Some time ago, I remember reading about “ famous, world roads”, that I had never heard about before. They were all located in exotic places I not afford to visit. But, I was urged to go, if I wanted to have bragging rights. The New York written article was the same as the sign over my local, fried chicken place, which advertises “world-famous chicken”. However, I had never been on the road from Arequipa to the Colca Canyon in Peru. That seemed to me, to be a road made for Jim. It was the sheer joy of going higher and higher. That alone gave me goosebumps. I suppose it was far more than the pure, sparse air. So YES……I traveled the road from Arequipa to Chivay in the heights of the Peruvian Altiplano and it was another awakening. This road became My Road….my world-famous road!
The road itself is some 3.5 hours of driving through a variety of ecological zones. There is desert, altiplano, and dry tundra. One rises from humble altitude to ” altitude sickness” and then back down again. Cocoa tea is a welcome addition if you want to keep your belly and head in rest position. The road features mind and body changes. You get to feel the creeping cold air, the dry air, the cold wind, and the humidity. The buffet meal is yours, as you go higher and higher.
The road peaks at some 4,910 meters or 16,110 feet. Breathing becomes more laboured and the knees protest from the lack of oxygen.
One passes through the Aguada Blanca National Viscuna Reserve where I was fortunate enough to photograph these rare and timid camelids…the Viscuna..of expensive sweater fame. They surely looked better in the wild, than knit into a sweater.
I will always remember the cold and the windswept vistas …and the air that bites with sharp teeth. It reminded me of my Maritime roots, when the sea air comes in, wet, cold, and invasive.
This is the land of the Mirador de los Volcanoes, rising 6,000 meters into the sky….20,600 feet. The stark grandeur rips into the visual mind, it is a place where you walk with clouds.
The actual road is almost impossible to describe. I was like a child in an ice creme parlor….trying to taste every flavor…wanting to be gorged.
This is a huge as well as a very high story. The sparse altiplano with Inka ladies selling their goods…color in the sky. They sit and wait for people to stop and look and hopefully buy. Perhaps these ladies are the real story.
Photos tell the story, and my words only paint the photos. The road itself is the meal. It might not be in the top 10 of the world, but it will always be “ My Road “!