The infamous Condor Colca Canyon


| February 21, 2013

Derek Lowdon travelled to Peru with Cox & Kings and had a memorable day at Colca Canyon surrounded by condors.

colca canyon bannerAfter many years of consideration, a decision was made to finally visit one of our dream destinations: Peru and, in particular, Machu Picchu. This was organised for September 2012 with Cox & Kings on their Train to Machu Picchu tour. Our party size was about 22 guests, with two tour leaders.

Sometimes, we are just lucky to be in the right place at the right time. The trip had many highlights, but here I relate what we experienced one day high up in the Andes, which will forever remain in our memories.

The place: Condors Cross in the Colca Canyon – a site renowned for observing condors in the wild. We had arrived the previous afternoon at the small town of Chivay, 12,000ft above sea level and this was to be our base for two nights. A small town with a colourful market and colourful people dressed in traditional costume of dresses, capes and a variety of hats. The dusty unmade streets looked more suitable for someone on a horse or foot rather than a car. It must be a hard life here, but everyone was cheerful and welcoming. We saw young girls with pet llamas and children on their way home from school helping to shepherd flocks of sheep back from their day’s grazing.

Very early the next morning, we set off by coach to our destination, Condors Cross. I wasn't sure what or if we would see any of these great birds. Possibly one or two if we were lucky, but then wildlife doesn't always make an appearance just when you want it to.

It was a decent drive, often on unmade roads that weren't for the fainthearted, as the drop at the side of the road could be eye watering. They don't say that this canyon is as deep as the Grand Canyon (in places) for nothing.

On arrival, we had a short walk to the viewing site on the rim of the canyon. Within a short period of time, we spotted our first condor, flying parallel to the rim just below us. Shortly afterwards, there was another, then another and so on. Eventually, there were about 12 of these huge birds (wingspan of three plus metres) over our heads one minute, then in another, flying back and forth along the rim. At times, you felt almost able to reach out and touch them as they came incredibly close. It was a great thrill and drew many gasps of astonishment and delight from the spectators, which by now numbered 100-200 people with more arriving. This didn't seem to be of any concern for the birds, as they seemed intent on putting on a great show for us all. It ranked with many of the great wildlife encounters. We enjoyed this for about one and a half hours, but sadly the time came to leave. As we drove back, we passed many majestic peaks, swathes of Inca terracing and sleepy mountain villages, which looked unchanged after many, many years.

We don't do many tours, this was only the second in 28 years, but I would recommend it to all. The only negative point – the number of days just weren't enough!

View Cox & Kings' Peru holidays.

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