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Howard Banwell | profile | all galleries >> Peru >> Colca Canyon tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Arequipa | Colca Canyon | Lake Titicaca | Cusco | Machu Picchu | Lima

Colca Canyon

The road from Arequipa to Colca Canyon ascends to almost five thousand meters through stunning high-altitude desert landscapes and herds of alpaca, llama and wild vicuna. Passing through areas of swampy lagoons a paradise of Andean Egrets, large, plump Andean Geese, Puna Teal, Andean Gulls and Flickers you reach the highest point where, amid lichen, tiny cacti, and patches of ice clinging to the roadside lives the Vizcacha, a long-tailed relative of the chinchilla. Across the grey desert from here, in the thin air, there are spectacular views of the volcanoes to the west and the peaks of the central Andes to the north. The 1,200m descent to Chivay happens quickly, sweeping hairpins taking you down towards the green valley of the Colca River. The landscape here is remarkable. Mile after mile of pre-Columbian terracing line both sides of the valley, some of the terraces no more than a meter or two in depth, and all of them irrigated by ice-melt from the mountaintops above.

Along the valley to the west is Cruz del Condor, a spectacular mirador at the deepest part of the canyon, where huge condors ride the early morning thermals rising up from the bottom of the canyon 1,200m below. As the thermals quicken under the strengthening sun these graceful birds spread their three-meter wings and soar effortlessly just above your head. Even without the condors the views defy description: the backdrop of Mt Sepregina rising vertically 3,200 meters from the river below, and the canyon walls east and west shimmering in the morning sun or still dark in shadow.
Shanty town, Arequipa outskirts
Shanty town, Arequipa outskirts
Climbing above the Chilli Valley
Climbing above the Chilli Valley
The Alteplano
The Alteplano
A rare flower
A rare flower
Wild vicuna
Wild vicuna
Wild vicuna
Wild vicuna
Wild vicuna
Wild vicuna
Rock formations
Rock formations
Mount Chachani
Mount Chachani
Mount Misti
Mount Misti
A welcome coca tea
A welcome coca tea
Local kids
Local kids
Local boy
Local boy
Baby llama
Baby llama
Alpaca herd
Alpaca herd
Alpaca herd
Alpaca herd
Dust bath
Dust bath
Proud llama
Proud llama
The Andean desert at 5,000m
The Andean desert at 5,000m
The Andean desert at 5,000m
The Andean desert at 5,000m
The Andean desert at 5,000m
The Andean desert at 5,000m
Lichen
Lichen
Lichen and seed pods
Lichen and seed pods
Single-digit temperatures up here
Single-digit temperatures up here
Lagoons at 4,300m
Lagoons at 4,300m
Lagoons at 4,300m
Lagoons at 4,300m
Ice at the summit
Ice at the summit
Vizcacha conserving energy at 5,000m
Vizcacha conserving energy at 5,000m
Descent to Colca Canyon
Descent to Colca Canyon
Agriculture in Colca
Agriculture in Colca
Cattle fodder
Cattle fodder
Pre-Columbian terracing
Pre-Columbian terracing
Mount Mismi
Mount Mismi
Colca bridge near Yanque village
Colca bridge near Yanque village
Colca Lodge
Colca Lodge
Dancing at Yanque village
Dancing at Yanque village
Andean teenager
Andean teenager
Dancing at Yanque village
Dancing at Yanque village
Yanque kids
Yanque kids
Mothers
Mothers
Andean Condor
Andean Condor
View from Cruz del Condor
View from Cruz del Condor
Riding the thermals at Cruz del Condor
Riding the thermals at Cruz del Condor
Cactus flowers
Cactus flowers
Cactus
Cactus
Cruz del Condor
Cruz del Condor
Cruz del Condor
Cruz del Condor
Pre-Columbian terracing, Colca Canyon
Pre-Columbian terracing, Colca Canyon
Pre-Columbian terracing, Colca Canyon
Pre-Columbian terracing, Colca Canyon
Pre-Columbian rock tombs
Pre-Columbian rock tombs
Maca's exquisite 18th century chapel
Maca's exquisite 18th century chapel
Terracing
Terracing
Corn, pots and basketware
Corn, pots and basketware