A Long Walk through the Colca Canyon
After a long travel day from La Paz – Copacabana (Lake Titicaca) we arrived in Puno to stay overnight, so we could catch a bus the next straight to Arequipa. Driving into Arequipa was an adventure on itself. We never saw so many bad accidents in our life, and the drive in is not very clean. As we drove into the city we saw a similar bus completely smashed at the seats were we were sitting, and a truck in front of it into the ravine. Not the safest road and drivers! As soon as we arrived in our hostel we booked a trip for three days into the Colca Canyon. They promised us it would be a stroll through the park. We booked an upgrade and payed quite a bit more. An all included tour of two hour walk down into the canyon and the next morning 4 hours up.
All (not so much) included
The bus picked us up 45 minutes late that morning. That should have been a sign! We drove through villages with traditional dressed ladies selling all kind of handy crafts, fields filled with Lama’s/ Alpaca’s and view points to admire the snowy volcano’s. Just before lunch we entered the national park and had to pay the entree fee, which was Soles 70, instead of the 35 described in the beginning. Ok, that can happen. Let’s have lunch! We have a buffet but you have to pay it yourself! This ticked us off and after threaten to leave the tour we could eat without paying. The problem was that this was a combined tour with people hopping off and on, so there was nobody who booked the same. The confusion was big. Not long after lunch we got dropped off at a hostel to stay the night. As soon as we entered the room we knew we would not stay here. Broken windows, leaking roof, no pillow cases, stains on the bed and very grouse carpet. Is this were we payed the upgrade for? After a check we noticed the hostel was Soles 35 ($12)! We were mad at this point and wanted to cancel the whole tour and phoned the hostel from a internet cafe to complain. They argued we got what we paid for, but after my reply that this would be over the whole internet they bound in and arranged an other hotel. This took some time and before we knew the bus was there to bring us to the hot springs. After paying and entering the natural hot springs, they told u there were only 2 pools from the 6 open. The pools itself were ok, but definitely nothing special. The lockers were not working, the showers were from cold concrete and the mold was hanging from the ceiling. oh what a fun!
Dinner with traditional (for tourists) dance.
That night we had a dinner with traditional Peruvian dance. You arrive in a cold tiled hall and there is a band playing and traditional dressed teenagers to make a buck or two dance uninspired. But I have to say we had a lot off fun. As there were only two tables and maybe three men in the whole room, the girls kept asking me to dance. This was actually fun and made a good night as it caused us to laugh which was well needed after a very disappointing day. That night we walked home from the restaurant and walked into a party in the street. 3 neighboring villages were in a 3 day battle against each other on dance and music. This was fun to watch as the whole village was marching through the streets with drum band. This went on for day and night as we discovered the next morning. We left at 6 am and saw a lot of people walking not such a straight line;)
Colca Canyon hike
The next day we drove to the Colca canyon, which is famous for it’s condors. These birds can reach a wingspan of 3 meters. Amazing to see how big these birds are. The funny thing is that these birds are scavengers instead of hunters. They are so big and heavy that they use the thermic to fly and climb up into the air. As soon as we stopped at a view point we got picked up by the other guide who would take us hiking? No time to waste. No time to enjoy the view. The hike had to start? We jumped into the van full of seasoned hikers, complete with walking sticks, backpacks, boots etc. This made me wonder. The bus stopped and the guide asked us to walk a bit with him so he could explain what we would do the 2 coming days. As soon as we were at the cliff he started to explain. Ok, guys we will do a 7 hour hike down today. 3 hours before lunch and 4 after. Uh, excuse me 7 hour hike? We supposed to walk for 2? Oh, I guess the new girl who booked you guys must have made a mistake, as she should have told us you would do the compact tour.
No bus to take us back, no phone and on the wrong tour, but as the guide told us it would be fun and not that hard. Now you have to know that Lina and I were not prepared for a 7 hour walk with our backpacks, sport shoes, unhandy camera bag, and grocery back with snacks and water. But hey, we can do this? Well, I was still positive at that point! What could we do, and it can’t be that bad? But this was all before we saw the conditions of this path down. It was washed out on some places were we had to crawl or jump over cliffs to continue. Straight down on a rocky gravel kind of path and very steep. After an hour my shoe soles were slick which made it even more dangerous as I slipped all over the place. This was very hard on the knees and a very good workout for the legs. This was no fun! We met a guy on the trail who lost his guide and group and tagged along with us, but he was at the end off his amusement as well, and this was only before lunch? Finally after 4 hours we reached the lunch place half way down the canyon. Lina was already at a stage she could not continue and asked for a mule to take her the rest of the way. Well, she was out of luck as the mules could not walk this trail because of the rain and washed out trail ahead. Half way down, she had no choice but to continue. With fresh negativity we started the trail again and found out why the mules were not able to do this trail.
The whole trail was washed away and we had to climb over rocks and piles of dirt in our slick soled running shoes, looking down into the ravine. We cursed this trail and the unsafe conditions but had to continue and hope for the best. The trail continued and passed a couple of villages along the way. We were tired and cranky. My shoes got ripped open from the rocks on the trail, the blisters made it even harder to walk. We cursed the hostel who booked the wrong tour for us and made plans for our revenge. Just before dark we reached the oases as the place was called. We had a shower, if you can call standing under a garden hose with cold water a shower to rinse off. Had dinner with the group and met another group who complained as much as we did. The had done 6 days in Torres al Paine in Chile, but found this track super hard on them. One of them contemplated to take a mule the next morning. We ordered the mules and went to bed straight after dinner as we had to go up at 6 am. The hikers at 5 am.
Mules the savers of the wounded hikers.
The next morning we took the mules up. Our 4 hour hike up would take the mules only 2 hours. Along the way we passed all the hikers who left that morning at 5. Completely broken hikers half way as this 4 hour hike was straight up with huge steps. Lina and I were surprised the mules could even take this steps. We have been riding horses in mountains but this was just impossible on horse back. In one go the mules were driven up the hill by the owner. These animals are so sure footed! No hesitation at all. For the people who don’t know a mule is a crossing between a donkey and a horse. All the good qualities come together, except that they can’t reproduce which makes them expensive. Oh, we were so glad we were on these mules and not one of the struggling hikers. We waited in the square for the other hikers when a super nice dog came straight for us. He came to say hello. As soon as we moved benches in the park to catch some sun, he followed us on the foot. The group arrived and we walked to the breakfast place, and again the dog followed us but stayed outside as he knew he was not allowed inside. We poured ourselves a cup of coffee and the dog appeared next to us. He probably did this everyday to catch a breakfast with the tourist hikers which fed him. How smart of a dog to pick out the tourists! And how weak of us to feed him;)
We drove the same way back as we came. Why did we even book the more expensive trip if we would do the same the way up as down? That night we stumbled into the hostel. Biting through the pain of our blisters, hurting knees and the leg muscle pain we complained and got at least our night stay for free. A banded for the blood, sweat and tears shed these days.
The next morning we stumbled out of bed and explored the city walking funny. The blisters were big and the legs filled with sore muscles. This day we spend on sightseeing the city of Arequipa and buying some souvenirs to send to the family. The main square with it’s arched porches, the hispanic architecture and the churches are great. A warm welcome after a long hike to give your sore legs a break.