Peru Road Trip Part 2 : Arequipa to Chivay
The trip from Arequipa to Chivay took us through the western side of Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reservation and our highest elevation of the entire trip. This pass hits 4910 m or over 16,000 feet, and we had to follow all of our altitude sickness rules to avoid feeling crummy. It also gave us an opportunity to see the amazing wildlife that the Reservation was created to protect. We would pass along northern border of the Reservation on our trip over to Puno a few days later.
We opted for a private driver and tour guide, which made this trip all the more special and weren’t limited to the standard stops with a tour bus. This resulted in some of our favorite pictures and memories as we made stops along this amazing route.
Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reservation
Traveling through the National Reservation gave us the opportunity to see so much wildlife. Our tour guide, July, helped us identify and locate many of Peru’s native species. She also taught us the definitive differences between a llama and alpaca, something we are still proud to claim today! It was a long drive, but we stopped many times along the way to see wildlife or examine milestones, like our highest elevation travel point.
The Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reservation was originally declared to protect the local camelids, flamingos, and other wildlife. We were lucky enough to see many of these on our trip, some on our trip to Chivay and others on the trip to Puno. The animal to look out for are:
- Viscacha – Andes Rabbit
- Andean Fox
- Birds – Great List and Pictures here : Go2Peru Andean Birds
- Andean Gull
- Andean Goose
- Puna Ibis
- Crested Duck
- Andean Flamingo
- James’s Flamingo
- Silvery Grebe
- Giant Coot
Peru has four major camelids native to the country. They include the llama, alpaca, guanaco and vicuña. We were lucky enough to see all by the guanaco on our trip. One of my favorite facts we learned was how the grass helped out the camelids in this area. The grass is extremely high in silica, meaning it is very tough and can actually poke/scratch you enough to bleed if you aren’t careful. It’s necessary for the camelids as their teeth never stop growing. The high silica content of the grass helps to ground down their teeth so that they don’t encounter problems.
The llama has a much longer neck and is taller than both the alpaca and vicuña. It is a pack animal and is used for carrying heavy loads throughout the country. It also has a split hoof, making it more sure-footed in the mountainous regions.
The alpaca is shorter than a llama and has a more compact face as well. It is a primary source of meat, and you will find alpaca steak on the menu in many Peruvian restaurants. It is very lean and has a flavor much like beef. Alpaca is used for its soft wool, with “baby alpaca” being made from the softest wool closest to the alpaca’s skin. We wanted to get several scarves and sweaters for friends back home, and you do you have to watch for high quality products as there are many fakes being sold. They will often be mixed with silk to make them appear to be baby alpaca when they are not. The best bet is to find a reputable store, like Sol Alpaca.
Vicuña are only found in the wild, whereas both alpaca and llama have been domesticated. Their wool is the most prized as it is the softest, and only locals with proper permits are allowed to shear the animals. Even then, they are only allowed to shear them during a specific time of the year and can not take any of the wool from their chest as they would get too cold and potentially die. We saw a few vicuña products on our trip, and a true vicuña scarf will cost approximately $1,500 while a baby alpaca scarf will cost around $50-60.
We saw many different types of birds through our tour in the Reservation as well. The biggest surprise to me were the flamingos! I had no idea that flamingos were native to Peru until we began this journey.
We were on the lookout for other wildlife along our trip and were lucky enough to capture the viscacha (Andes Rabbit).
Road Trip Stops and Observations
Chinitos at Patahuasi
We had a few stops on this road trip not associated with wildlife pictures.The main lunch location is Chinitos at Patahuasi. It has a good restaurant as well as clean bathrooms and snacks. They also have a lot of local items, including alpaca scarves, sweaters and socks. We saw lots of tourists taking advantage of the Coca Tea offerings as well. Particularly, the “Inka Tea” which came with a little mint and some sugar if you wanted to sweeten it up. Coca Tea is a big help in preventing altitude sickness, but do be forewarned that if you have a regular drug testing program at your workplace, you can test positive for cocaine after its consumption. There are not any euphoric effects from Coca Tea, and coca plays a very special role in local culture, but the West has not adopted its use. It’s only legal in Peru and Bolivia.
We also passed several trains and mining trucks. These had very enhanced security and were in full operation.
The road between Arequipa and Chivay is very well paved. We actually had to pause a few times as they were re-paving certain areas. The roads were very winding throughout the trip and gave you several opportunities to see the scenery from different directions.
Coming around the corner and seeing Chivay below was a truly breathtaking experience. This was our first view of the Colca Valley, which I believe is the most picturesque area we visited in Peru.
Upon entering the city, we passed under an arch that was customary in this area. On our way to Colca Canyon in a few days, we would see many more arches marking the entrance to the various cities along our path.
We couldn’t wait to explore the city and more of the Colca Valley!