Condors at Colca Canyon - travel advice
Hot springs, condor wings and Inca things
“They usually fly between 9 and 9.15 at this time of year,” a guide mentioned to someone as they both walked past me at Colca’s Condor viewpoint.
It was 8.45am, and I finally allowed my legs to relax. Cramps had set into the back of my knees after standing in an awkward position for 30 minutes, waiting, aimlessly at is turned out, for a perched pair of condors to fly.
I let my camera drop and went for a walk from one end to the other of this beautiful vantage point atop the Colca Canyon, the strong Andean sun warming the dry air around me.
We’d arrived early just in case the early thermals had taken the fancy of the condors, birds that love the currents the canyon provides. At present, not one was airborne.
It seemed a long way from Colca Lodge and its private hot springs in which I’d lounged about in the day before. This is a beautiful hotel to stay in, with views, food and a spa to soothe away any worries.
Indeed, most of the hotels in the area are in the wider and more open Colca Valley, a rich and fertile land replete with Inca terraces, history, volcanoes and farming.
Our guide had shown us various viewpoints to look at Inca terracing, telling us tales of mythical palaces and old farming techniques. He also eloquently set out some of the more modern difficulties facing the areas, critically population flight to cities.
As much as Colca and the canyon can appear to belong to a different time, it was fascinating to learn about these challenges, to weigh up what I might do if I were born in Colca nowadays, the internal battle between tradition and modern life.
What did the mummified remains of the ancestors think of it all, peering down from their cliff-top catacombs?
Mulling these thoughts as I waited for 8.45 to turn to 09.00, I’d forgotten about the condors until a loud ‘Mira!’ from behind stole me from my torpor.
Indeed, looking was now the thing to do as seemingly from nowhere, and mightily close, enormous young and mature condors with wings as wide as sails cut through the air.
My initial worries about the number of people at the viewpoint spoiling my view proved unfounded as the condors put on a spectacular show - check my YouTube video.
You can hear them first, vibrating in the air, then you see them and almost feel them as they slide past. No wonder they were and still are revered.
Their passing shadows feels as if it may lift your soul away to a higher realm as quickly as pick you up and perish you on the rocks thousands of feet below.
There are only around 2,500 condors in Peru. It’s a long, 4-hour journey from Arequipa to Chivay, where you overnight and then drive another hour or so to the Colca Canyon. It's well worth it, and there are more than the birds to this wonderful valley and canyon.
With more time, I would stay a night or two more at one of the upmarket hotels to relax, or head off and trek to some of the isolated communities within the canyon itself, taking in the full condor’s view of its home terrain.