Cruz del Condor. It’s a point on the road through Peru’s famous Colca Canyon where condors are known to dance, fly and soar through the skies. But according to the books, you have to get there early if you want to see these majestic birds in flight.
That’s why I had to wake up so freaking early this particular morning. At 6 AM, Pablo, the manager at the hostel where I was staying in Chivay, Peru, knocked on my door and acted as my Peruvian alarm clock. I then took a quick shower, grabbed a small bite to eat, and ran to the bus station with my travel partners, Kevin and Janina.
The bus wasn’t nearly as full as I had expected it to be, but the deeper we drove into the core of Colca Canyon, the more the bus began to fill. At multiple stops along the winding dirt road the bus would stop and pick up a handful of men, women and children dressed in traditional Peruvian farm clothes. Many of these people (like the man pictured below) would jump onboard carrying water canisters, gas cans, shovels, and even pick axes.
And as we drove along, we were treated to some spectacular scenery on the bus’ right-hand-side.
After nearly an hour-and-a-half on the bumpy dirt road that winds its way across the southern edge of the Colca Canyon, we exited the bus at the Cruz del Condor lookout point.
Here we were greeted by women in traditional Peruvian clothes selling food, drinks, and Peruvian souvenirs. We were also met here by the Colca Canyon ticket takers, who charged us 35 Soles each just to get off the bus and access the platform where the condors could be viewed.
When we first arrived at the Cruz del Condor platform, there were a large number of tourists already there… and according to Kevin and Janina who were able to converse with some of the other Spanish speaking people in the area, there had only been one condor sighting all morning. So, for nearly an hour we stood around with the other travelers and waited to catch a glimpse of these elusive flying creatures. In the meantime, I took some pictures.
Above: Kevin and Janina.
Below: Just a few tourist waiting to see the condors.
After about an hour, the first condor was spotted way off in the distance (Can you see the condor on the left-side of the photo below?)
But then, out of nowhere, a giant condor swooped right past us and I couldn’t believe just how big these birds really were. They were gigantic!!!
Press the play button below to see a short video of a condor flying over my head.
This is Janina taking a photo of one of the condors way off in the distance. Can you see it?
In no time at all, we had gone from seeing nothing but steep canyon walls to seeing four different condors fly past us at extremely close range. I was so happy, I did a handstand on the edge of the massive canyon.
After the first couple condor flyovers, most of the tourists left, as they had been at the platform long before we arrived. So, when the tourists left, Kevin and Janina and I had practically the entire place to ourselves… and the condors kept flying over. They flew past so many times we kind of got sick of seeing them after a while. I can’t imagine how this lady feels. She probably comes to this location to sell her goods ever single day. She’s probably seen the condors about a million times and couldn’t give a sh%$ about these massive flying birds.
After all the tourists left, I noticed a young couple I had seen multiple times before while in Chivay. They had been on the bus with Kevin and Janina and I when we traveled from Arequipa to Colca Canyon. I had seen them in Chivay a couple hours after arriving there. And now, here they were once again, at the Cruz del Condor stop in the middle of Colca Canyon. I went over and introduced myself and asked about the pair.
Their names were Hanne and Luis (I’m not 100% sure about the spelling here, but I think I’m pretty close) and they were from Belgium. For the last year or so they had been working in Northern Peru and doing some kind of work and/or research related to the mining industry. But their work there had finished and they were spending their last couple weeks traveling in Southern Peru before flying back to Belgium and trying to find jobs in their home country.
Hanne and Luis soon thereafter jumped on a west-bound bus, while Kevin and Janina and I jumped on an east-bound bus headed back in the direction we had come earlier that morning.
So again, we drove past lovely scenic views of Peru’s famous Colca Canyon. We saw at least a thousand terraces like you see in the photo below, and we chatted the entire way back with a large Spanish man on a three-week vacation.