We took off north out of Arequipa toward Chivay. Our guidebook says it’s a bumpy 4 hour drive. The lady at our hostel said it was all paved (we think). Not far out of town when the road turned to rocks and dirt, we just shrugged and kept going – this is sort of normal for us.
This road was one of the worst we’ve encountered in a while – all the junk on our dashboard flew five or six inches in the air on several occasions. It was almost funny, but the aches and pains of traveling this way without a proper head rest or an ergonomic seat get to you.
After about two hours on this road, we came to a fork with pavement going 3 directions: Colca Canyon (our destination), Puno, and back to Arequipa. Ahh, so there’s the paved road*.
At this junction we were waved down by a police officer who looked generally confused. Where had we come from? Really? He shrugged it off, said something we didn’t catch and pointed us in the right direction. We later learned that we were supposed to stop and pay a fee for driving on National Reserve land, but we managed to do without.
Now that we were on the paved highway to Chivay, we thought we’d make up some time, but the climb slowed us down. At one point I know I could have walked faster than Red Beard was climbing.
Just before the hail started, Jason got out and adjusted the carbs. We were running much better just in time for snow, and our highest pass yet at 4900 meters (~16,100 feet)!
We saw all three Peruvian camelids (llamas, alpacas and vicuña) out in the wild. The vicuña are either endangered or close to it, depending on your source.
We also saw our French friends Fred and Regine boondocking right in the middle of town. We wanted to find the local hot springs before dark, so we urged them to come along and find a more tranquil spot to sleep. Only a few kilometers out of town are the La Calera hot springs.
We could camp in the parking lot for free and entrance to the hot springs was 10 soles (about $3 USD). They had pool-side service and there was quite a scene going on. We went down for a nighttime dip, a few drinks, and met some more good folks – mostly Aussies on a 3 week tour. We’ve seen several tour groups in southern Peru – after not having seen, well, any the rest of our trip.
After a cold night’s sleep, we headed right back to the hot springs (they open at 4AM!) to warm up and plan our day. The kids played** while we made the easy decision of just following along with Fred and Regine for the next few days – they already had this area all figured out.
*when leaving Arequipa, you should head northwest towards Yura to stay on the paved road. It looks like a longer route, but your joints will probably thank you for it later.
** Bode has also turned into the DJ. Current top-two on his play list: Jim Croce’s “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” and ZZ Top’s “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide.” I think I spot a trend – time to update the MP3 player.