Published: October 29th 2010October 19th 2010
Day 44-47-19th-22nd October
So with a poisoned husband, we did very little for the next couple of days. We had planned to move on to Arequipa the day after the Lake Titicaca tour, but with Ellory in such bad shape we decided to stay put and wait for his stomach to get better before we risked the 6 hour bus journey. Bless him, he really wasn’t very well, but eventually progressed from eating nothing and only drinking water, to some pasta with tomato and tuna sauce and finally onto a meal in a restaurant in the centre of Puno, which I believe was called the Inca Cafe. The food was pretty damn tasty, but the presentation, holy cow it blew posh London restaurants right out of the water. I was gutted as I didn’t have my camera on me so I could share this moment with you all. You’ll have to just take my word for it, it was pretty special.
So pretty much back to fighting fitness, we planned to finally leave Puno on the 20th. As Arequipa is so close (relatively speaking!), buses go the there all the time and there was no need to pre book.
Alfredo got us a cab and we went to the bus station. Illness aside, we’d had a lovely time at the Inka Rest and we have already recommended it to other people heading the opposite direction to us!
Arriving at the bus station we were overwhelmed with all the different companies shouting destinations at us, so we ended up going with the company with the woman that shouted, ‘Arequipa, Arequipa, Arequipa’ the loudest, which was Flores. It was 9.45am so we thought we were buying tickets for the bus that left at 10.30am, perfect, enough time to get some snacks and wait for the bus. Sadly not, they had put us on the 9.30am which was running late! So we rushed through, just about managing to buy some snacks, chucked our bags in the hold of the bus and jumped on. Blimey.
The bus journey was pretty uneventful, and 6 hours later we were in Arequipa. We’d already pre-booked our hostel, which was the Point and jumped in a cab to get to it. We later found out that all taxis in Arequipa are 4 soles (1 pound), and considering we were charged 5 soles, we weren’t ripped
off too much. We met some Irish girls later on who’d had to haggle with their taxi driver from a whopping 80 soles (20 pounds), to 20 soles (5 pounds) and were bloody cross when they discovered that all taxis are meant to have this fixed rate!
Arequipa is the ‘posh’ city of Peru and it is certainly very beautiful, however for backpackers it is the main jumping off point to visit the Colca Canyon, the deepest in the world, and that is why we were there. So as soon as we arrived at The Point we looked into what tours they could do. We’d decided to trek the canyon (another decision that would haunt us later) and booked onto the 2 day trek leaving at the godawful hour of 3am the next morning. That done, we went out into the city centre to get some food, some money and to find small backpacks that we could use during the trek as there was no way in heck we were going to carry our 15kg monster backpacks with us. We were not very successful. We were looking for North Face/Karrimor sort of things; we ended up with ones made
of alpaca. We were very limited on choice! However it would have to do. That done we headed back to the hostel, sorted out all of our bags and tried to have an early night, by which I mean we went to bed at 10.30am, 4 hours sleep max it was then!
So when the alarm went off we sleepily got all of our things together, left our big backpacks and other bags in storage at the Point and waited for the tour to pick us up. It arrived at 3.45am, godammit that was another 45 minutes asleep we could have had! However we had a 3 hour drive ahead of us to get to Chivay where we were to have breakfast so we tried to get some more sleep. After breakfast we piled back in our minibus and headed to Cruz Del Condor, the main viewing point of the canyon and the best place to see the Condors the area is famous for. However October is not apparently the best time of year for seeing them, however we did see a couple of them. We then drove to the point where we would begin our trek. It was
going to be a long day, 16km of walking, down from the top of the canyon to the very bottom (approx 1300m descent), half way up the other side to where we would have lunch and then descent again to the ‘Oasis’ on the canyon floor where we were to stay the night.
It all started off well, the scenery was beautiful, we saw 2 more condors which flew very close by and the trail wasn’t too bad. It started to get harder, we stopped looking at the scenery and started looking at our feet as the trail was getting worse and if you fell it was a hell of a long way down. (Quite a few people have died trekking the Colca Canyon and we could see why!) And then it happened, I was climbing down some rocky steps and I slipped on some gravel. My water bottle went flying down the mountain, I fortunately did not, and I apparently fell about 3 steps down and landed on my back on a pointy rock. Ellory was walking behind me and saw the whole thing, and rushed down to where I was lying in a heap on the ground.
I knew it really hurt because I immediately thought I was going to be sick, however I was ok, although it ended being a really spectacular bruise (see photo!). Some deep breaths later and some water we carried on.
Unfortunately my confidence was really shaken by this and the rest of the day for me was just getting to the Oasis for the night. The trekking was really hard work and with a throbbing back, Ellory had to coax/bribe me up some bits where I got very stubborn and refused to move on, demanding helicopter rescues! Not that it would have been possible, but I was beyond reason! Bless him, the constant downhill at the start of the day had messed with his knees and they were looking very swollen, but he was great, this is why I have married this man.
We finally reached the Oasis and managed to get a room with a double bed for the night. We were feeling a lot better now we’d stopped walking, but as the muscles were already starting to ache we were worried how we’d do the next day. However after dinner we went to bed as it was
another early start the next morning.
Yeah we were in a lot of pain the next day! We had 3 hours of solid, steep uphill trekking to get back to the top of the canyon that morning. My back was killing me, but I hoped that as it was uphill, it would be easier to get a decent footing on the trail. 15 minutes into the trek I gave in. I don’t know whether it was tiredness or fear due to what had happened the previous day but I couldn’t do it. Fortunately, as this is by far the hardest part of the trek, there are mules that can take you to the top of the canyon, so this is what I did. I won’t lie, I was completely and utterly gutted with myself and it took a long time to not feel like a failure, (this was not helped by some prick calling me ‘sh*t’ for not walking, thank you), however looking back, it was a really cool experience. As opposed to looking at my feet I could see the amazing scenery again. The mules were so clever and so strong and my one got lots of pats
from me for being such a machine! Put it this way, it takes 3 hours to walk; I got to the top in 1 hour 15 minutes, definitely worth the 70 soles.
Ellory on the other hand, was powering to the top, I was so proud! Especially we’d forgotten I had the water bottle. Apparently once he got into it, it was ok and when I saw him at the top he looked as cool as a cucumber! Bastard , no seriously, I was very impressed. We all had breakfast in Cabanaconde at the top and then got back into the minibus for the rest of the day’s activities.
First stop was a little hamlet called Maca, which like Uyuni, seems to solely survive for tourists. There were a lot of little market stalls selling the normal tourist stuff, there was also tame llamas, alpacas and eagles that you could have your picture taken with. Which Ellory did, and we now have a classic photo of his with his arm around a llama with an eagle sitting on his head! Very funny indeed. We also had a cactus fruit drink which consisted of cactus fruit, water and a
huge amount of sugar; it was flipping marvellous, tasted a bit like kiwi fruit!
We then headed to the Hot Springs near Chivay so we could relax a little after our stressful 2 days. We’d brought our swimming gear with us and were really looking forward to this bit. There are 6 pools ranging from 38 to 39 degrees Celsius, so it was just like getting into a hot bath! Just what we needed to relax and we had a great time chilling out in the warm water on a sunny, hot day. Sadly we only had an hour at this fantastic place and it was time to head back into Chivay for lunch, where we embraced the oldest and noblest of traditions, the all you can eat buffet lunch. We ate so much! There was salad, tempura, stews, veg, chicken, dessert and between us I think we sampled everything! Stuffed to the brim we all piled back into the minibus to head back to Arequipa. This is where we had our first true bonkers South American driver experience. The guy was crazy, wheel spinning around corners where there was nothing but a massive drop off a cliff on
one side, overtaking lorries as another vehicle was coming the other way and swerving all over the road. All 10 of us were a bit freaked by this guy and were very glad when we finally arrived in Arequipa! Crazy driver aside we all clubbed together to give our guide a good tip as he had been really good and very patient with the slower trekkers (that’d be me then), which must have been difficult considering he did this trek once a week so was in amazing shape! He was very pleased! It wasn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but to him I think it meant quite a lot.
We’d been dropped off in the main square of Arequipa so we had to walk about 10-15 minutes back to our hostel. It was a very slow and painful walk!!! However we made it back to the Point at around 6pm, retrieved our bags from storage and got back into our room. Strangely enough we fell asleep very early that night! Colca Canyon wasn’t a highlight of our trip that’s for sure, however it was very beautiful and we saw it as a good practise run for the
Inca trail 10 days later. We think we’ll be much better prepared for that one, so it was for a good cause I guess!
There are more photos below