Saved: August 23rd 2012September 6th 2011
Arequipa and the colca canyon.
From Arica the journey is by bus across the boarder into peru and through to tacna, Peru. A nice and easy boarder crossing. From tacna we booked our bus to Arequipa, meaning we had to hang around the bus station for about an hour. Then the bus stopped about 12 times along the way to pick people up, drop them off at random places and for women to come on the bus and sell all sorts of food, mainly sugary, powdery cakes. We got to Arequipa tired and hungry (we didn't go for the cakes) plus it was late in the day too. And we discovered that our room that we had booked was still occupied by someone who was ill. Which meant we got a dodgy room next to the kitchen with no bathroom. Ah well at least we weren't going trekking that night, well morning at 3. No that was going to be the following morning. I had looked up a trek to the colca canyon on line. And it read really well of course it was all trip advisor and most people recommended this guy called Carlitos. So I had emailed him
and arranged to meet him on Friday night for a trek to the canyon on Sunday. Carlitos showed up a little stressed and frazzled and said he wasn't well he had been sick for the last 10 days. So he couldn't go on the trek and we had to tell him there and then that we would or would not go with his colleague on the trek. We decided to go, he said that he would be back for the money for the trek on Sunday. It was all looking a little shady and as it was my idea I felt terrible for organising something that shaping up to be a disaster. Carliotos came back and said that he would go and that he would see us in a few hours??? Wires got crossed again and turns out we were going that morning at 3. We couldn't back out now we had to go, so we panic packed and tried to get a good 5 hours sleep before setting off for our two day one night trek up and down the deepest canyon in the world. We saw the other couple talking to Carlitos in a coffee shop and man
they looked young and fit. Plus they both had shorts on them and looked very European-wegotrekkingeveryday-type. So naturally we didn't know what I got us into and started to worry. Too late before we knew it it was 3.15 a.m and we were on s bus to the colca canyon. It was freezing on the bus and we reached 4900 meters above sea level you could see the ice forming on the windows. We reached our breakfast destination in a little town called chivay. Where learned that our little group of just us, Carlitos and our new trekking buddies Alex and will, from Boston not Bavaria woohoo. And it was their first big serious trek too so we could relax a little bit. After breakfast we left chivay and went to watch some condors in their natural habitat. We watched them glide and soar above our head. They really are massive birds and their wingspan is just spectacular. They put on quite a show for us. Loving this particular part of the canyon as they don't have to use much energy to fly here as its the narrowest part of the canyon. And the wind helps them glide with ease.
Back in the bus we set off for the start of our trek, it was about 10.30 in the morning when we started. And the first half was all downhill. We started at around 3200 meters and descended down to 2000. The rocks below your feet are so deceptively unstable you were constantly looking at your next step a bit if a pity because the scenery was beautiful. We did stop quite a lot though as the sun was beating down and it was getting hot, hot, hot. Passed some mules who were on their way up with a full load. They take the mountain side of the track with the drop and you back up against the rocks. Otherwise they will just plough through you and knock you off the edge. Some parts are quite narrow and you don't wanna mess with them. Took about 3 hours to get to the bridge that lead us across the water. Then it was a steep uphill battle to get back up to the village where we would have our lunch. So hard to trek in the heat and at altitude it made it impossible to breath. But the canyon really was
breathtaking, literally. It was so deep and as we crossed the river the scenery completely changed from dusty rocks and sand to lush green trees and waterfalls. We earned our lunch that day and feasted on alpaca stew, veg soup and fruit. And were off again for the second leg. It was 2 o'clock and we needed to be at the oasis by 5.30. The walk ahead was tough but worth it, as we passed through beautiful villages that lived off the land, Carlitos was welcomed like a rock star. He had recently given gifts to the local children and they came out to greet him as they had not seen him in a while coz he was ill. He buys them books, colouring books and pens to help them learn English. Tourism is big in Peru and the biggest way for kids to get a job in the trade and make some money for their families. We asked how they go to school here as it's so remote and In the middle of nowhere. The older kids leave on Sunday for school in the nearest town and stay for the whole week, the parents all club together for their
accommodation, they come back on Friday. There is a little pre school and middle school for the younger kids. It holds about 15 kids. A desert fox ran out ahead of Carlitos and I, Carlitos said that it is lucky to see one and very rare to see one so close. Great maybe it meant we would survive the trek after all. We continued our downhill trek until we could see the oasis below then carliotos kindly pointed out our trek for the following day. All uphill, all at 45 degree angles and all making us regret we booked this thing, we just looked at each other, defeated already. We continued through some more downhill, uphill a bit then down, down, down to our room for the night. A shed with a bed, it's the only way I could describe it. We were all completely knackered beyond belief and after 8 hours of hard core trekking we were ready for bed. But Carlitos had dinner and wine for us things that he lugged with him in his massive backpack. It probably looked bigger than normal as he is only 5'2" like a little trekking kylie minogue. Although he calls himself
megatron, small but mighty. Anyway we mingled with other trekkers and heard their stories apparently you can do the same trek over 3 days and 2 nights. The one that we did is harder and probably for more experienced trekkers, great!! I couldn't even finish dinner or the wine the altitude and exercise had me wrecked so it was off to sleep for me. Up at 4 a.m to start the long ascent up 1200 meters it says in the rough guide it takes between 4-5 hours. Carlitos says 3, although locals can do it in 50 minutes. Mules can do it in, well their own time really. 80 people stayed at the oasis that night and over half the people got mules up the next day. It was such a hard hike up and all steep climbing constantly there wasn't one flat piece. And hiking at this altitude, at this hour in the morning with no breakfast not even a cuppa tea it's not for the faint hearted. Looking down the mountain on other hikers it was like the march of the walking dead. Halfway through everyone was finding it tough. But we got there, to the top. Helping
and stopping with each other along the way. So unbelievably happy to be there. But the walking wasn't over yet we had to get to breakfast. By the time we got on the bus we were happy to stay there, afraid that if we got off we couldn't get back on again our legs were in agony. We stopped off along the way back to chivay through little villages. The groans from everyone getting on and off the bus was hilarious. Part of the trek is to visit a hot springs on the way back to Arequipa. We had an hour to soak our weary bones, it was soooo good. Back to Arequipa and said our goodbyes to everyone. It was comforting to know that even Carlitos was struggling to make it up steps too.
There was a parade on in Arequipa that weekend celebrating it's 471 anniversary. There was chaos in the air and one massive party was about to take place. Pity we didn't have our dancing legs. We hardly had them at all. We hardly had a room to stay in that night too there was a mix up in our hostel. Got it sorted but it
meant that we had the room next to the kitchen with no bathroom, again. Where you could hear someone stirring their tea. It didn't matter if they had fireworks in the kitchen that night we were passed out in milliseconds. Dreaming of cusco the next day. And of course I was put in a total ban of booking trips, no fair.
There are more photos below