I really didn’t know what to expect, and I was astonished at the terrain on the 5-hour drive to Chivay, the entry point to the canyon. On the tour were just me and an Aussie, about my age, so we had the 12-person van to ourselves and could scoot from side to side of the van to take photos.
We got good views of the three volcanoes as we left the city. On the outskirts of Arequipa we saw hundreds, if not thousands, of little box structures – homes, our guide Saul said, for the hordes of immigrants that have come to Arequipa from rural areas looking for work.
They find a patch, build a box, and slowly try to improve it. Many of these communities have no running water and no electricity. After a number of years, if the home shows improvements, the person gets ownership from the government.
This is how it’s supposed to work for people who really need the housing, but Saul says some people are taking advantage, building the boxes but not really living there. They know that in several years the value of the land will appreciate, so they pretend to live there. They form community sports teams, hold community fiestas and do other things to make themselves look legit.