I had a journey to get to my first destination in Peru. I was alone for the first time in weeks- and did a complicated change in Puno, the Peruvian side of the lake, in the middle of the night to get a bus to Arequipa. My next bus was of a significantly lower standard, a truly local bus with a broken toilet, tiny seats and freezing temperatures. Crammed in the back with the traditional women tying their kids on their backs with blankets, a kind women worried that I would be two cold with my woollen jumper, so gave me another coat to use. Thankfully so, because I would not have slept a wink if she hadn’t, the temperatures were spectacularly cold. We tumbled unceremoniously off the bus at 4am into the Arequipa bus terminal, where I tried to extend my stay to slightly more polite hours by an extremely well nursed hot chocolate in a little hole in the wall cafe.
In Arequipa, I took advantage of the Peruvian set lunches, much like in Bolivia – a couple of dollars for a soup, huge main and a drink. Walked the markets and met a new friend, who encouraged me to go on the Colca Canyon tramp. I’m ashamed to say, as with so much of this trip (with no planning, general knowledge can only go so far) that I had no idea about the canyon. It’s the deepest canyon in the world, and a place where Condors like to prey. Also, National Geographic marks a mountain in the canyon as the starting point of the Amazon. Because of this, huge swathes of tour busses come into the canyon to look from the top and watch the birds, only 20% of visitors actually walking in.
Our first day of tramping was the hardest. After a 3 am start, we started a steep (and I mean steeeeeeep) constant descent, for about 3 hours. It was challenging on all our knees, especially with the loose rubble and stones that littered our path. We stopped at lunch, enjoyed a beautiful meal, then hung out in the sun for the rest of the afternoon, relaxing. Although it was about 9pm by the time we went to bed, we were all knackered.
The next day was an enjoyable ramble along the bottom of the canyon, fairly flat. We had a great guide, who stopped often to point out native plants that they used medicinally, something I find extraordinarily interesting. We arrived for the afternoon at the Oasis – a word I think is often misused but this truly was one. In the depths of the canyon, with huge cliffs on either side, this grassy, swimming pool ridden area was the perfect respite. We tried pisco sours, swam in the stunning pool, and marvelled at our surroundings.
Up at 4 am to climb back up the canyon on our last day, before the sun came out. Despite the steady ascent of the walk, I loved this day (initially more than after 3 hours of uphill) – climbing in the dark, with the stars out to guide us and the cool morning air, was incredible. The sun began to hit the mountains in the most incredible way, highlighting the tips with the initial red glow. All in all, an incredibly beautiful walk.