Today we’re up at 3.15am because we’ve decided to ditch the tourist buses and fly solo. The local Reyna bus from Chivay to Cruz del Condor leaves at around 4.30am. However, it’s best to be there at least half an hour earlier. Don’t expect to get a seat for your 5 soles, especially if you haven’t booked in advance. We got on an already crowded bus and stood up for the 90 minute wild, reckless and breathtaking drive. The scenery along the way is stunning and beautiful albeit the sheer drops and unpaved roads.
The local bus picks up and drops off local sellers along the way, all dressed up in their traditional folklore attire – an experience you’ll never come to appeciate if you go for the overpriced and impersonal tours.
We arrived at Cruz del Condor at 6am; a good two hours before the masses of tour folk descended upon the view points. We got some amazing and undisturbed pictures of the canyon, mountains and a few good couple shots which wouldn’t have been possible with the organised tour. The views are simply stunning and worth the early start to the day.
The commercial highlight of the Cruz del Condor is obviously the condors. We saw a pretty big one just as we descended the stairs from the drop off point and then for 2.5 hours: nothing. There were a few hummingbirds around though. Numerous people on Tripadvisor have written about the condors flying directly over their heads and being only a metre away from the view points. We’ve had no such luck but were expecting a bit of anti-climax anyway once the clocks hit 8am for the start of what is advertised as the “big condor show”. Don’t get me wrong, there were condors flying about, but all a good distance away. So don’t be too disappointed when after a 7 hour bus ride from Arequipa nature doesn’t want to meet your expectations. For both of us the true highlight was the canyon itself. (And the people watching, of course, as every little flying object with wings was immediately branded a condor. Definitely good fun to watch.)
We left Cruz del Condor at around 9.15 and took another local bus to Cabanaconde. The journey takes around 20 minutes and costs 2 soles. Cabanaconde is a good base for trekking and mountain biking. Apart from that there really isn’t much to do. We grabbed some rubbish breakfast from a place called La Terraza overlooking the town square, got sunburnt and then decided to just take the 11.30am bus back to Chivay (5 soles).
Back at the Kollawas Inn we just took a much needed four hour sleep before heading out for some tea, coffee and chocolate cake to cure my cold that I somehow managed to catch on one of the flights. We went to Aromas Caffee on Plaza de Arma. Their chocolate cake is delicious and so is their selection of coffees. They also have free Wifi, so it was easy enough for us to find a better place for dinner than the previous night.
After a little bit of research we decided to give Q’Anka a try. It gets raving reviews on Tripadvisor and they surely didn’t disappoint. The food was amazing! Different to Zingaro back in Arequipa which was probably more classy but delicious just the same (and quite a bit cheaper). Brian went for the Alpaca steak on the bone and I went for the salmon trout. Both were served on hot lava stones which cook the meat at the table and accompanied by Andean potatoes, a dip and tomato mozarella.
After dinner we just went straight back to the Inn to start packing. Tomorrow we’re off to Puno.