Whew. What a busy few days. Also, before the post gets underway, I have somewhat bad news – I´ve decided that despite promises to the contrary, I will for now omit pictures from these blog posts. Sorry. The new plan is to update the blog once I´m back home, and add in the pictures then. It´s just proving unrealistic to sort through all the pictures and pick out the best two or three to put in each post. Although, the ipod to camera connector seems to be working wonderfully!
Anyway, back to the trip.
On Sunday morning, we left for our trip in the Colca Canyon. The trip began at 3 in the morning (yes, that´s not just my timezone deprived brain talking) when our guide was to pick us up. This ended up happening closer to 3:30, but hey, apparently this is normal for “South American” time. Our group consisted of us and another canadian couple, which was fantastic. We´ve met quite a few canadians on this trip, but this was the longest we´ve spent with any of them.
The morning started with a 3-hour drive across the plateau, where first the windows fogged up and then that turned into a sheet of ice. Yup. It´s that cold. Luckily, we were prepared this time. In the pre-dawn, we drove past some enclosures (consisting of 1 meter or so high walls built out of small rocks) containing herds of alpaca – too dark for pictures, though. Our first real stop was at Cruz del Condor, the best spot to get a glimpse of condors. We got there at a good time, as right after we got out spots a few of the show-offs among these majestic creatures started making close passes above the crowd. They were a few dozen meters away at least, but even so they seemed huge. Throughout the rest of the hike we saw a few more, but never as close as this. Even so, there is something about them that makes me want to freeze and stare at their amazingly smooth gliding flight.
A few hours later the bus dropped us off for the start of our hike. 15 minutes´ walk brought us to the edge of the canyon, and we began our descent. We were starting at about 3300 meters, going all the way to the bottom to cross the river, climbing back up to maybe 2800, and finally going down to sleep at 2400. A good balance for getting adjusted to the altitude! So far, neither of us has had any problems beyond being out of breath much quicker than normal during the more strenuous exercise, which is fantastic.
We stopped for lunch around 2, after climbing back up from the river. To my utter delight, just before lunch we walked in the shade of the groves of avocado trees. That´s right. Groves. Filled with trees with hundreds of gigantic avocadoes on them (comparable to a good-sized red mango you´d find at a store at home). Sadly, all too green to be eaten right away. Must come back in the summer. All the avocado sandwiches I´ve tried so far have also been delicious, with nice meaty texture and a much sweeter taste than you´d get at home, so I would love to try one fresh right off a tree.
Lunch was fantastic (but after that hike anything would´ve been, probably), and a whole menagerie of animals visited us during the lunch – two large dogs, a weight-lifter chicken (it was that big), and an adorable little black cat which immediately took up residence on Dan´s lap. Eventually, I managed to coax her onto mine, too.
The afternoon hike was uneventful, and hot. Passing by lots of the aqueducts delivering mountain water to the local villages, and many half-abandoned settlements (looking a bit sad with buildings with full walls, but no roof, and grasses growing out of the floor). We did see a local game of futbol – apparently, on Sundays people from nearby villages converge on this one field in the middle, to spend the day socializing, trading news (all of these villages are only reacheable by foot) and of course play futbol.
Our day ended at the Oasys – a village at the bottom of the canyon with a natural spring nearby. Not hot, but definitely fresh source water. Every lodge has their own little swimming pool, filled with this water. At 22 degrees C, this would´ve been perfect during the day, but unfortunately we got there after the sun had set beyond the edge of the canyon. Incredibly refreshing, though, and putting on clean and soft clothes afterwards felt like pure heaven. The temperature at the bottom of the canyon is a lot more constant than on the plains, so it never got very cold in the evening. We spend the few hours until dinner sitting under palm trees, drinking warm beer, and chatting about this and that. Bliss!
Our overnight accommodations consistent of a cute little round mud hut, with a roof made of dried palm leaves, and two windows covered with sheets of plastic, set close to the river. Best sleep ever! The moon was incredibly bright, fully lighting up the opposite cliff face, so unfortunately we did not get to see as many stars at night as I had hoped.
The next morning involved a 3-hour hike back out of the canyon. The simple bread&egg&jam breakfast at the first village we hit was divine. The bus picked us up and drove us back along the canyon, stopping at a real hot springs. Despite my reservations (who wants to go into a hot spring on a hot day?), it was fantastic – more like warm bath water, and after getting out and drying off in the chilling breeze, getting back in was heaven. A great way to soothe the muscles no longer accustomed to 1000+m climbs.
I knitted on the drive back (the gloves are progressing nicely), while most of the people on the bus slept. We saw lots of herds of hundreds of heads of alpaca, but the road conditions (horrible) made it very difficult to snap a picture on the go – only about 1 shot out of every 3 turned out clear due to all the bumps. Even worse, the roads that had at one point been paved but had falled into disrepair were actually worse to drive on than the pure gravel roads. Odd. Even worse, I´ve had a hard time finding any alpaca yarn. Plenty of overpriced garments made of alpaca wool, but no raw wool yet. Hopefully in Bolivia?
Today was more of a relaxation day. We went to a grocery store and bought food for breakfasts and dinner. We booked our next few bus tickets, and planned out the rest of our trip a bit more carefully. Tomorrow we head up El Misti, then on to Puno (Lake Titicaca) and on to Bolivia. We need to end up in La Paz on the 24th for our flight back to Lima, and time is starting to get disappointingly short. For our first night in La Paz, I found in the book a hostel that comes with a microbrewery on premises. I should´ve just booked it without telling Dan, but I was too excited and had to tell him. He looked pretty happy about it too. Now I just have to email them to make sure they have space. Until the next 50-cent hour of internet!
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