15 July 2006

arequipa and colca canyon

the last several days i've been in arequipa and on a trek into colca canyon. arequipa wins best city in peru honors--it's a very cool college town in the south of peru with its own style of architecture (arequipeña) characterized by the use of white volcanic rock found near here and a fusion of indigenous and spanish colonial styles. also, there is an enormous 500 year old monastery here which was very cool. obviously i'm getting ready to show you pictures.

this is the plaza de armas. that building there is the cathedral here. as you might guess from the palm trees and all, it's much warmer here, because it's a little lower in altitude. unfortunately this picture doesn't really capture the plaza, which many people say is the best in peru. (i just say that every once in awhile in case the readers aren't as impressed by my pictures as i hope they'll be. "it's like this, but waaaay better.")

for a mildly interesting picture, find a series of arches, stand at the end of them, and take a picture. your friends will definitely be impressed. this is another shot of the plaza.

this is the arches theory applied to the interior of the monastery, where it is apparently almost impossible to take a bad picture.

see what i mean? it's just two doors, but the colors are pretty. pretty much the whole monastery was done in that purple from above, this red, and then the white of the volcanic rock.

i've never entered into the monastic life (or for that matter been catholic, a nun, or a woman), but i imagine if i were to do so, i'd probably want mountain views like this if i was going to lock myself away from all human contact forever. i bet it'd help my contemplation and stuff. incidentally, this monastery used to be a very high-class place, where only the wealthiest people ended up to save their sins and perhaps the sins of their family. it was really quite posh, which is sort of contrary to the whole idea, until much later when a new person came to power and reformed up the place. at which time several nuns lost their interest in and dedication to contemplation of God, and left for less restrictive lifestyles.

this is a classic example of arequipeña architecture: note the volcanic rock (called sillar), the façade, and the decorations featuring local flaura and fauna and phenomena, like a snake coming out of a puma's mouth. i've never actually seen this happen, but i understand it's quite common in the deep amazon. you'll have to take my word for it. (it's way cooler in person!)

let's skip ahead to the canyon. here's me standing in the middle of it. that wall in the background reminded me and this swiss guy trekking with me of organ pipes. colca canyon was first considered the deepest canyon in the world, and then a nearby canyon was found to be 200 meters deeper. and THEN they found an even deeper part of colca canyon, so it got its title back, at something over 3500 meters from top to bottom (more than twice as deep as the grand canyon). this information makes me think that each canyon has a campaign team working around the clock to either find deeper spots in their respective candidates' geography, or using shovels and things to make the canyon a liiiittle bit deeper. stay tuned for developments, there may be a new deepest canyon this decade!

one part of the canyon is called cruz del condor, and here you can come every morning to see approximately four thousand condors coasting on rising hot air. before i came here i sort of felt bad for peru. their national symbol is both ugly AND it eats dead things. i'd take a bald eagle any day, which is both irrefutably awesome AND super cool. but it turns out when they're flying they're actually quite graceful. and they're enormous. so i guess it's an ok national bird. also of note, at this point in the canyon it's 3400 meters from the river to the top of the mountain on the in this picture. we're about half way up on our side of the river.

at cruz del condor they fly very close overhead--you can even hear the air whilsting through their feathers. watching these condors was a really amazing experience (and i came skeptical)--you actually see them from above, and can see their heads looking around for food.

that's all for now, then. today i leave arequipa for tacna, which is the border crossing to chile. and then i'll get on another bus (for 30 hours--probably actually not better in person) that will take me to santiago. so unless something really amazing happens on the bus, i probably won't have any exciting pictures other than of the atacama desert. so there's always that to look forward to.

except for this picture, which is on the ground here in arequipa. it's for everyone, but maybe especially for one person who might guess who she is.


aaron said...

the condor/sky picture is an album cover waiting to be made. clearly the grand canyon must be deeper somewhere else and will certainly be top canyon soon. it's "grand", plus it's in the usa which makes everything bigger and better.

Anonymous said...

I'm an anonymous person (maybe God's messenger) saying that you should come back to the USA now.

Kansas City Star said...

Big vulture for a national bird, eh?

Did you know Benjamin Franklin wanted the United States of Awesome to have the wild turkey for a national bird?

There are times I think he was right...