The day started like any other. Who could possibly have guessed that so much would change here on this very day?
In mid-morning, we joined the crowds at the lookout for the Andean condors in Colca Canyon – cameras at the ready. Quick! There they are! Snap, snap, snap.
The condors appeared several times, but, with the jostling crowds, it was easier to appreciate and photograph the mourning sierra-finches gathered at a vendor’s dishpan.
We stopped at a lookout in the canyon, and our guide took time to show us the fine hats of the local Cabanas women. The people who live in the valley are Cabanas and Collaguas, two different groups, who predated the Incas. Their clothing and language distinguished them from each other. The Collaguas wear taller hats and the Cabanas wear round, flat hats.
All the little towns in Colca Canyon have interesting churches in the town square – all built, of course, after the Spanish conquered the Inca. The church in Maca was rebuilt after it was destroyed by an earthquake in 2001.
We saw other damage from earlier earthquakes – damaged buildings, roads destroyed, and alternative roads built. Our guide told us the government was trying to move some towns to other, safer areas.
The statues in the church were an interesting style of folk art and old mixed with new. We’d never seen a statue of a woman with handbags before.
The Maca town square had statues on the corners. We’d love to know the story about this one.
We left Colca Canyon in the early afternoon. That evening an earthquake badly damaged the town where we had stayed and several people were killed. We felt a strong aftershock at our hotel in Arequipa, 164 km (100 miles) away. How very sad! One wonders what a recovery can look like in such an earthquake-prone area? Cabanas and Collaguas have lived in this area for a thousand years. In the beginning they lived in small settlements, but, after the Spanish conquest, they were forced down to small towns with churches, like Maca. Is there a safer area for them to live in the canyon?
We missed the earthquake by 2 days on Ecuador’s coast in April, and we missed the earthquake in Colca Canyon by hours. We felt very sad for the people in these devastated areas but personally – very, very lucky!