09.01.2009 - 11.01.2009 30 °C
One of the main attractions while being in Arequipa is to trek the Colca Canyon. It is actually the second deepest in the world and is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Anyway it all sounded cool to us but we felt we had very little time as we wanted to spend some more time in Cusco so we were humming and haawing about it for ages until we decided feck it we will do it. So we booked with this crowed called Land Adventures that sounded good for 3 days and two nights. They all told us how fantastic it was but nobody told us this would be a killer....
We are told we will be picked up at 4am. Afer only a couple of hours of sleep we drag ourselves out of bed and wait in the courtyard in the hostel......for 1 hour and 15 minutes!!! Grrrrr...not happy campers at all. On the bus we zzzzzzzzz.
We arrive at the Mirador de Condor (viewpoint of the condors) at about 8am. There are a lot of tourists around all hoping to see the Condors. We are looking over this incredible canyon and that on its own is worth the trip and the early morning rise. We are incredibly lucky the see 4 or five of these unbelievable animals- they really are something else. Massive! One flies over our heads as we are getting back into the bus and had Martin managed (which he did not) to get the camera out in time it would have been the best picture ever...Hmmm
Next we arrive in the village of cochabamba where we meet our tour guide Vladimir. Our group consists of an Irish couple called Michael and Sarah and an Cyprian couple called Andreas and Lenny. Turns out that Lenny has got a severe bout of altitude sickenss and will have to see a doctor. While we have a dodgy lunch of Alpacha meat they go off with Vladi to find a doctor. It all takes much longer than expected and we see all other groups go off while we wait around. finally vladi comes back with this local girl called Marissa who is a local guide and says to go ahead with her as it is getting late and he will follow with Andreas. So off we go...
Now to say that we strolled down that mountain would be a gross lie. Before we headed off we were told it would be a 6 to 7 hour walk mostly downhill (the last hour or so would be uphill). After about a 30 minute stroll we were told in no unceratin terms that we were in a hurry so we began to practiacally run down that mountain. That would be fine had the downhill not been at a 45 degree slope (that is bloody steep) with ridiculously steep drops on one side and mountain on the other and very narrow. Given that it was all loose stones we did a mixture of falling and sliding down the rocks! We were in such a rush that we nearly failed to appreciate the unbeleivable beauty of the place. Ater more than 3 hours of sliding down rocks we made it to a bridge and Marissa seemed satisfied that we had made up a lot of time so she told us to take it slower up the hill. The lads (Martin and Michael) slagged her that she was late for a date so that was why we were in such a rush! It took her a while to appreciate the jokes!
We were relieved that we could take it a bit slower. Sarah and Michael had just done the inca trail and climbed up and down El Misti and said the Inca trail is a stroll in the park in terms of the pace we were keeping. Our legs were like jelly and then we saw the hill we had to climb to get to our lodgings of the first night which was in a village with a local family. Half way through the mountain uphill we meet a lady who is the lady of the house we are staying whith and she has come to meet us. We thought that meant we must be really close but no way. This lady was 53 years of age (looks older like most Peruvian women in the countryside). She put us to shame and as we struggled up the hill she was running up it like a young girl. Very embarrassing. The lady and Marissa came into their own right and started showing us the plants and fruits of the area. Only as we actaully arrived in the village did we begin to appreciate how isolated they live. To bring anything to the village that does not grow naturally is such and effort. Only human or mules can go there and it takes practically a day to go to the nearest village and back for anything. Once we arrived to the village and the home of the family the beer we had tasted so much better after the effore we realise it takes to get it there. And....those beers were well deserved. Once we sat down having the beer we realised the views were something else. It is an amazing feeling realising how remote you are when all you see is mountains everywhere.
Just as we arrived it was getting dark quickly and there was no sign of either Vladi or Andreas. Now although Andreas looked much younger and certainly acted it he is 50 years old and many stones overweight so we were worrying that if we struggled to get here on time there was little chance he would. After a while Valdi comes running in the dark and says he had left Andreas at the bridge and that he had come to fetch a mule to collect him to get him up the mountain. Now, the weight of stuff the mules carry is amazing and they say they can carry up tp 100kg no problem (martin got to feel the weight of stuff they carry as he helped Mauritus the man of the house unload his mules- see pics). Thing is that andreas would be a lot heavier than that...I think even Vladi was concerend the mule would not make it. Mauritius had obviously been prewarned by Vladi as when he left he asked Vladi what the name of the fatso was forgetting that we understood Spanish!!! Very funny...Anyway, after an hour or so Andreas and the mule come back..not sure which looked more tired!
We have a delicious meal prepared in ancient inca ways and in a really old style stove and kitchen. It really felt like going back in time. The family were very friendly and it was a fab expereince to get to stay with a family rather than an owl hostal. Afer a few bevvies and great food and company we fell into bed. It was very hard to imagine that the next day would be even more difficult.
We woke up early the next morning to help prepare an Inka breakfast. Karolina was given the task of frying corn on the stove while Martin was grinding it down - old style. The result was this big thing that looked like goo. we were told to eat it but none of us were convinced that this was actually edible as it had not been put into an oven yet. And it did not help that Vladi turns out to be a big joker. So we tuck into this very strange food (kind of like eating doe) which tastes quite good but weird all while Martin is loudly messing saying that there is no way this is edible and urging us all not to eat it. Turns out it is the way it is eaten...ooops Martin.
So after a lot of doe in our bellies we start walking down hill again down to an oasis where there are pools from water from the mountians. On the way we were picking fruits that we had never heard of and shown amazing plants that heal all kinds of illnesses including the famous san pedro cactus. Anyway as we get to the Oasis we are very hot and dying for a swim. Then it strats getting really cloudy and not very warm. But the setting is somethng else and it feels like paradise. We have a gorgeous lunch and hang out for a good while.
Then the walk up from where hell begins. It is nearly impossible to describe how tough the walk up the hill really was. K thinks that the effort involved can only be likened with running a marathon (although she of course never have ran a marathon-she imagines it is as tough). By the time we reached the top our legs were like jelly and every step hurt a LOT. K never thought she would make it. Martin of course walked up it like he had dynamite stuck up his bum:-). Despite the effort the feeling afterwards is fantastic and although it might not sound like it we did get to see the most unbelieveable nature. Totally worth it. When we reached the top we were told that Marissa our guide is the champion of the yearly run that locals and guides do the circuit we did. It took us like 9 hours to do the whole thing. Turns out she does it in just over 3 hours. No wonder we were wrecked following her. So it turns out we have been outdone by an old lady and a young (chubby) girl......
We have the most amazing shower in a lovely hostel and after dinner we had a few beers and a great laugh. Needless to say we were absolutley wrecked.....oh the pain!
Next morning we had some time to kill and Marissa comes up with the idea that Karolina, Sarah and Lenny (who has now rejoined us and feels much better) dress up in local Peruvian women´s clothes. The clothes are really fab and consists of wearing layers and layers of skirts ect. Sooo heavy and it is hard to imagine that some women wear this on a every day basis. We were hurded out on the main square and stirred up some comotion amoungs the locals and tourists alike as we were walked around and shown off in the town like sheep. A lot of pictures were taken and Martin was both shocked and equally horrified and delighted to see his wife turn Peruvian. We had a great laugh doing it and a lot of giggles were had!