Up Close with the CondorsMay 28 in Peru
Some days are destined to stick in your mind for a lifetime. Today was such a day. After an early 4.00 am alarm, we set out from our hotel at 6.00 am for an exciting drive along the edge of the spectacular Colca Canyon to an elevated vantage point known as the Condor Cross.
The main aim of our early morning was to observe the mighty condors as they rise from their cliff side nests and catch the rising thermals to soar high into the sky. Any such bird watching activity comes without any guarantees. We knew that it would be possible to spend considerable time perched on the edge of the precipice and not see a single bird.
The first 30 minutes went by without seeing a single condor. I started to get slightly anxious. "I am sure they will appear at any moment" I stated. Actually I wasn't, but I did not want my anxiety to be passed on to the rest of the team. We waited some more. Then the first condor appeared. A cheer went right. Then another. And another. Soon there were 6 or more in flight at the same time. We were going to be in for a treat after all.
For the next 60 minutes we sat mesmerised by these huge birds as they glided back and forth over our heads, looking to catch that elusive thermal updraft. At times they flew so close that we could clearly see their heads. I am sure that no one was disappointed.
If that was not memorable enough, we then went on a walk along the cliff tops of the canyon, and to our sheer joy, several condors followed us at close quarters. It was almost as if they were attracted by our yellow jerseys. Whatever the reason it was a moment that we will all cherish for a very long time.
After the walk we met our new cycling guides and climbed aboard our allotted bikes and started a challenging ride along the side of the canyon. It was not so challenging because of the climbs, but because of the thin air and the fumes from the nearby erupting volcano. From time to time we all burst into fits of coughing, alternated with fits of laughter.
The final part of the ride consisted of an extended technical MTB descent over a rock strewn dirt track down to the valley floor. It was like riding a bucking horse, but the feeling was absolutely exhilarating.
It was very obvious that this team was nowhere as experienced or as professional as the cycling team we had worked with in the Sacred Valley. Not only were the bikes no so well prepared, but the guides often seemed to be lost along the way. The lunch was "forgettable" to say the least, and the "support vehicle" looked like it needed life support itself. In fact it was so bad it was quite funny. At the end of the day I passed on a few suggestions (ie instructions) as to how they needed to improve for the final day of riding.
Tomorrow we complete the final day of cycling and finish a long day in Arequipa, the city that nestles under the shadow of the mighty active volcano Mt Misty. I hope it can delay its next overdue eruption until we are safely out of the area.Read more