We awoke the next morning to a gloriously sunny day and enjoyed breakfast out on the hotel’s balcony
My parents had booked up a personalised, private trip with Amazonas Explorers to take us into the Colca Valley for 3 days. They were familiar with the company as they had used them before on a previous trip to Peru, but within the Sacred Valley.
I have to say that they are fantastic and I would recommend them if you want a more personalised experience or a smaller group. They provide local guides and drivers, so they are hugely knowledgeable about the areas that you visit. It’s also a slower paced trip with less things lined up for each day, allowing you to enjoy the places that you are in without feeling like you have to get moving to keep up with a packed agenda.
Our guide was called Mauricio and I highly recommend asking for him if you book a tour with Amazonas. He was friendly, well experienced and informed, and always on hand should we have needed him for anything. Our driver was called Percy, and I felt like I was in safe hands as he navigated us along the curving mountain routes.
We took some quick shots of the famous volcanoes before we left the city behind and headed out into the hills beyond.
Whilst driving, we passed through differing landscapes which changed from dusty and rocky….
….to wetland green and back again.
A lot of what we saw was within a natural reserve (Reserva Nacional Salinas-Aguada Blanca) and therefore wildlife does thrive there.
Some of our first views were that of the Vicuña, the symbol of Peru.
Sometimes they stand alone in the dusty grasslands not far from the road, and sometimes in larger groups they run across the vast highland plains in groups.
Vicuñas are beautiful creatures that resemble llamas (to whom they are related) and alpacas, both of which are familiar sights throughout Peru. The vicuña, however, are a far more rarer sight. Their fur is highly prized as it is very, very soft, and because of this they were hunted to almost extinction. They are now protected under the law here and so the population has recovered, however vicuña poachers do remain a constant problem.
Vicuñas seem a little smaller in stature than their llama brothers, but to me were much more majestic and handsome in appearance. They camouflage well with their surroundings, so you must have a sharp eye to spot them.
Our first proper bus break was for herbal tea at the popular tourist roadside stop of Chinitos Patahuasi (pronounced patawasi) at 4018m above sea level.
It was a beautifully sunny day, but at this altitude it was fairly chilly and the hot water filled with Andean herbs of muña, coca and chachacoma was extremely welcome.
After a stretch of the legs we carried on our journey until we came upon a wetland area where birds and other wildlife comes to graze and swim.
We saw ibis, Andean geese and even some camelids in the distance.
Then we reached the highest point of our journey at The Mirador de Los Andes at 4910m above sea level.
From here you can see a number of the volcanoes that form the ‘Ring of Fire’ around Arequipa.
Each one comes with it’s own informative stone marker.
However, it’s pretty blustery up there!!
We wove our way along the mountain roads, until we caught our first glimpse of the famed Colca Valley.
It is a stunning patchwork of green fields between high mountains, and this was the view we would take in as we ate our picnic lunch. (Our lunch was delicious and giant and was provided by Alpandina Gastronomia who are also the company behind the restaurant Zig Zag – lucky us!).
We set off into the valley a little way to find our new home for the next couple of nights.
This place is unbelievably glorious. A little patch of heaven located within the surrounding wilderness.
I will give you a proper tour in a later post, but I’m sure these pictures will give you a little taster of what is to come…..
We sipped our welcome drinks in front of the fire in the lodge’s lounge before checking in and then we had a couple of hours to relax and explore the grounds before heading to the main building for our 3 course dinner (included with our tour package).
This was a difficult feat after such a large lunch, and even more so at high altitude when your appetite is significantly smaller. (The photography was also a difficult feat, as the room had very dim lighting!! But I did so want to have proof of this delicious meal!)
I started with an amazing squash soup drizzled with cream and sprinkled with crispy, salty croutons.
And just take a look at my Dad’s quinoa salad.
What a beauty, with all that mango and syrupy sweet dressing. Yum.
I followed that up with an alpaca ‘Lomo Saltado’.
Think of it as slices of alpaca fillet, stir fried with peppers and onions and served with beautifully fluffy, chunky chips.
Mum had the fish causa (mashed yellow potato topped with fried fish slices, served with avocado, egg and olives), which was pretty special too.
We finished the whole thing off with a triple chocolate dessert with a creme anglaise that was flavoured with coca.
The chocolate mousse was so velvety smooth, and mixed with the cream and then the raspberry sauce…..
My dad went for the queso helado, which is a traditional Arequipeñan dessert, but it isn’t what it translates into English as (cheese ice cream). It tastes more like a creamy coconut ice cream than anything related to cheese!
Feeling ridiculously full, I headed off to the hotel’s private and all-natural hot springs, which is set a little walk away from the main building and all the lights.
Down at those springs, there is no light pollution and you can spend hours staring into that impossibly dark sky littered with millions of stars.