These next few days taught us to respect altitude driving! We had to drive a monstrous pass to get to the famous Colca Canyon from Arequipa. Starting at 2400m above sea level, the road twists and turns slowly spiralling up to the heavens before it levels out at 5000m at the top of the pass. We have left the desert far behind and entered the world of cold tundra and plains guarded by even bigger behemoths; volcanic peaks at over 6000m! At least the temperature remained reasonable at 11 degrees and not a mound of snow in sight 🙂
Descending this pass toward the Colca Canyon was just as taxing with innumerable switchbacks and small rockslides dotting the road. It took us 7hrs to drive the 200km from Arequipa to Colca Canyon!
Colca canyon is the 3rd most visited site in Peru. It is not longer than Arizona’s Grand, but deeper by about double; 4000m deep ( at max!) .
This means it’s excellent for Condor spotting – from above! We had beautiful views of these majestic creatures ( they are actually vultures) in El Calafate as they soared the ridges along the glaciers; here in Colca, we could see them from their perspective; at eye level AND above!
Several of them flew straight by us at eye level, then circled below the viewing point giving us a view of their phenomenal wingspan – 3 metres! What makes these birds so special is that they are the largest land based birds in the world. The Wandering Albatross has the largest wingspan in the world, but they are sea based birds 🙂
We paid a price for visiting the canyon – the circular exit route back to the PanAmerican coastal road, 150km north from Arequipa took us 8hrs to drive, 6 of which were on ripio ( gravel road in Spanish ).
Spectacular driving over passes and along mountain sides where the roads sole purpose is to serve tiny villages in the middle of nowhere. This means that in 2 days worth of driving we climbed and descended 10 000m and slept at 2400m and 3300m!
Road tax included a puncture in our rear tyre. In the middle of nowhere on this stretch the RDC tyre gauge ( awesome wireless tyre pressure monitor on board the GS) started dropping…..we extracted a rusted 6inch nail from the rear tyre – where the hell did that come from???? The beauty of tubeless tyres is that puncture fixing is a synch – ram in a piece of snot with an awl and voila ( these are the terms used by overlanders :). Our little compressor which runs off the bike took 15 minutes to get the tyre up to optimal pressure :):)
Neither of us are high altitude dwellers; we get persistently short of breath, feel lethargic, drink panados for persistent headaches and don’t seem to be acclimatising! Driving the altitude is not a problem, but walking around the towns and villages…….it’s a slow process 🙂 Potosi, Bolivia, the highest town in the world is going to be fun…….4000m!