Day 34 - Travel to Colca Canyon

South America
November 7th 2018
Published: November 8th 2018
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This morning we were asked to be ready by 07:30 but didn’t get picked up until 08:10 as the bus was picking up 14 people for the trip to Colca Canyon. Our guide is Peter and the driver is Dennis. There is one other couple from Bardwell Valley in Sydney, and couples from Switzerland, Netherlands, Spain, Argentina and France, so a real mixture.

Peter was a very informative guide and first topic was how to combat altitude sickness. The reason being that today we would reach 4.910 metres above sea level which is around 1400 metres higher than Arequipa. He said the number one best thing to do was to chew coca leaves with geepa (not sure about the spelling) but this is like a hard jelly like substance with flavouring that helps produce saliva. I’ve since read that you need to extract the alkaloids in the leaves and that some people use bicarbonate powder. Even though I’ve been OK so far at high altitude I was interested in having a go and so was Daisy. Peter stopped the bus at a shop that sold the proper ingredients and most of us bought some. He also said however that if you don’t like the taste, the alternative things to do were to drink plenty of mineral water with gas or at least 70% cocoa chocolate.

Back on the bus he then demonstrated, grabbing a handful of leaves and wrapping them around a piece of geepa. We followed his example although I didn’t use as many leaves. I actually thought it tasted OK but maybe I’ve acquired a taste for it by drinking coca tea every morning. However, the results were much more pronounced than just drinking the tea. You don’t actually chew it all the time. Once it is in a ball you just lodge it into one cheek and your natural saliva extracts the alkaloids. After a few minutes your cheek goes numb, hence the reason it is used for toothaches. We kept it in for bout 40 minutes or so. Peter says to spit it out when the numbing goes away. Another interesting new experience for us.

When we got into the country-side, we stopped a few times to look at both wild and domesticated llamas and alpacas. Peter went to great lengths to explain the differences but there are so many different types and cross-breeds that I just got confused. Nevertheless, his talk was interesting.

Around 13:30 we got to Chivay, a town in the Colca Valley but not quite the canyon. Here people started splitting off to different hotels and six of us had lunch included and we were taken to a restaurant with a buffet. It was surprisingly nice food. It was all local dishes and they were very nice. We had lunch with the other Aussie couple, Hugh and Valerie and the Italian couple who spoke excellent English. After lunch Daisy and I were transferred to another van and driven closer to the canyon. (We are being picked up at 06:40 tomorrow and will meet the others again for the Colca Canyon experience.)

The hotel we got driven to was booked by the travel agent I used to organize this trip. Sometimes he booked the hotel and at some places I chose ones that were cheaper, but for some reason I did not change this one thinking that bit was part of a tour. It turns out to be a 5 star place that is actually a property with individual houses and the whole place is beautiful, so much more luxurious than what we are use to. Daisy went straight into the hot tub that is in the garden and has a beautiful view of the valley.

They have activities you can participate in and we just opted for the cooking class and passed on the pico sour one. The cooking class was showing a ceviche trout dish which is raw fish marinated with lime which Peruvians call lemon. There were however 9 different ingredients mixed with it and it was surprisingly good. Ulike the Vietnamese Cooking Class we did, we did not actually get to do the dish ourselves, it was more a cooking demonstration.

Then we just relaxed for the rest of the afternoon until late dinner at 20:00. We have not seen any other guests since arriving but they said that 5 houses were occupied tonight, but we were the only ones eating. We had a lovely meal of pumpkin & leek soup, a chilli chicken dish and apple tart with ice cream with complimentary sparkling mineral water.

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