Colca Valley & Lake Titicaca

"After breakfast, an early morning private departure toward the "Condor Cross", the best point for a breathtaking view of the Colca Canyon with the Colca river flowing 1,200 meters (3,937 feet) below and the majestic condors flying above."


That is a lo-o-o-ong way down - and NO fences!!!


These majestic birds have a three meter wingspan!










Our Colca Canyon/Condor Cross visit was very interesting, especially regarding not only the condors, but also the tourists. We arrived in our van with guide and driver about 10 AM, followed shortly by a plethora of tour buses which disgorged multitudes from many nations. They anxiously scanned the heavens for the promised 'Flight of the Condors', but when the birds had not risen to the demand after only a short wait period, returned en masse, obviously disappointed, to their waiting transports.

We were left again alone, and within minutes spotted three condors slowly floating up on the rising drafts of the Colca Canyon. After reaching our level, they put on a show above our heads - truly a majestic performance!!! Judy quickly snapped this picture of the senior of the three. 






"In the morning, you will take a boat to visit the Uros and Amantani islands in private. The first stop is Uros islands, known as the "floating islands" because it are made with totora (kind of reed) by its inhabitants."







Evidently these reed islands were constructed so that the natives could avoid contact with the Spanish invaders, but the concept proved so practical that they are still inhabited to this day.


They provide excellent platforms to fish from as Lake Titicaca is deep and fish are plentiful. Reed repair and replacement is an ongoing chore, but not as troublesome as we 'land lubbers' would imagine. The reeds are constructed in vertical, barrel-sized bunches, then integrated several layers deep to provide the necessary flotation requirements. Today, most industry on them is tourist oriented of course. I saw several solar cell arrays, and in one home they were powering a TV kids' show!



"Then, You will take the boat that will take you to the Amantani island. There, you will be welcomed by the community, and visit the numerous pre-Inca and Inca ruins."


Shortly after we had booked our trip we were checking out the hotels in our itinerary. In the description on the web for the Posada del Inca Puno Hotel, we read a note from an American school teacher who had visited the elementary school on Amantani Island and thoroughly enjoyed distributing small gifts to some of the students. Well, Judy the teacher got excited about this opportunity and checked out the possibility of us doing something similar during our visit to the island. The response was a definite 'Si' so Judy immediately set out buying pens, pads, stickers, Hot Wheels, Brat dolls, etc. etc. and bags to hold them.



On our arrival at Amantani, our guide advised the school staff and then took us up the strenuous climb to the school (at right)






We entered the gate, and there was the whole school, students and teachers, awaiting our arrival. We really hadn't anticipated that we would get such a grand reception - or that it would be so emotionally uplifting for Judy and me.

The children and staff very obviously appreciated the small gifts and for us, it was the huge gift of knowing we had done something that brightened the day for those that don't have all the things we take for granted in Canada!!! It is not often one gets to see so personally, the results of one's efforts !








Judy starts the gift distribution. You can tell she is totally enjoying the fruits of her labour!










The children obviously were delighted in their gifts as can be seen in the following photos.













A vignette: I happened to see three little girls looking into their gift bags with a bit of dismay so I checked and they had accidentally received Hot Wheels cars, rather than dolls. I dug up the proper gift bags, took them over to the three and attempted to trade, but they weren't too sure they wanted to give up what they already had. So I reached into one of the replacement bags and ever so slowly pulled a doll out. Well, as the doll became more visible, their eyes widened, their grins broadened and the trade was accomplished to the delight of all concerned - especially me!  

It was obvious that these children, who were brought into the school daily from the outlying regions and islands, were receiving a good education. Being able to provide a little extra treat for them was so gratifying for Judy and me, and appreciated by all the school staff as well. After the distribution, the children sang us the school song and the Director (Principal) gave a speech indicating his appreciation for our efforts.


 After visiting the school, we were to climb even further to a private home that is sponsored by the government to provide food and shelter for hikers and other travelers, but I just couldn't make it due to my breathing and heart problems. So, I went back to the boat, and Judy and the guide proceeded to the house.

I was busy feeling sorry for myself when suddenly Judy, the guide and the lady who ran the hostel (at right) appeared with a delicious meal for all of us. Since I couldn't get to the meal, she insisted on bringing the meal to me - another example of the wonderful Peruvian hospitality! The photo shows us with suitable Peruvian head apparel ...







Finally, the return boat ride under an incredibly blue sky, blazing sun, yet cool temperature. Lake Titicaca is the highest commercially navigable lake in the world at 3,812 m (12,507 feet) above sea level. It is also South America's largest freshwater lake, with a surface area of approximately 8372 square kilometers.






As you might suspect from my comments, I considered this day on Amantani as one to remember ! The children's' looks of amazement and their smiles of delight will be etched in mind forever! 







The next day, off to Cusco! On the way we passed a lady who gave us the typical warm Peruvian smile.












The day previously, we had stopped at a farm near Lake Titicaca where the folks posed, including animals (alpacas) for a photo.









Also, at one stop, a young mother and her happy baby.



I can honestly say that I've never been in a country where the people were so congenial! Considering their tough conditions, it is quite obvious that the natives appreciate what they have and work hard to improve their lot in life. 'Their glass is half full - not half empty" as my dear Mom used to extoll!






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