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Arequipa & the Colca Canyon


View 8 Month Adventure on elliehirch's travel map.

Well, while Alli and I are getting better at Peruvian night buses (managed to sleep ~3/4 of the time), it was a very groggy morning in Lima. Which may have been the previous nights gravol, or the 6 on the clock, who knows for sure. We unfortunately had to spend too many hours in the Lima airport waiting for our plane. Now, to be fair, airports aren't necessarily my favourite in the first place, they're stressful, or crowded, generally not the best to hang out for 6+ hours, but the Lima airport is now officially my least favourite airport. I acknowledge a portion to my sleep deprived state and the rest for the stupid organization, terrible restaurant service, terrible wifi, pushy taxi people, and waaaaaay overpriced stores. I've never been happier to get on a plane!! We only had an hour and a half jaunt to Arequipa and flew in with a great view of the setting sun and the volcanoes that surround this adorable city. It was a quiet night out for supper and then hanging out with the two other guys (Cesar from Lima and Mark from London) in our dorm room. We managed to get a decent sleep before a sightseeing day in Arequipa.
We started our time with a free walking tour, joined by Cesar as well. Started in Plaza de Armas main square and took in churches, cloisters and other architecture of the white city (most buildings are made with white volcanic stone), history of the Incas and Spanish, the local market and views of the volcanoes (El Misti, Pichu Pichu and Chachani) and the city.

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After lunch (at a picanteria for local food) we walked to another viewpoint..

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This engraving (roughly translated by Cesar) says 'you were not born at the bottom of a volcano for nothing.

Then back to the hostel to book our adventure for the next two days... Colca Canyon! After buying snacks for this, we had supper with Cesar and Mark and headed to bed for another early wake-up... 3:00am. I'm beginning to think an 8 hour sleep is something that I can only dream about... ;)
We spent the first 3 hours in the morning (after the 3:15am pick-up) trying unsuccessfully to sleep on a freezing cold bus. My small daypack crammed full of only necessities for the next two days did not hold the warmest clothes. After a quick stop for breakfast in the small town of Chivay, we continued to the viewpoint for the flight of the condors (and all I could think about was Flight of the Concords). These huge black (and brown when younger) birds are carrion feeders, mate for life, can live up to 80 years, are endangered, and only reproduce every couple years. And look pretty majestic flying through the canyon.

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Next stop was the start of the trekking. Our group included 3 people from France, two Germans, and two fellow Canadians, Liam and Kelsey, that we buddied up with immediately (obviously, eh), and our guide Roger. The first leg was only downhill and only 8km but it felt so much longer and harder because of the heat. Had to remind myself to stop and take in this beauty.

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After our lunch stop we had another 8km that was more up and down. Some of the climbing was pretty killer, we obviously had to take a few celebratory pics when we reached the days highest point.

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And a selfie with our cactus war paint...

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After this was the last few km of a rocky downhill to reach the km 18 sign and a lush waterfall, just a taste of the beauty to come.

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Our final stop across the bridge was the Oasis. We stayed in the Garden of Eden. And that's exactly what it felt like when we got there, saw the pool with waterfall and immediately donned our bathing suits and cannon balled into that beautiful blue water.

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Have you ever seen two girls happier to be in a pool!?

Enjoyed the waterfall with our Canadian companions...

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This is a picture from the beginning of the day. Shows our zig zag path down to the oasis in the bottom of the canyon.

After a few drinks, visiting, and supper, it was another early night because, you guessed it, we had to get up early again!
The problem with the oasis being such a beautiful spot in the bottom of the canyon is that it means you have to climb out. We had a 4:45am start for the 5km, 1000m climb out of there. This was the one that felt like running a marathon. Even more so for Alli who was unlucky enough to catch a cold right before we left for these two days. Reaching that canyon summit was in one of my top trekking finishing feelings. Especially after accomplishing the estimated 3 hr trip in just over two hours.

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We enjoyed a big breakfast after this, as well as the knowledge that our bodies didn't have to carry us any farther, the rest of the trip would be by bus! We made our way out of the canyon with a number of stops along the way. First a great viewpoint..

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Then the natural hot springs...

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Last two were at the highest point on the edge of the canyon, 4900m, with a view of the areas volcanoes. And a stop in the national park amidst a bunch of alpacas and llamas (where we learned their differences and uses).

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And finally back to Arequipa. For a quick rushing to pack, get some supper and get on our favourite.... Night bus!

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Posted by elliehirch 19:31 Archived in Peru

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