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2003-02-14 - 4:58 p.m.

I'm not a big fan of the organized tour. But I was running out of time, and it seemed like the easiest way to see the Colca Canyon (deeper than the Grand Canyon, so they say) - a quick two day, one night tour, which I booked as soon as I received word that my grandmother had her bypass surgery (a double bypass instead of a triple, apparently, because her heart was too damaged for a triple) and was in stable condition. I don't know much more than that, really - my grandfather's emails are brief. But he did say that they wouldn't know anything for three or four days, and I decided as long as I was waiting, I might as well make it out to the Colca Canyon.

So on Wednesday morning, I was picked up by my tour group, and met the rest of the people in my tour - a Czeck/Canadian couple, a Brazilian couple, an Italian couple, three Peruvians, and one German. A nice international crowd - at one point, I swear the Brazilians were speaking Portugese, the Italians were speaking Italian, and the Peruvians were speaking Spanish, and everyone understood each other. Really.

So we drove to the Colca Canyon, past the Aguada Blanca National Vicuņa Reserve...

...and I got my first views of the Misti Volcano.

We arrived in Chivay, a village on the edge of the Canyon, by late afternoon, and spent the early evening relaxing in the hot springs. Dinner was held at a restaurant that included a peņa - a typical Peruvian music and dance show. I hadn't gone to one yet, because it seemed like a show put on for the express benefit of the tourists. It was. The entire restaurant consisted of tourists doing the two day/one night Colca Canyon tour. But the music was good, and the dancing was interesting, until, of course, the dancers started grabbing tourists to join in (being dragged onto the dance floor by a traditionally dressed Peruvian ranks right behind being dragged up on a stage by a mime and being dragged up on stage during karaoke as one of my biggest fears). I slunk down in my chair, and prayed that the song would end before I was chosen. It did.

The next morning, we woke up bright and early to see the condors. The weather had finally cleared up, and we could see the surrounding mountains.

I've been traveling for four months, and after seeing things like Machu Picchu, and the Salar de Uyuni desert, it kind of takes a lot to impress me at this point. I hate to say it, but it's true. And I didn't have huge hopes for the Colca Canyon. But I have to say that I was impressed. It was really beautiful.

We stopped at the Cruz del Condor, where the condors like to hang out for breakfast.

They were amazing, and huge, as they soared in the canyon beneath us. My pictures don't nearly do them justice. In fact, you may have to play "spot the condor" in these shots. But take my word for it. Truly amazing.

Obligatory shot of me in front of some nice scenery, wearing what has become the ubiquitous orange scarf:

Then we took a walk around the canyon, for about 45 minutes. That was it - the rest of the time was spent in the van. That's kind of why I don't like organized trips.

Tonight, I take an overnight bus to Cuzco - I have a flight on Monday from Cuzco to Lima, which I booked back in December, before I decided to cross over into Chile, and come back to Peru from the southern end. I'm actually almost as close to Lima now as I am to Cuzco. But the flight is booked, and there were things I wanted to do in Cuzco that I didn't get to do the first time, so it's back to Cuzco I go.

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