. I let the water run and run, but all I accomplished was to freeze my hand. So I piled all of my clothes back on and crawled back under the covers to await the signal that breakfast was ready downstairs. Finally that signal came, and I asked the woman why there was no hot water. She assured me that she had just turned it on — and sure enough, there was hot water. The problem, of course, is that we now only had about 10 minutes for both Amanda and I to get showered, dressed, repacked and downstairs for breakfast and out the door to the canyon. I was SO annoyed. Amanda decided to go ahead and take the shower, but there was no way that I could have both showered and breakfasted — and I decided that it would be more important for me to eat than to be clean.
The drive to the canyon was long, dusty and bumpy (there are no paved roads), but we were rewarded with a spectacular show from the condors. Andean condors are huge birds, with wingspans up to 10 feet across, and they can live for between 50 and 80 years. The young birds have brown foliage, while the adults are black, with a white collar and white bands on their wings. They are primarily carrion eaters, although they can be aggressive (especially the females) and attack living animals as well. Here’s a professional photo of one close up:
We had about 90 minutes to watch the condors. I managed to take some pictures and video of the birds. None of them is as good as I’d like, but I discovered that taking pictures of flying birds is really hard. So here’s the best of what I ended up with. Fortunately, even when I missed the birds, or it was too far away, the canyon formed a dramatic backdrop anyway.
|young condor (note the brown)|