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South America » Peru » Arequipa » Colca Canyon
August 4th 2011
Published: August 9th 2011
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Since I had seperated from Julia and Anna, I had planned on actually being on my own for awhile. I had arrived to Arequipa completely on my own, but ended up meeting some pretty incredible people. Because of this I ended up spending a lot more time there than I had originally anticipated.

I took the bus (about 7 hours) and it was a peaceful ride. This was the first time I really had a solid amount of time to myself to seriously reflect. However, I found myself distracted quite a few times for the following reason.... In many places in South America, buses are the main form of transit, however, if you pay the right price, you can get a bus thats rather luxurious meaning the seats can go all the way back and you are served food. The downside is, if the bus isn´t filled, it will stop at EVERY GIVEN OPPORTUNITY to pick up passengers on the road. My bus literally stopped every half hour to pick up people. The thing that I couldn´t get my mind around, was where the people were coming from, because the bus was driving in the desert, along side mountain ranges. This means that these people either fell from the sky or have been doing some hefty walking for who knows how long!

Arequipa itself is one of the largest cities in Peru. The one major difference I found was how secure I felt there. The city itself has quite beautiful architecture. The streets are very clean, and the buildings are colorful, I also thought that comparible to Lima, the structure had a lot of European influence. I spent a lot of time roaming the main square and enjoying the plaza. Something I LOVE about the culture here is that it´s extremely family oriented. Its refreshing to see families enjoying the park together where time has no meaning. In the U.S is easy to get side tracked, we are all brought up with a lot more structure and routine in life, and because of this it is difficult to find the balance.

One of the main attractions and reasons for traveling to Arequipa is to see the Colca Canyon, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon! I opted to do the three day trek. My group consisted of a lot of people from my hostel, there was Maeve from Ireland, Leif and Niko from Switzerland, Michele from Australia, and then outside of the hostel was Kevin from Ireland, Juan Carlos from Peru, Alba and Cristina from Spain, and then two other peruvians which to be honest I didn´t get to know them too well because they were enjoying their own private romance the whole time.

The first day was absolute torture! The van was scheduled to pick us up at 3am so that we did all the walking before the sun was too hot. Leif and I decided to pull an all nighter and hung out with Teo and Titi (MY LOVEESSS)!!! who work at our hostel. We figured it would be easier rather than sleeping for two hours. BIG MISTAKE. Since im such a pansy I didn´t make it and slept for about an hour, Leif on the other hand survived. We were EXHAUSTED and to add to it, the car ride was terrible. The driver had absolutely no mercy and sped through the curvy canyon like it was nothing. Our first stop was to observe the Condors, which I didn´t see. I attempted to watch them but after about two minutes of sitting on the edge of the cliff, I began contemplating jumping off due to how sick I was. Considering that I was negotiating my own safety I slept in the van, Leif and Niko were right behind me, and Michele actually became physically sick - good to know I wasn´t the only wimp! After breakfast, which I didn´t eat because Ham and Cheese was the least bit enticing, we started the trek. Again I was sure I was going to die but for another reason. The first day consisted of walking straight down the mountain for hours. This was mentally and physically exhausting because the path was about 2 feet wide and consisted of sliding rocks. We all got to go at our own pace thank the lord, had I needed to keep up with the boys, I don´t think I would have made it. No matter what age, boys get so excited when they are around dirt and rocks, and their conscience goes right out the window! Once we made it down, we had the chance to go a little further and take a dip in the river, I chose not to because my legs felt like jello and going any further down would have been the end of it. Afterwards we hiked up for about 30 minutes to our destination for the day.

Our destination was literally a villiage in the middle of the Canyon called San Juan de Chaco. It consisted of 5 families, one of which hosted us. We ate lunch and then every single one of us crashed, woke up for dinner and then slept again! I wish I could have enjoyed the area for a little longer, it was astonishing. Because of the location, all the kids are schooled together, meaning a teacher comes to them in the village (this year there are 3 students). Once they reach the age of 10, they have to go to the next village for school. I couldn´t help but feel for the kids, something I noticed here very quickly is that kids are put to work at very young ages. It made me realize how fortunate I am to be on this journey, because for them, this might be it. Some may never leave their home, or really understand what kind of a world there is outside of it.

The second day we got to sleep and had breakfast at 7. I was so excited because we got pancakes (when your living in hostels, its bread and Jam always, so pancakes were like the golden ticket to willy wonka and the chocolate factory!!!) Today consisted of a lot of up and down. Man where the legs burning! I seriously didn´t remember being that sore from the Inca Trek. On the way we stopped through a few different villages, one were we got to try the drink Chicha. There are two kinds of Chicha: Chicha Morada and Chicha with alcohol. Both are derived from corn, the one with alcohol has to ferment for a few days. They are a traditional drink and really tastey. We then continued the trek, but today we had an incentive to finish, the incentive being a pool at the bottom. Once toward the end it was like a game, we could see the pool and it felt so close, but each corner brought us to another bend. I felt like I was in a maze, to make it even trickier, you lost sight of the pool for awhile! We finally made it and it was PARADISE! This village was completely secluded in the valley, if anyone has seen the movie Flinestones, it was a direct clone of the landscape. We relaxed the whole day and loved every moment of it.

The third day was the roughest day (supposedly) I say supposedly only because we had the choice to either walk up or hitch a ride with a mule. The conditions being: You start walking up a mountain - rocky narrow slippery path- at 5am in the dark (ha spectacular) OR rise up at 6 and hee haa all the way up. All the girls got mules myself included, it was a no brainer. This was something that I would have paid to do anyways so it was a good solution. My mule was crazy before we even started, to be honest I was worried he was going to commit suicide and walk off the mountain, but we made it. I was actually very glad with this decision because I was able to enjoy the landscape, the past few days we were too busy watching our footing to really look around or take pictures. We then met the rest of our group that trekked (Kudos to them!!!) and enjoyed breakfast following with a visit to another hot spring, complete bliss!

The time came where we had to part ways, which I always hate. I love doing group treks because you really bond with the people you´re with. Especially since I met the ones from my hostel previsously it only made the experience better. This trek was an exhausting challenge for me, I think it was just a combination of exhaustion from my constant movement and the Inca trek that was prior to this one. Nontheless it was another beautiful opportunity that I would recommend to anyone.

After the trek I had a few more days to enjoy at the hostel. Franz, the manager asked if I wanted to work there for awhile, had I the time, I would have accepted with no hesitation. I also had a instant bond with Eliana, who cooked for us. She was my temporary mama, and always greeted me with open arms, a kiss on the cheek and a big smile in the morning. I tended to hang with Eliana in the kitchen a lot and practice my spanish, but I have to say she is one of the most lovely women I have ever met and I truly miss her already! This particular group that worked at the hostel grew very close to my heart, I had a ton of fun with them, and will be returning to visit for a weekend this fall. I will miss Arequipa but I will be sure to return!!

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