Andean Explorations – 7: Andean Condors in Colca

This post is part of my Peru travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery

↑ Condor in the morning sky. Ah, freedom. I wish I could fly.

At 1 am, we started from Arequipa local bus station and our first destination was the Condor lookout point some 6 hours away. I say ‘we’ because I did not go to the Colca canyon by myself, but found a group as narrated in previous post. I met my other teammates – a Czech couple, a Spanish couple and a guy from USA. Everyone was cool. We got into a bus that was going to drive us to Chivay शीवे, change the bus at 3 am and board another local bus from there. It was impossible to sleep because the route was a dirt road, but after a while I became oblivious to the jerks and shocks and head hitting the window frame. There was a cold wave in Peru that time and it did not help at all. The journey rattled each and every bone in my body and I swear I heard clattering sounds of my bones while I walked later on. But my body ache disappeared the moment we got off at a watch point in the canyon. Take a look at these pictures, picture yourself watching it and then multiply that feeling by a thousand times. Now who cares about a silly bus ride?

It was very cold and windy since the nearby peaks are snow covered. I was shivering, Peru was supposed to be a tropical country; clearly I did not research enough. Several regions in the Arequipa and Puno provinces are at very high altitudes and it can get chilly at night; plus there can be cold waves (like this one). I wrapped myself some borrowed Alpaca shawls that the locals were selling and it was warm in no time!

Condors, like Vultures, are scavengers. Scavengers only eat what is already dead and thus help clean the mess. The Andean Condors usually rise early morning during sunrise and rise high up in the sky surveying the landscape below. The canyon is very deep and it was not possible to see the bottom. But in no time, as the sun rose, we could see Condors flying in the sky.

While flying out of the valley in circular loops, one giant bird appeared about 20 ft above me. It was a terrifying feeling and I ducked instinctively, although I was perfectly aware that a Condor don’t hunt. You really feel like a dwarf compared to these mighty Condors.

Some excerpts filtered from Wikipedia:
The Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) is a species of South American bird. It is found in the Andes mountains and adjacent Pacific coasts of western South America, it is the largest flying land bird in the Western Hemisphere. It reaches sexual maturity at five or six years of age and roosts at elevations of 3,000 to 5,000 m (10,000 to 16,000 ft), generally on inaccessible rock ledges. One or two eggs are usually laid. It is one of the world’s longest-living birds, with a lifespan of up to 50 years. The birds have a wing span of upto 10 ft. and weigh upto 15kg. The Andean Condor is considered ‘near threatened’ by the IUCN. It is threatened by habitat loss and by secondary poisoning from carcasses killed by hunters.

We came to this spot again on the next day while coming back from the trek and waiting for a bus. It was entertainment time because the place was full of tourists now who were complaining about the heat and dust; they were noisy, playing music, eating, shouting, running around, polluting, (sometimes their bus would honk) and then they grumbled about not seeing any Condors. It’s a not a circular logic; I don’t understand why people just don’t get it. It will permanently scare the birds away some day – from their own habitat. Go figure. They already have a ‘near threatened’ status.

↑ Condor view point

Watching these huge creatures fly is a divine feeling. Something is different about them – huge birds, but scavengers; powerful, but isolated. Nature is amazing, nature is supreme and we are mere slaves, I ended up saying that for the hundredth time as our group descended into the valley.

This post is part of my Peru travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery