Andean Condors

It’s amazing, since I self-declared myself a travel blogger, blogging is no longer something done just for fun.  It’s something I’m looking to grow a living from.  It’s odd or maybe it’s just normal, but now that I’ve claimed it as a career my sense of desire to do it has disappeared.  Is that because now it’s “work”?  I hope to figure out a way to abate that feeling as I’ve done this purely for fun and enjoyed it.

I made my way from Haucachina the desert Oasis to the mountain town of Arequipa, Peru where I set out for a couple days hiking. On the way we stop for the wondrous site of Andean Condors in flight.

I’m on the rim of a large canyon, somewhere in the 12,000 ft above sea level range, where I start to feel my first signs of altitude sickness.  Looking at the craggy terraced mountain beauty I can slightly feel difficulty breathing as the brisk cool air wisp my cheeks.  A mild floating headache forms at the peak of my nose and brow.

At first sight I’m underwhelmed, a vulture, ie a big one at that, flying in the distance.  Oh wow, I think, are all these tourist really here just to see this?  I initially struggle with interest as I ponder there must be more and work on shifting my focus, after all this will be the first and maybe only time I’ll ever see the endangered Andean Condor in the wild.

Andean Condor

The Andean Condor has an enormous wingspan surpassing 10 ft. There are only a few birds with larger wingspans throughout the world.  This creature while it feeds on the dead carcasses of other animals has one of the longest living lifespans of birds at 70+ years.

I round a rocky outcropping along the canyon wall as I’m stopped a few times by the local mountain ladies hawking their wares, most claiming to be made of Llama skins/hair.  There on a cliff ledge are 3 large birds perched.  They’re fairly ugly.  Gray and black with a face I’d imagine in a Harry Potter flick.  Then one of the magnificent creatures comes soaring from lower in the canyon and races by the 3 perched birds’ and floats overhead.  For the next 30 minutes I stand and appreciate this creature as it and dozens of others ride the wind currents high and low like they are surfing the air.  Sometimes I think they know we’re here and are here to give us a show and then I think they could care less as they dip low in the canyon then sore back to great heights with barely flapping a wing, their huge wingspans allowing them to gracefully catch the breeze and soar without extending much energy.

I overhear a strange guide explaining to his group that condors mate for life and become so attached that when one bird dies the other commits suicide by flying vertically down into the rocks.  Hmmm, sounds potentially like folklore or urban legend to me.  I mention it to my hiking guide and they explain they think it’s the altitude we’re at and that sometimes some of the birds soar so high, they blackout due to lack of oxygen and come crashing back creating this lore of lifelong love.  I’m not sure which or if neither is true and need to do some research when I’m not on the road to sort out what could be crazy made up guide stories.

I leave the site slightly more enthused and grateful for the chance to see these magnificent creatures in flight a mere few feet away.


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