In order to get to the town of Chivay (remember here), we had to drive up onto the Andean Plateau and over a 16,000 foot pass. As I mentioned in the previous post, we were worried about Sol and the altitude, but she seemed to be handling it well once we dropped back down to about 13,000 feet in Chivay.
After a day in Chivay we decided to drive up the Colca Canyon to see if we could see some of the famous Peruvian Condor birds. This is truly a spectacular and magical place. The Colca river flows through, and all around you can see the ancient terraces that the Inca built thousands of years ago for farming.
In order to get to the Condors we had to drive back up to over 15,000 feet. It was dirt road the whole way (which I hate!), but the drive was amazing!
Sprinter Life Fun Fact:
I’ve been accused of being a wimp when it comes to driving on dirt roads. <LUIS FROM LOST WORLD>.
I just like to baby the Sprinter, that’s all. But I have to admit that it’s kinda embarrassing when we get passed by heavy machinery. It always starts with the same thing. Stevie gets a big grin on her face and yells,
“He’s comin’ right for us!”
Then she always looks at me to see if I’m going to challenge the approaching beast. I pretend not to be paying attention as he zooms by us at 5 miles an hour.
Then Stevie gives me a look like, “I can’t believe you just got dusted by another tractor.”
I quickly fuss with the control panel on the van and say something like, “So, how about that Obama? You think he’s doing a good job?”
Anyway, we finally made it to the Condor lookout, about 4 hours after we should have. But it was well worth it. The views of Colca Canyon were insane. Absolutely insane!
When we arrived a guy told us that we were too late. The Condors had already come and gone for the day. We were a little bummed but tried to look on the bright side. The roughly 100 tourists who arrive via 10-15 buses had already come and gone, too. We had the entire place to ourselves!
We set up a hang and had a great picnic right on the rim.
Then it happened. A huge Condor came sweeping up the canyon dead even with us. He flew right by us and began circling. And we saw another one. All to ourselves. Unbelievable.
After that, we decided to head back to Chivay. Soleil was starting to get fussy with the altitude, and we wanted to get her back to 13,000 ft.
That night in Chivay Sol was still fussy. We started looking at our options to get her even lower, and the next morning we got up really early and headed out. Our goal was to get off the Plateau and down under 10,000. This is easier said than done. These mountains are huge and we were looking at a 10+ hour drive to get her down to Pisac in the Sacred Valley at 9800 ft.
It ended up being a really tough day. We climbed back over the 16,000 foot pass and then spent most of the day between 14,000-15,000 feet. Sol had one bad vomiting episode, which freaked Stevie out, but then she calmed down with Stevie singing to her and cradling her in her arms most of the way.
We finally dropped into the Sacred Valley and made it to the town of Pisac. Sol immediately started feeling better, thank god, and we had a good night there resting.
Sol has been a real trooper the last several days. I don’t think there are many 5 month old babies who can claim they’ve been over 16,000 feet unless they were born in the Himalayas or the Southern Andes mountains.
The next day we drove back up to Cusco at about 11,000 feet. It took all afternoon, but we finally found an affordable hostel and good parking. (Overlanders, see details below)
Cusco is beautiful. We rank it as the most beautiful colonial city south of Cartagena, Colombia.
Soleil is doing great here and is back to her normal happy self. What a little nomad!
We’ll probably stay here a couple of weeks. There seems to be a lot to do and see, and Stevie is in love with the place. I’ve got fast internet and can work, so it’s a win for everyone.
We’ve heard from so many overlanders that they didn’t like Cusco because it was too expensive. For sure, we almost fell into that same predicament. Luckly we found the gem… see below.
Chivay – Caesars Hostel is 1 block off the plaza, has oversize parking, super fast internet, and was 30 Soles a night for a double. You could probably pay less to camp. Ask around to find it.
Cusco – El Cuy Hostel is a few blocks off the Plaza on Calle Meloq 422, has fast internet, hot water, a kitchen, and there is a parking lot that fits oversized vehicles (from Meloq, turn right on Siete Cuadranos, go three blocks up, lot on left hand side before the street curves to the right). We’re paying 40 soles a night for the hostel and 7 soles for 24hours of parking. Every other place around the plaza started at 85+soles for a room and 20 soles for parking. This set-up makes Cusco affordable, plus we’re conveniently located between the van and the Plaza de Armas. If you’re using the Lonely Planet Guide book, El Cuy is located a couple of buildings down from the El Nino Hotel.