Published: November 10th 2008November 5th 2008
I arrived in the southern Peruvian city of 1 million called Arequipa on Thursday morning. Rewind 2 days to when my travels began. Monday night I moved out of my ¨home away from home¨Macondo Hostel in San Gil, Colombia. Tuesday morning I jumped on the first bus to Bogota...was only supposed to be 6-7 hours, but of course turned into an 8 hour trip. Got to the airport in Bogota and on my plane at pm...landed in Lima, Peru 3 hours later at 1am. Slept in the waiting area in the arrival wing of the Lima airport for a few hours...me and about 40 other people all waiting out the night in the airport. It could have been worse...the seats had no armrests so you could actually lay down and the bathrooms were fancy...had toilet paper, toilet seats, and soap! Wow! I was high rolling it! :) At 6am I washed up in the bathroom, grabbed a quick breakfast in the airport snack bar, and jumped in a cab through Lima to the bus station of the nicest bus company in Peru with the hope of getting a morning bus to Arequipa...which was a good 15 hours away. No such luck...the
next bus was not tillpm...great, another wait of hours. Managed to get some sleep while slumped over on the snack bar table. However, the bus ride was amazing! So fancy! The seats were almost completely reclinable and had tons of room, a food tray and beverage holder...you know why? Because there was a stewardess on the bus who served us both a dinner and a lunch on the trip. Heck, the movies were actually good and we even played a game of bingo on the bus...the winner got a free return bus ticket to Lima...it was the best bus service I have ever experienced..in or out of the US!
So I arrived in Arequipa, Peru at 8:30am very tired and very in need of a shower. I found a very cute hostel, took that shower, and passed out in the yummy bunk bed under a pile of wool blankets. Yes, wool. It was cold in Peru! The altitude was high, the sun was hot, but the oxygen was low and winds were high...a classic desert. The city sat in a valley surrounded by dry, desolate desert and volcanoes. The city itself was surprisingly very pleasant and comfortable though. There
were TONS of restaurants that served food from all around the world...a nice change from the typical food of rice, potato, meat, and bread. For dinner I had a veggie plate in a Turkish restaurant...finished off with some yummy Turkish coffee. :)
The hostel I stayed at was also in partnership with a travel and tour agency in town that takes groups of 4 into Colca Canyon...which is the deepest canyon in the world...over twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The trip sounded exciting so I signed up for the next day...a 3 day, 2 night trip with a professional guide, transport, accomodation, food...all for 170 soles...or about $60...pretty good! The only bummer was that I had to be ready by 4am the next morning. Shoot.
So off we (me, a French Quebecan couple, a very fun Polish girl, and our crazy Peruvian guide...why do I always end up getting the crazy wild guides???) went in our tour bus for a 3 hour ride at 4 in the morning to the Canyon. Our first stop was at a very touristy mirador to try and spot the famous condors of the canyon who have wing spans of 3
meters. Luckily, we got to see a couple condors...but my pics didn´t turn out so good.
Next stop was the indigenous town of Cabanaconde that sits at the rim of the canyon. We had lunch there...got to see a small parade of the local school children, and off we went into the canyon. The first day of hiking lasted about 4 hours and was straight down the whole time...down, down, down the rocky path to the bottom of the canyon. Once at the bottom, we crossed the Colca river on a very rickety hanging bridge and began a climb up the other side to the small indigenous town that we would spend the night in. We arrived just in time for sunset, got settled into our very basic but comfy rooms, took a boiling hot shower, ate a yummy home cooked meal, and went right to sleep. I was exhausted after such a long day!
The next morning, we woke up at 8am (yeah, got to sleep in!!!), had a yummy breakfast of crepes, and got started back on the trail. We got to tour the local health clinic and meet the doctor. He and his clinic service the 8
towns that are spread throughout the canyon...800 people total...the farthest town being a 16b hour mule ride away...there are no roads in or out of the canyon. EVERYONE....and I mean EVERYONE...grandma, pregnant moms, kids....they all get from town to town, in or out of the canyon on the same trails we were using...either they walked or they rode on mules. Amazing.
We also got to tour a small museum where a local indigenous woman showed us their basic and traditional tools to cook and weave with, their traditional dress, the native animals to the canyon, and many other interesting artifacts that helped us better understand what life was like in the canyon.
Then we continued on our hike to "The Oasis" at the bottom of the canyon where we had lunch and a very yummy swim in the many pools. Afterwards was the dreaded hike up...it wasn´t all that bad. Just 2 and a half hours straight up...slowly but surely. Hardly stopped so that we could make it to the top before night fall...when it gets dark and freezing!
The next day we continued our adventure with a tour in the cemetary for "Dia de los Muertos", a swim in
hot springs, a yummy lunch at a buffet restaurant serving all the typical Peruvian foods...such as fried guinea pig. Thank goodness my vegetanarianism got me out of having to taste that! We had a long bus ride back to Arequipa and made it back just in time for a yummy pizza dinner. Great times!
There are more photos below