Colca Canyon - It's F-in deep!


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South America » Peru » Arequipa » Colca Canyon
May 12th 2009
Published: May 17th 2009
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We had a 3:30am pick up for our tour of the Colca Canyon. Our trip was to be three days and two nights and there was some serious trekking to be done (by our standards anyway). The tour cost $55 which is cheap when you consider it’s three days travel, two nights accommodation and breakfast, lunch and dinners. Also you get a cool experience thrown in where you do something adventurous and different. Our bus arrived on time and we were briefed as to what would be happening. We were then told to sleep for a few hours before we would arrive at Cruz del Condor.

We arrived there at 9:30am and got off the bus. There were many other tourists there but they all head back to Arequipa after seeing the condors. We were told we had 45 minutes to watch the giant birds. When they wake up in the morning they float on the thermals before heading off around the surrounding areas to search for food. The birds have a wing span of 3m and come pretty close at times to where we were taking photo’s. the views in the canyon were amazing and out any mountains we have in Ireland in their place. Soon we were back on the bus. At this stage we hadn’t been introduced to our group as there were many other people on the bus. When we arrived to Cabanaconde we were divided into the different companies we had booked with. In our group was Laura & Martina (Ireland), Chester (US), Marcus (Germany), Laura (Scotland), Laura & Kylie (England), David & Celine (France). We were all from just two different hostels and some people had already met.

We went to a local restaurant for dinner first before we would start any trekking. We were all at the one table and soon people were getting to know each other. For lunch we had soup and then some rice and meat dish. We were all well fed and ready for anything the mountains could throw at us. Ya right! Our guide Roosevelt took us all outside and we started to walk to the beginning of the trek. We got the outskirts of Cabanaconde and Roosevelt described the day ahead of us. Three hours down and two hours up. Simple I hear some of you say. Not a feckin bit. Dropping 1200m is pretty hard on you knees and then when you get to the bottom you have the thought of going up for two hours using totally different muscles. He pointed out a village in the distance on another mountain where we would be staying the night. It not only seemed far away but impossible to get to. We set off down the mountain switching back from left to right to make it down. Gravity alone was helping us down as some of the angles defied all logic at times! At the bottom there was a river where we all placed or sweaty feet to try and relieve them from the pain of going down hill. Unfortunately Michelle had gotten blisters on her feet but luckily Marcus had some strong bandage tape that protected the from anymore friction.

We left there and ventured back up another mountain to where we would stay with a family for the night. It would take two hours and for the most of it, it was flat. there was just 40mins uphill before we reached our resting place for the night. This climb was difficult enough as it was practically vertical. Our guide told us that this was only practice for the next day. I soon started to not to look forward to the next day! We arrived to where we would stay and we were all delighted that they had hot showers, something we did not expect. Dinner was served at 7:30pm and soon afterwards everyone quickly went to bed one by one.

Breakfast of pancakes was served at 8am before we hit the trail again at 9am. We would trek down for two hours to an Oasis where we would spend three or four hours relaxing by the pool before or mammoth ascent to the top of the mountain. The trek down was easy enough but hard on the knee’s. We sat beside the pool for a while before jumping in. It was quite cold but a relief from the heat. We messed around in the pool and played Donkey and piggy in the middle. While in the pool I realised that my two big toes had two big blisters on them. Not good. Marcus who was supplying tape to nearly everyone at this stage gave me some to protect my toes. They were sore to stand on but the tape definitely helped. We had lunch there and our guide advised us to sleep for an hour or so afterwards. He said this with an evil smile on his face and put the thoughts of climbing the mountain right to the front of my mind.

Soon it was time to rise to the challenge and everyone looked on with a slight bit of fear. The trek would be three hours up. As we looked up from the bottom we couldn’t understand how the hell we would make the top. The mountain was vertical. No slope or any angles. This could only mean switchbacks going from left to right up the hill. A steady pace was set early on but soon it broke into two groups. When doing these climbs the only way is at your own pace. If someone is too slow or too fast it can really make it hard on you too keep at their pace. Me, Michelle, Laura and Martina were in the second group. It was pain from the start. It was up, up, up. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. We had hoped for clouds but our offerings to the mountain gods were obviously not enough. About an hour and a half into the journey we were starting to run out of water. It was becoming extremely difficult and the thoughts of having another hour and a half to go really made it harder. Sometimes mental fatigue can be as tough as physical fatigue.

We soldiered on taking two minute breaks every fifteen minutes of so. Eventually the end was in sight and the first group encouraged us from the top by singing Rocky’s ‘Survivor’. Practically three hours after starting we had reached the top. We were absolutely wrecked and there is no way I could have done any more. The group ahead did it in around two and a half hours but the French couple were still a good bit behind. When we took off our bags the sweat marks would have been embarrassing if it were not for everyone having them! I had the outline of bag on my t-shirt. Both myself and Michelle were absolutely shattered and I think the photo’s will show what the climb had just done to us. Lets just say we weren’t exactly our best looking. I can honestly say it was the most physically and mentally tiring thing I have ever done. After the Inca trail I think we will retire from any sort of physical exertion for a while, maybe even a long while! It was getting dark and we had to take out our torches for the walk back to the hotel. Yes HOTEL! We had some bit of luxury to look forward to when we got back. When we got there we were given our keys and told dinner would be at 7:30. We showered and came back down afterwards to have a celebratory beer before heading out for dinner.

After our dinner some of us decided to head to the bar. Most would head for bed after what we had just done but we weren’t finished with the day just yet. We sat in the bar for a while talking until all of a sudden everyone was dancing. The bar ran out of beer and the owner offered half price cocktails. In my head I heard two for one. We finished up there at three or four having just completed another marathon, but of a different type! Our guide said most people threaten going to the bar but never actually make it. I guess our group was special!

The next morning breakfast was at 8:30. Afterwards we walked around the village and waited for the bus to arrive to bring us to the hot springs. These were well needed, after all our legs were quite stiff and sore. The water temperature was a bit too hot for me so I didn’t stay too long in them. Back on the bus we went to a local restaurant and for €5 had an all you can eat buffet. It was nice and everyone left fairly full and ready for some sleep on the bus journey back to Arequipa. We arranged to meet again at nine that night and all I can say is that we partied late into the morning again. Some people even saw the sun rise, but I cant name names!

In a bit. DH

Song of the Blog: AC/DC - You shook me all night long



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