Arequipa and Colca Canyon - Our Inca Trail preparation

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May 25th 2012
Published: June 9th 2012
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Beautiful Stone CarvingsBeautiful Stone CarvingsBeautiful Stone Carvings

The pretty church at the Mirador
So 27 hours after we set off from Huaraz we arrived an hour ahead of schedule into Arequipa... These Cruz del Sur buses rock!!!! A short taxi ride later and we were being shown around our new home for the evening Arequipa Backpackers..... After seeing the upstairs roof terrace, downstairs garden complete with hammocks and gas heater for keeping the chill off in the evenings, huge kitchen, 2 DVD Rooms, Pool Room, Play Station Room, 3 PCs...... All for the bargain price of £5.50 per night.... Oh and to quote... 'we're sorry we don't provide breakfast but we do offer fresh bread daily, which is complimentary' didn't take much thinking about.... We booked for another night!

By 1pm we were heading out to explore.... Arequipa's a really pretty place, surrounded by volcanos and snow topped mountains, which you can climb if you are game enough to brave the 6000m side effects of... Let me see... DEATH!!!! The town itself is full of beautiful colonial buildings and loads of churches and museums, not that we visited any properly, rather just admired the architecture and took our photos from the outside. It's separated into different regions, some of which pretty posh and
Volcano MistyVolcano MistyVolcano Misty

Standing above the city viewed from the Mirador
you can tell theirs an affluent edge to the place.... Fortunately for us there were also plenty of local delights such as eateries too, which suited our budget much better! After a good feed we headed home and picked up the folder with hundreds of movies to chose from and settled ourselves in the movie room with Crank.... What a film, has to be seen to be believed and the true story- Fair Game, also great....setting us up nicely for an early night and a good nights sleep!

For day 2 we got our trip to see the condors sorted... 3 days trekking in the canyon a bit of practise for the Inca Trail and as a warm up we stretched our legs up to the Mirador and got some even better views across the city..... Pretty low key couple of days but much needed .... After all the reason for our visit was all about the next 3 days out in the Canyon, not in the city....That was just a brucie bonus!!!!

Our 3 days trekking Colca Canyon Early early start !!! They say 3am but what they really mean is that's when they start collecting.... We
Peruvian FlagPeruvian FlagPeruvian Flag

Flying high in this proud country
were last pick up and it was easy 3:45am when the mini bus arrived full to the brim with insane people giving up a good nights sleep, just so they can see 'bloody big birds'...quote JG.... And trek for 4 hours down into the second deepest canyon in the world!!! Any guesses on the first??? I can hear you all saying the Grand Canyon.... That's what we thought too but it isn't... That's the third.... The biggest is next door to this one.... So we're all there ready... One small problem.... We're not on the list..... 20 mins later and a few phone calls later, Yudy our guide has agreed to spend the three hour journey to Chivey on the floor and we're squished in.... Or correction.... I'm squished in on the back seat and Jon has a front seat!!!! Blankets and neck cushions we're provided, lights were switched off and everyone was supposed to fall asleep.... No chance.... As we got further along the road to the canyon, it got bumpier and bumpier, and as we got higher it got colder and colder......and as the sun was still nowhere near coming up that was only going to get worse
Main SquareMain SquareMain Square

Fronting the Plaza de Armas
not better... We arrived for brekkie, which wasn't the best, we had to keep asking for more of everything as the one bread roll, one slice of cheese didn't quite cut it, especially with the day ahead we had in store.... We even ran out of juice and hot water before everyone had had a glass or cup, that's how tight it was and it was freezing.... They obviously didn't want us to stay very long!!!

However we weren't to be deterred and all did our best Oliver impressions and got a bit more.... By this point it was about 8am and we were back in the bus heading for Cruz del Condor Mirador, where the condors nest so you have a good chance of seeing them.... And there were plenty!

Here's some hard core condor facts for you all that we found out today.... Condors live an average age of 70-80 years!!!! WOW eh!!!! Until the age of 8 they are still classed as juveniles and stay with their parents and are brown.... At 8 they turn black and start out on their own..... They weigh on average 12 kg and eat one day and then not
Flight of the CondorsFlight of the CondorsFlight of the Condors

The photos can't do them justice
for 25 days, so they don't get too heavy!! Oh and they are HUGE!!! We spent a good 30 minutes watching them, then headed off for the start of our 3 day trek down into the Canyon from San Miguel Point 3287m.

The walk down was really tough, and that was down, so god knows what up will be like! It's dusty and steep and uneven..... Not the best when you have ankles and knees like mine that are trashed from far too much netball.... Not to mention how clumsy I am.... We took it steady though for all of those reasons but mainly because it was so damn beautiful.... Jon reckons its like the Nepali coast in Kauai.... Just on a much bigger scale. Throughout the way down Yudy our guide, who is a local was great and introduced us to two fruits we'd never even heard of before, let alone tasted.... The first was sancayo which is like a bigger, more sour version of a kiwi fruit.... Really refreshing and definitely one of our faves.....Second on our experimental food experience was the pichan which she practically diced death by hanging off the cliff to get for us,
God put a smile upon my faceGod put a smile upon my faceGod put a smile upon my face

As the Coldplay lyrics go, well if he created these views you can see why
tasted like a cross between a banana and a guanabana, you peel it like a banana too, very tasty! The bridge you reach at the bottom, is a welcome relief as the last hour is a steep killer... We stopped here for a much needed breather before heading over the wobbly bridge, resisting the urge to buy water from the ladies selling them with a 100% mark up on the Arequipa prices, on the understanding we were nearly at lunch.... (we're at 2pm at this point.... We've been up since 2:50am, only had 2 bread rolls with cheese and jam, a cuppa and a glass of juice!!! Not to mention been hiking at altitude for 4 hours.... We're hanging!!!!!) Thankfully it was just up a bit of a incline and traversing across the cliff edge we arrived at our little village, serving lunch of soup, rice and beans, all devoured in seconds!!

After an hour long snooze after lunch, we headed out on our afternoon guided walk around the village where Yudy showed us all the medicinal herbs and what they are used for ...... Bearing in mind the only way in and out of this village is via
Happy trekkersHappy trekkersHappy trekkers

Ready to start our three days of stunning walking
the trek down the canyon, they have what's called Curandeo, who are basically medicine doctors.... Yudys Dad is one, hence her expertise in the field along with the fact she was bought up in the Canyon.... She showed us the school, which has 3 students.... When she was a kid there were 50, just shows how times have changed with an influx of people flocking to the cities.... The trek she took us on was the way to her old family home, where her brother and wife still live.... When we got there, we were greeted with 4 baby lambs and their mothers, 2 of the babies had only been born the night before so were less than 12 hours old and gorgeous! Again we'd been trying fruits galore..... Herbs as well.... And we finished our afternoon gathering up the fruits Yudys brother was shaking down from the tree and then sitting around with the family eating these strange, pea looking fruits, which taste of guanabana called pacay ...also choosing babies names for Yudy's sister in law who's 8 months pregnant and watching the lambs feeding in the corner of the yard.... A perfect afternoon.....Back to the place we're staying,
Second Biggest CanyonSecond Biggest CanyonSecond Biggest Canyon

Certainly looks majestic
which is just a locals house with converted mud huts in the back yard, shower and tea.... Soup, rice and mash this time with some alpaca thrown in for good measure......The one thing we wish, is that we could take a photo of the sky we can see tonight.... The stars are amazing, but then what do you expect, being in the middle of nowhere, 2300 metres above sea level with no light pollution at all, just a few candles.......And now we've layered up, got in our sleeping bags under 2 blankets and are ready to crash after, what has been a rewarding day on so many fronts....Until tomorrow..... It's arrived....

What a great sleep and our blankets kept us nice and toasty!!!! Great breaky too, pancakes, bananas and dulce leche our fave x x By 8am we were ready to start our day trekking and the sun was out so we took the plunge on shorts, definately the right choice as within an hour we were facing a 20 minute tough hill climb, which we're pleased to report we did in 15mins.... Not bad with trashed feet that lookalike they've been walking on glass for a day!!! The
Day one and the bridgeDay one and the bridgeDay one and the bridge

We've reached the bottom
walking today although 5 hours has been broken up with a few stops at local villages and we've had the chance to try even more fruits.... The village where we'd stayed the night and started our walk from was San Juan Chuccho at 2190 and our first stop was Cosnirhua village 2600m followed by Malata at 2200, which is a cute little place that during 11.5 months of the year has hardly anyone there. It has a little church thats been rebuilt but who's tower dates back from the seventeenth century. In February everyone from the local area, plus all the native villagers who now live in cities like Arequipa come back for a big festival, which lasts 4 days from the 1st to the 4th....this is the only time you can get married here too because the priest is here. Busy time for them!!!! The reason for the festival is in honour of the Virgin of candaleria. We also visited one of the locals homes who has a small room which shows some traditional things.... Cona the method used by the men to ground maiz. Cotina the method used by the women. Candles made from animal fat. The skins of snakes called culebra, which people used to heal, by wrapping the snake around the problem area such as the leg or after child birth to aid the stomach get back to normal.... Apparently live snakes are better for this one....can't see a queue rushing to try this one!!!!. We also got to see the traditional sandals, uchucutana which are made of rubber tires now and last 3 years or of skin in old inca times.... This was the Museum.... We also tried Chica here, which is Inca Beer....Jon drank it but not really my cup of tea.... Flat warm fruity beery alcohol... Must be good though... And full of energy, they all drink it whilst working the fields....After that we continued on to our next stop the Oasis, which is a small place they've purposely built with pools and accommodation. We arrived there around 1pm and jumped straight into the fresh mountain water and spend the rest of the afternoon, being taught Yoga moves by Bruno and being tested on all the plant names and their uses by Yudy!!!!

Here they all are below!!!!

Uchu is the hot chili pepper.

Now the small orange fruit with

Tasting the Chicha
seeds brown.... Still struggling with this one....tasty though, dead sweet and juicy

Tuna - cactus fruit, really refreshing

Lucma tastes like dates and used across Peru as an ice cream flavour favourite.... Our equivalent of Vanilla Ice Cream

Figs... We all know those....

Likened to a Banana/onion , how those 2 can ever go together is beyond us but anyway that's a pachy....

We also tasted Squash, pumpkin, avocado and a lime that tasted sweet, more like an orange

And here's our Plant facts!!! Molle's green leaves are used as an insect repellent or also for stomach ache and diaoreah by taking the leaves and drinking as a tea, smelling them also cures headaches.... Pretty useful one hey!!!!

4 geranium leaves in water cures period painsaloe Vera is called sabella and cures spots or can be used as shampoo a face pack or to treat sun burn

Now heres one for you.....For curing a Fever to quote Yudi you mix .....with pee pee no poo poo, rub all the body.... Can you imagine!!!!

Cochinilla is a parasite that grows on cactus... Used as Lip stick or dye for clothes... It works
Amazing YudyAmazing YudyAmazing Yudy

Demonstrating the traditions of her culture
we tried it... A bit of a goth colour but did the job!!

To make Brooms for cleaning they use Chilca, which has the added bonus of not only being strong but smelling good too

Hatupa has to be avoided as its a dangerous plant. Inside the branches it has a poisonous milk that can blind you but it is good for killing infections in animals

You can use the Cactus plant as a shampoo... If you cut the spines off.. there a liquid on the inside( San Cayo) the Tequila plant you use the root to make the drink

Magueys leaves are used to make rope .... You soak it for one weekend in water to soften and then you can make the rope

Floripondio o puedes desir trompetas, these flowers are hallucination plants.... They grow everywhere ... Cheap tripping!!!

Oh and incase anyone wants to try it ....Here's how you make Inca beer or Chicha de jora as its called....ground maize boiled with water for 2 or 3 hours and them fermented... The Longer = the stronger.. Eg 9 days and you only need 1 glass as super fuel!!!
Free as a birdFree as a birdFree as a bird

The canyon is how big

La Cayote or Calabasa... Small green spikey pumpkin that pops opens ... Very comical!

Eucalyptus cures flu and congestion or use it to cleanse face as a steam bath

Phew.... No wonder we didn't remember them all first off..... We're exhausted even reciting them back and not sure they're spelt right but hey, you get the gist!!!!! We're a nice group of 7..... Mark from Switzerland, Bruno from Brazil, Nadia and Sina from Germany, Alisha from The States and us...., Nadia and I helped Yudy prepare tea.... Tonights delight was veg soup followed by spaghetti and a salsa sauce made with garlic, chilli, tomatoes and onions... Fried off then sweetened with sugar, seasoned with salt and pepper and made to go further with water! We made sure Mark got an extra big helping as he was always hungry and was after a super fast time to the top of the canyon and we even had a dessert for energy obviously..... Black maize, powered and mixed with water, which tastes like a fruit compo topped with some dulce leche in the shape of your initial!!!! After that little lot it was well and truly time for a good nights
All smiles againAll smiles againAll smiles again

Happy together
sleep... Alarms set for 4:45am for the 3 hour climb out of this place!

Day 3 - Ascent up 1200m to Cabanaconde.... After a bit of dithering, finally we were all ready to leave for the top by 5:20am.... It's amazing the difference trekking in the dark makes in terms of making it easier without the heat of the sun.... Plus you can't see the top which is a bonus as you can't get disillusioned with how far you still have to go..... After 20 minutes it was light enough for the torches to be off and After 40 mins the sun was up and it honestly looked like we had climbed miles, easy half way..... Unfortunately there was no way that could be right..... After an hour it was time to remove a layer and rehydrate and then keep pushing on, apparently Yudy reckoned we were good enough to do the climb in 2 hours.... Now if you want you can take a mule up for a price obviously and we were passed a couple of times by people doing that..... And when they pass you have to move to the mountain side obviously incase .... Well you
Mas RapidoMas RapidoMas Rapido

So tempting to take a dip
know... Just incase....its a long way down....No way we'd be hiring a mule though.... A) budget B) Far to far away from medical help for me to have an anaphylactic shock C) After all that hard work in days 1 and 2, why miss the toughest challenge, and D) going up although tough is so much better than going down.... At first it's your lungs that feel it but once you get into your stride and by the end your lungs are ok and it's the legs that need picking up every step!!! The treks made even more tough by the dust, rocks and huge steep rock you have to step up to get to the top...... The views..... WOW..... Worth every huff, puff, ache and pain!!! 2 hours 35 minutes and we were celebrating at the top!!!! In typical British style with a hot mug of milky tea......Mark had managed the walk in 1 hour 35, obviously the extra coca leaves he had for brekkie!!!!! Not to mention that he didn't have to go at the super slow pace of his wife, like my lovely hubby did x x x Sina was next..... Just over 2 hours closely followed
First glimpse of the OasisFirst glimpse of the OasisFirst glimpse of the Oasis

The pool looks so refreshing
by super sprint to the finish Nadia, who walked with us for the first hour and easy made up 30 mins.... In jeans!!! Amazing!!! Then us with Alisha and Bruno coming in just under 3 hours too with loads of snaps to show for it!!!!

What a hike..... Loads of high fiveing and pics as well as teas and coffees before we hiked on to brekkie 25 minutes down the road..... Where there was a special treat waiting for Alisha and Nadia, who's birthdays it both was..... A birthday cake made of Pancakes, Bananas, Dulce Leche and Smarties.... Can you think of anything more yummy.... Us neither and it certainly tasted as good as it looked!!!! All this and it was still only 9:30am...... That's how to start a day hey?!!!!! And we weren't even finished yet.... A full day ahead of us stopping off at view points and villages to take photos and try Colca Sours, the local alcoholic delicacy which you could hardly taste for all the sugar they mix it with! A dip in the hot springs to wash off all that dust, sweat and dirt from our earlier trek (after a shower obviously.... Or at
Jumping for joyJumping for joyJumping for joy

At the top and still energy to spare
least I hope everyone had a shower!!!!) before lunch in Chivey the equivalent of the local market town with a bustling square with locals in traditional dress cooking big stews in the street... And boy was it tastey.... Not quite sure what meat... Maybe a good job.....

The afternoon took us up to almost 5000m to view the 270 degree mountains and volcanos from closer up.... Needed to get layered back up for that one as the altitude hits you as soon as you get off the bus but breathtaking in more ways than one!!!! One last official stop to check out the huge herds of Alpaca on the way down and take some last pics before our 2 hour journey back to Arequipa!!! arriving back at 6pm for a serious shower and some well earned rest....These Peruvians certainly now how to jam pack a trip full of highlights .... All this for the bargain price of.... Wait for it.... £35.... Yep.... £35.... For 3 days of activities and great memories....All inclusive!!!!!

Our final day in Arequipa and the night bus is booked ready for our next stop Cusco. We're packed and ready to go..... And with the
..same for the guys..same for the guys..same for the guys

Even Marc but he had been waiting for an hour for us all, plenty of time to recharge
Inca Trail booked I'm sure Peru will again surpass all expectations!!! Here's to our next adventure! Oh and we are now spending half our original budget...... Lovin it!!!

Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


Which way?Which way?
Which way?

On our way to breakfast..
...and time for Birthday Cake...and time for Birthday Cake
...and time for Birthday Cake

A nice at for Nadia and Alisha to spend there birthday
Mind boggling landscapeMind boggling landscape
Mind boggling landscape

Its hard to imagine how much work must of gone into remodelling the landscape and building these terraces

1200m elevation assault completed, breakfast and birthday cake eaten, an eventful morning

10th June 2012

The trip
The whole thing is amazing....... holidays will never be the same!! Love the Condors, wow! Harry

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