Our guide took us to Maca, one of the small villages in the Colca Canyon. She knew some of the people living there and we were invited into one of the houses. I'm never quite sure how I feel about these experiences - am I taking advantage of people's good nature to peer at them as if in a zoo, or am I as interesting to them as they are to me and/or a valuable source of income? Whatever the answer to that question, I always accept such an invitation, tempted by the opportunity to see into their lives and engage with them however briefly, and also to take an interesting photo that will show family and friend back home, some of whom never get the chance to make such trips, how people live elsewhere in the world. I know though that not everyone will share this view, so you need to decide for yourself whether to accept such an invitation.
Anyway, back to Maca! After we'd seen the house we went into the small back yard and were shown a little shrine, the cooking area and some looms. The woman who lived there insisted I try on some of her skirts - in Peru a colourful skirt is a sign of wealth, and if you have several you wear them all. This woman told us her husband gave her a new one every year on her birthday and this showed what a good husband he was. In return she wove him a new blanket each year, one of which my husband was persuaded to try on for the photo. OK, we looked pretty silly, but you can see our hostess had a laugh!
Petroglyphs and rock paintings
En route to the Colca Canyon from Arequipa our guide turned the vehicle off the road and on to a small track. When this petered out we walked a short distance to a cave where rock paintings and petroglyphs were to be found. I read later that these paintings date back between 5 800 BC up to 3 000 BC.
The Colca Canyon really is the sort of place where it's worth just wandering down a path and seeing where it takes you! We went for a short walk down a lane that led out of Chivay towards the river, a lane used mainly by locals going to and from their fields. At one point the path leads down a long series of steps to a foot bridge over the river. These donkeys were being led up the steps - the first time I've ever seen donkeys climbing a staircase!
Although much of the canyon is dramatic and rocky, just as you might imagine, other parts are much greener and dotted with farms and small villages. In these areas you can see both Inca and pre-Inca terraces. It's amazing to realise that a system for farming devised to suit this terrain is still in use to day - and still the best way of doing things!
Once at the bottom, you will find a true oasis of tropical plants and even fruits that were planted by the proprietors of the "hotels," including mangos and papayas. The exotic palm trees reminded more of the canyons of Australia than the Grand Canyon. It's very warm in the bottom as well as you go down quite a bit in altitude.
El Rio Colca
It's also surprising how few people ventured the extra ten minutes to go down to the actual Colca River. It would have been easy for us to just lounge by the pool and wait for dinner but I'm glad we made the extra effort. We saw the tropical vegetation closer up and the river was more secluded than the resort. Besides, who could come that far without "finishing the job?" ;)
Though the main reason for going to this small village was to do the trek to the bottom of the Colca Canyon, it was far more interesting than Chivay in my opinion with a fantastic old church and timeless old streets.
just to give you an idea....
The hike down to the Rio Colca is a fantastic if knee-aching one. It's a drop of over 3400 meters but the views are perhaps even better than those from the top.
Out guide pointed out (On the way back from Colca Canyon) theseholes are Inca burials in the mountain.
Our tourist also pointed out that this rock was an ancient map written by the Incas also on the way back from Colca Canyon.
Keep Eye Open For Small Stuff
Other than keeping your eyes open for condors, there are other "treats" you will see if you pay attention. Below I managed to take a snapshot of some "chinchilla-like" creatures called viscachas.