Woke up to a clear blue sky and bitterly cold morning – And the first tourist coach full of French people swinging into the car park 10 feet from our van at 7 am !! But not to worry – So we breakfasted and cleaned teeth etc, and then headed out at about 8 am. Going back out the way we had come, past all the pretty little stone cottages until eventually we got back on the main road and headed back towards our favourite town – Juliaca. Not.
I have mentioned the place before, but from a driving (and tourism) point of view, the best solution would be a good, paved, signposted ring road !! (Even the guide books agree with me !) But when we got lost this time, one light moment was that when I pulled up beside a local mini bus to ask directions (as I often do because we are at the same level, and being LHD / RHD, we are side by side and can talk to each other easily (even though we often can’t understand each other !)), he told me to turn left in a very vague way, so I wasn’t sure whether he meant the first left, or the one after. Anyway, I didn’t take the first left because it didn’t look very hopeful to me (dirt, narrow, one way arrow the wrong way, etc etc), so when I stopped at the next junction red light, the bus driver pulls up beside me and starts gesticulating – Clearly saying something along the lines of ”What it is the matter with you, Gringo ? I told you to turn left, and you drove straight on – Are you loco ? TURN LEFT NOW !”. So I did, the driver waved good bye, and we found ourselves on the correct road – So I had been correct not to turn left at the first street !! Had a good chuckle over that one !
Once clear of Juliaca, hopefully for ever, it was a new and beautiful road heading SW towards Arequipa, the 2nd biggest city on Peru after Lima. This road incorporates some stunning passes, snow capped mountains and volcanoes in the 5000 – 6000 m range, and just one of those drives you wish would never end. The Mirador (View) Alto Lagunillas at over 4400 metres was breath taking (literally as well as scenically !!), and then we went over 4461 metres and found a lake with flamingos in it ! Now we had seen flamingos in Galapagos, but to see them with Llamas and Alapacas feeding onshore right beside them, and with some other big black and identified bird there as well, was really rather special.
Then only a few hills further on, we saw herds of wild Vicunas - these brown and white animals really are stunning and graceful – Far more so than their scraggy llama and alpaca brethren. By now we were over 4500 metres, and still climbing, and in one off road parking area we saw some kind of local eagles but not sure what they were. Then it was more vicunas, and into Imata where some kind of market day was happening – Hey, it was Saturday ! And from there, the whole drive just got better, until at about noon we came across this lay by with a view over 3 volcano ranges, and the whole Altiplano stretching out ahead of us. Don’t ever say I can’t (sometimes) find good picnic spots !! The 3 volcanoes were Chachani (6075 metres), Misti (5822 metres), and last but not least Pichu Pichu ( 5669 metres), and what an impressive sight they made, stretched out in front of us, across the entire horizon, with us at a mere 4320 metres. From there on, we just puttered on, enjoying the kind of scenery that I guess I had always expected in this part of the world, with signs like “Pampa de Arrieros” and “Salinas (salt flats) de Aguada Blanca” and “Zona de Vicunas” to make you always aware of just how special this part of the world is. In fact, we both got so carried away by the incredible scenery that we completely missed our turning and it was only when we saw this enormous cement factory and signs saying “Arequipe 25 kms” that we realised out mistake ! By this time we were down under 3000 metres for the first time in days, and it was hot, so when we did our U turn to go 50 kms back up the road, the road quickly climbed back up towards 5000 metres ! With her big turbo and V8 engine, Troopie loves the altitude, but only if she can rev over 2000 rpm. Under that, she is like a slug with a hangover, but as soon as the turbo kicks in at 2000 rpm, she gallops up the mountains like the veritable mountain goat, leaving all and sundry in her wake ! So it was actually a fun drive back up the road, and when we got to a fruit control post near the turn off, the officer recognised us as we approached, and came over with a smile on his face and put us back on the right road. Didn’t give us back the apple he had taken off us an hour earlier though!
The road north towards Colca Canyon was equally magical as the previous section – Incredible rock formations, stunning views stretching ahead as far as the eye could see, alpacas grazing everywhere in enormous herds (flocks ?), more salt flats with some enormous ducks feeding, the Pampas de Toccra, and then more climbing, through 4700 metres, until we reached the cairn strewn summit of Mirador (view) de Los Volcanes at 4880 metres, with views over mountains and valleys that just left you gobsmacked. How good was this ?
Dropping down towards Chivay we passed more herds of Alpacas, along with many baby ones, and we dropped quickly down into the town – Passing through the archway that most towns and villages in this area have, only to be stopped and asked for 70 soles each to enter the national park – Bit of a rip off in most people’s opinions, but whatever. BY this time it was after 4 pm and although the target of the Colca Canyon was only about 80 kms further, we decided to stop at the hot sulphur baths in Chivay for the night. So we drove into town, made a few enquiries for directions to the baths, and headed the 3 kms out there. Located in a lovely little valley, the baths were pretty crowded when we got there, but once we had confirmed with them that we could park overnight in their car park, we set up camp and ended up going to bed quite early, exhausted after an amazing drive.
Photos are here :- https://picasaweb.google.com/117739775480775657932/0154SillustaniToChivay?authkey=Gv1sRgCMrbrrOV9bSFbg#