Published: July 20th 2012July 8th 2012
So we were off on a 6 hour bus journey to begin our next trekking escapade. The journey in itself was an experience. This was truly a local bus. We stopped every few minutes to pick up people on the roadside. We had a comedian performing, a one man band of panpipes, singing and guitar (John bought his CD he he), the well-dressed local ladies with a new fashion of handmade embroidered skirts and waistcoats or sequined hats, every seat taken and every aisle space taken up even more and a smelly duck! At this stage 6 hours feels like nothing to us but the constant madness did feel a bit much today for some reason!
We arrived as darkness fell on the town of Cabanaconde. This was to be our home for the night. A tiny little place with a population of about 1300 and it did have the small town feel, village even. We were told by Che (an Argentinian guy who has ended up working here in our hostel for about 2years) that the locals are mostly farmers and that he just loves it here. Our hostel is called Pachamama and I know right away that it
is one of the coolest little places we have stayed in. We drop the bags and we are back on a bar stool in a sitting come pub room at the front of the hostel. It just has a good feeling here and we start drinking Colca Sours – a cocktail made to rival the infamous Pisco Sour, made from Cactus Plant and Pisco. It is pretty good. We have a few of those, some lovely wood fired oven pizza from the kitchen and get chatting to a few fellow globetrotters. We then get some advice for our trek over the coming days; it sounds fun and am excited that we are doing this one solo.
The next morning we are up early to hit the road. The stomach is dodgy to say the least (must have been those Colca Sours). We start our trek on the outskirts of town passing a bull ring, a football field and a pretty impressive viewing point. We are taking the non-tourist route at the other end of the canyon to where most groups go and you can tell. For our 4 and a half hour trek we only see 3 other people
the whole time (rare in these tourist places). The trek is basically downhill for the whole time and I hear you say easy but I’m starting to think I like uphill more (I’m never happy as you can tell). It’s a slippy, windy, zigzagged route down along the mountains to reach the canyon below. At 3191m deep, the Colca is the second deepest canyon in the world, second to only Canon del Cotahuasi here in Peru which is 163m deeper. So it was a slow descent in blazing heat and with my stomach in a bad way, I truly wasn’t that bothered! Poor John had to listen to my little rant at one stage. A little fall at one point didn’t help things either!
We arrived at our stopover for the night and things were looking up J It was called LLahuar Lodge and I think it may be one of the most remote places we have stayed yet. It was perched on a cliff edge over the Colca River below. Our little hut was made from bamboo, tin and a stone base and pebble floor. The owners Claudio and Yola were a couple in their late 50s maybe
and they couldn’t have done more for us. We had a tasty lunch before hitting the true highlight of this place – the hot springs that line the river side. We spent a few hours lazing in the sun, relaxing the muscles watching the gushing river next to us. We got chatting to a few others and it was just bliss! Like two dodgy prunes we crawled out reluctantly and had an afternoon nap. This is the life! That night we played some cards had a yummy dinner (Yola was a great cook), some beers, chatting and the like. Sure we were back in bed early enough – another early morning ahead.
The next leg of our trek was to bring us to what’s known as the oasis of the canyon, Sangalle. The trek was mainly uphill for the first few hours passing a tiny little village called Pacclla to climb way up to the top of the opposite side of the canyon where we descended. This led to a mirador that had views to the left and right of the valley. Here we caught our first glimpse of Sangalle, it looked pretty impressive. It was way touristier than
our last stop with aquamarine pools dotted all along the canyon floor. We were picking our favourites out right away! We then walked along the side of the mountain on a narrow little road with landfalls here and there. We then reached farming terraces which take up a vast area along and down to the river. We had a little mountain jog downhill (after a chat the night before about going faster versus slower on downhill we thought we would give it a try) before reaching a cool little (very quiet, almost deserted looking) village called Malata. We had a quick look around the main square before beginning our descent to Sangalle. They do love their zigzag roads here but I suppose it’s effective for walking up and down and for transporting goods. We finally reached our destination about 4 and a half hours after starting!
We had a look at what we thought was our favourite place from above but it was a bit of a dive so we found a cooler place just next door. We basically had a wooden garden shed to stay in but it was cool. We had lunch and a rest next to
the pool (before it got too warm for us) and then went for what’s now a customary sleep! It was when I got up from the sleep at about 5pm that everything went downhill…..Not even a trekking accident or anything. Flip Flops on, check. Half Asleep Ciara, check. Open door of shed, check. Step out on my dodgy sleepy tired ankles, check. Screaming, Crying, Panicking, Pain, Scare the shit out of John, Can’t believe that just happened. Check, Check, Check, Check, Check, Check. I had just ruined my chances of getting out of the canyon on foot. The ascent is 1100m up a steep, uneven, gravelly path that takes 3 hours (probably more like 4 for me to take my time on a normal day). It was like a no hope situation! I really couldn’t believe it.
Over the next few hours the pain didn’t go away, my foot was swelling by the minute. I had three panadol to my name, there was none down here and I couldn’t stand on my foot at all. Poor John tried to help me to the toilet (it was so dark, the path was so uneven and every hop was like a
dagger to the ankle) but I had to pee just outside. He told me afterwards that was the low point of our whole trip!!!! He was a great wee nurse though. He brought me meals, helped get me comfy in bed, elevated my foot, asked around for drugs or options for a one footed trekker and just looked after me so well. We made the decision that we were going to see how things were the next morning.
After a very restless, painful sleep of sorts, we awoke to a similar situation. I still couldn’t put any weight on my foot; the swelling was the same if not worse. I now had two panadols! We managed to hop me to the loo but it took ages. The staff there were great offering to help and such. John brought me breakfast in bed again and talked about the options. There was a mule at 3pm. That was an option. I wasn’t going to be able to walk today. If we stayed another day and it was the same then mule it would be. The girl in the place looked at the ankle and put some local medicine on it (eggs,
leaves and coca leaves) and wrapped it up and told us we should go back to Cabanaconde today. Decision made, I was getting a bloody mule up!
On another hop to the loo we met a couple we spent the night at LLahuar Lodge with. He was a nurse and he had a look at the ankle and gave me drugs. They helped a lot! John had to leave earlier than me in case he didn’t make it up before dark. It was difficult for both of us when he left. He knew I couldn’t do anything without help from someone and I had to wait for an hour for a mule. How was I going to get on the mule etc? I wanted him to go cos the climb was tough and I was afraid he would not make it up in time but also knew if I needed anything (toilet for example) I was alone to fend for myself! Off he went….
The mule wasn’t ready until 3.30pm. The lady from the hostel helped me hop out and jumped up on a stone to throw the leg over my tiny mule. God help it. I waved
goodbye to the couple that helped me and I was off. The whole journey was hell. Riding a mule was really really scary on a steep climb. The mule seemed to like the edges more than the main path and because I couldn’t put my ankle in the stirrups it was hanging or hitting off scratchy plants or rocks now and then. I really wanted it to be over once it started. Halfway up they switched me to another mule (because I was too heavy for one to do the steep climb, the poor things were small and it was a lot of work).
The other part that was worrying me was that I was sure I was going to meet John on the way up. The path was difficult and steep and I couldn’t see him anywhere. I was thinking the worst like did he take the wrong path or did something happen to him. All negative thoughts! The lads with me had no English so didn’t know what I was asking when I was trying to find out more. We met some people along the road here and there. Some looked like they were struggling. The climb
did seem to go on forever and I wasn’t even walking it! The last part was very steep and looking up you couldn’t even see where the path was before you got to it.
By the time I got to the top, I was sure John was on the wrong road. Unless he was running up? They walked me to Pachamama (our big bags were there) and when we turned the corner, John was standing outside talking to Che. I was so relieved. He is obviously a speedy walker when he isn’t with me!!!! So I hopped down onto a chair and then onto the ground, so happy to be back on solid hoppable surfaces! John had managed to sort a room for us for the night with Che. We had some pizza and a beer and went to bed early, both wrecked from it all!
When I woke the next morning the foot started to improve, the swelling had gone down and bit and I could put some weight on it. I still wouldn’t have made it up the canyon though, uneven ground was danger central. We got the 9am bus towards Arequipa (before picking up some
well needed drugs in the pharmacy). This bus proved to be just as entertaining as the one here. We had four very drunk guys sitting right in front of us the whole way. They were hammered getting on the bus but kept drinking beers like water. In between small sleeps here and there the drinking continued. I was joking with John that it was like a few of the lads deciding to go to Hughie’s on a Sunday morning then thinking sure we will head off to Letterkenny or something….. Next thing out came a bottle of rum. It was mixed with a bottle of sprite and it was gone before you know it. More sleeps here and there. A crying session by one. Messing around by not letting each other go to sleep. You know the score by now. Then just as I was about to doze off, I got a funky smell. I opened my eyes to see the crying man standing up facing sideways out the window. I knew what he was doing. Peeing. Peeing on a bus. We immediately lifting our bags off the ground, they stayed there for the rest of the trip. Then all
of a sudden he just lifts up a plastic bag into our view (not tied), opens the tiny window (this is where you think ok it’s going to go everywhere) and throws his plastic bag of pee out onto the main road. You couldn’t make this stuff up!!!! We stopped to let people off and the four of them got off to go to the toilet and all the locals were shouting at the driver to leave them behind. It’s the first time we have noticed intolerance of others here (they are usually so patient on transport it’s a credit). They didn’t seem to like very drunk people (or peeing on a bus). Somehow the four of them got back on but clearly they got a serious warning from the driver cos they slept the rest of the way….. Actually they didn’t even wake up for the last stop, I left them sleeping like beauties behind me!
After all that excitement and continual popping of drugs for me, we hopped straight on another bus to reach the next stop on our tour of Peru, Huacachina!
There are more photos below