The four hundred and seventy one kilometre journey to Arequipa took us ten hours by bus and we arrived as the sun was rising at 5.30am. The bus was fine, watched snatch and fell asleep I did wish that Peru hop would arrive at places later so you had chance of a bit more kip but luckily the hostel we were staying at was able to check us in straight away so we could nod off some more. The hostel we were staying at was The Wild Rover. The Wild Rover had a particular reputation as being quite the party hostel especially in La Paz, Bolivia so staying there would be quite entertaining. My morning was tinged with a bit of regret that I did not have anyone's details that I had made friends with at Loki hostel in Cusco, Peru. There was the Northampton chick, three Tassie birds, Ricky and his scouse missus, the endless amounts of Australian Jonny's we had met, Emma and Tim, The cute Canadian behind the bar, the bird from New York. Yeah I had a Dutch girl's number but this was not legible the next morning. I had had a nightmare as they were all people I would have potentially liked to see again.
It was no good mopping about friends lost though, if I was meant to see them again I would. I had a fun time to enjoy in Arequipa so after a nap and the standard bread and jam free breakfast hostels offer Earl and myself took ourselves on the walking tour of Arequipa. Now I don't know if it was just the annoying guide or the fact that all that he semt to be telling us about Arequipa was that the buildings were made of White Volcanic Stone but the tour failed to captivate me. Not even the lama and alpaca farm and knowing the difference between them interested me, nor did the sight of the three distant volcanos' which surrounded the city. It wasn't until well into the second part of the tour where we got to try some tasters things got interesting for me. We tried a potato with chilli beef topping - it tasted just like jacket potato with chilli. We went to a chocolate factory like the one we went to see in Cusco to try chocolate and chocolate tea but it was nowhere near as good as the similar establishment in Cusco. Then we went to a restaurant / bar called Deja Vu where we I got to try Peruvian Chicha for the first time, chicken with a hot sauce dipping and a standard Pisco Sour. What was also a nice touch in the restaurant at the end was they did a raffle and whoever picked the ticket out with winner on, won a meal and drink from the bar. A police detective from Reading won, but he had just ate lunch was Earl; the scavenger which he is was quick to accept the offer of a free meal. While he ate, I made my way back to the hostel where I caught the end of the Bayern Munich vs Manchester City champions league game where Jerome Boateng struck a late winner and watched the highlights of the other games as I drank a beer and munched on a Mexican Burger. My plan after the that was to sort my bag out for the Canyon tour we were going on the next day and try and find my iPod which I had seemed to have misplaced, luckily it turned up in one of the side pockets of my rucksack so the panic was averted.
The nights entertainment at Wild Rover was a pub quiz in aid of a Peruvian charity called HOOP. We teamed up with Rich the Reading police detective, an Irish guy called Cormack and three American English teachers joined us later on, Danielle, Joy and Nadia. We also had another American Guy on our team but he was hopeless and basically our mascot. Despite the horrendous categories of Geography, History, Art, General Knowledge and Science and Nature are team come a respectful second only two points off the winners. If only there was a sport category, film or music I think we would have won the prize of a round of beers for the winning team. Also at the quiz was our old mate who we trekked up Macchu Picchu with Jono. We said our hello's and this team I made sure to add him on Facebook. After the quiz everyone decided to go to a popular dinking establishment called Circus, everyone apart from Earl and me who took ourselves to bed as we had to be for the Cocoa Canyon tour the next day.
The next day we started on the biggest sham of a tour we have ever been on. We woke up at 7.30am in preparation to be picked up at 8.00am. Unfortunately thought there was some sot f mishap and they forgot to pick us up. Instead we got loaded into a taxi at 10.15am (at least this gave us chance to have the free bread and jam breakfast) to be taking to a public bus station where we were bundled onto a cramped and uncomfortable mini-bus which would take us three to four hours to get to the town of Chivy. Once we arrived in Chivy each with an uncomfortable neck after a torrid sleep. We were summoned to another mini-bus where we were took to a restaurant where we met up with another group and had lunch, ours was complimentary because of the hassle we had been through and to be fair the all you can eat buffet lunch wasn't that bad. As we got on the bus our guide for the afternoon Peter gave us two options an extreme adventure or sweet dreams, before we had chance to answer he realised he had forgotten to pick up an English girl. A pretty girl called Suzanne, who was a doctor and semt to love the colour purple. Once we had her we found out the extreme version was a simple trek and visit to the hot springs and sweet dreams was to go back to the hotel. Of course we picked the "extreme version" the trek took is to see some of the landscape of the colca canyon region and find about tombs and various other things. The walk was about as extreme as walking to the corner shop. I at least expected a zip wire somewhere along the way but know the most adventure we had was crossing a fairly stable concrete bridge. The next stop on tour was the hot springs, we didn't hold much hope for these as in our advice document given us to from Peru Hop they said the baths at Aguas Caliantes were far superior and we were disappointed by them. So it was a nice surprise that these hot springs were awesome. They seemed far more natural on the side of a hill, with rock basins rather than the generic swimming pool tile Aguas Caliantes offered. They were also much cleaner and warmer. It was also interesting to see a girl in a bikin and hiking boots and to be fair to Suze she pulled it off very well. All in all I think Peru Hop is wrong when they claim the ones at Aguas Caliantes are better and I recommend these much more. That was the end of the activities for the day as we were dropped off at our hostel. The room was decent with private bathroom facilities and two sizable double beds but the one thing it lacked, especially in this modern age was Wi-Fi, but I was sure we could cope for just a night. It also lacked a communal area and breakfast amenities.
We spruced ourselves up we popped down too Suzanne's hostel, we were getting picked up to go to a restaurant for dinner and to see a Peruvian dance show. Once we were there though we though the food was kinda pricey so we scampered out without tour guide Pete noticing. We didn't have to walk too far before we found something much cheaper. A three course meal for the ridiculous price of 6 Solas, I'm still not quite sure how they make money on it, but that's not for me to worry about. The three courses consisted of the regular chicken soup which is found in 110% of the restaurants in Peru. If they do not have the Caldo de galinha then you have probably stepped into another country or our not in a restaurant at all. The main course consisted of rice, and a steak in a sauce. The thing with these Peruvian menus is that the courses fly out of the blocks. I consider myself a pretty fast eater but the dessert was out and I wasn't even half finished my main. The dessert was some kind of yellow jelly, a tad more liquid than the usually jelly that I am use to but it was pleasant. And of course we washed this down with a beer. With our bellies full, we decided to have a stroll around the main square to see if we could find a happy hour. We didn't succeed in finding an happy hour but we did find a group of old men dancing and singing away and also an Irish bar with a free pool table. The Irish bar was nice enough, is was littered with graffiti on the walls from previous clientele, some was just plain and ridiculously weird like someone writing Animal hospital and some were just names such as Keri and Callum who became a feature of the night in trying to put someone off their pool shot. Pool was good fun after a few games of 2-1, Earl invented a new game where it would be three way and we all have five balls each. For example if you potted number three first then your numbers would be one to five. I'd like to say I dominated the pool table that night, perhaps showing off a bit because of the number of cubre libre I was drinking and with there being an attractive girl in presence. Suze herself was not the best player in the world. Infact there is now 'The Suze shot' named after her where the ball completes misses everything and as she puts it does a 'skip' despite our best efforts to sort out her technique and improve we didn't get very far, I blame it solely on her being left handed rather than our coaching skills which if anything are second to none. We called it a night as we were up early for the second part of our tour the next day, so I walked Suze home via a trip to the local children's park where we both got stuck going down a slide. Then as Suze was trying to get into her hostel we were viciously molested by a herd of dogs. She may tell an alternative story where I apparently flap screaming I haven't had a rabies jab but the truth is I was heroic, fending the dogs off whilst she was flapping about trying to get the key in the door. Eventually she was saved by an old woman who let her into the hostel but who rudely slammed the door straight in my face literally feeding me to the dogs. Once again though I was a hero and evaded the attack of the twenty pack clang, ok there was only two, but they were vicious and I was heroic none the less and re-joined Earl at the safe sanctuary of our hostel.
It took all my best efforts the next morning to wake up for our 6 to 6.30am pick up. And as you can imagine I wasn't best pleased when we weren't picked up at that time. To add to the rest of the bodged up tour we were now put with another group. Which I wouldn't have minded but this group was just doing a day tour we had signed up for a two day one night tour. We were getting passed from pillar to post and I feel not getting the most out of the tour. The group appeared around 6.45am and then to make matters worse stopped off at our hostel for breakfast, which Earl and I had already had. I could have had at least another half hour in bed, maybe an hour. In my half hungover and weary state I was not best pleased and that perhaps set the tone for my feelings on the rest of the tour. However, I did find our first proper stop quite impressive. We made our way into the Colca Canyon to a viewing point where we had a view of the impressive Condor birds gliding through the canyon. I think every tour group started their on that morning making it reasonably crammed with tourists which wasn't ideal but on a positive note it did mean we were re acquainted with Suze for the bird viewing and she could see that I was not viciously assaulted by the dogs and was still alive and well. After the condors things went down-hill we did a short walk to a viewing point, and visited a village which was basically just a street of stalls trying to sell the usual lama jumpers, pants and souvenirs to the tourists. A few more viewing points later and we were back in the town of Chivvy for lunch. Deciding to skip on the 28 soles buffet on offer from the tour guide we decided to make our way to the square get some cheaper lunch and sponge some Wi-Fi sat outside of the Irish bar. The group were to do the hot springs that afternoon, but we had done them the previous day so decided to stay in the town. It was another reason to add to the ever growing list of why not to do the tour. To be fair the only good thing about the tour besides the Condors was meeting Suze and our self-made night out. By the time the bus was on its way back to Arequipa Earl and I were well and truly fed-up and just wanted to be back in Arequipa, even when the bus stopped for at the highest point of 4900 meters above sea level and for the Vicuna's we were not interested and just wanted to be back in Arequipa. It's safe to say the tour was one of the shoddiest run tour I've been on and the content wasn't much better. I recommend anybody to do the trek instead. Thank god we had the ability to make our own fun.
Eventually we were back at the Wild rover and were re-united Generous Police Detective Rich and Christina who was on our Peru Hop trip. She didn't help matters when she told us how good the trek in the Colca Canyon trip was although she did say it was very tough and her calves were pretty much in pieces, so I suppose we had a small victory there. As it was our last night I wanted to have a few drinks, maybe it wasn't the most ideal choice as our bus pick-up was at 5.30am the next day but you know YOLO and all that. I invited Suze up to the hostel and very gentlemanly like went down to pick her up and walked her to the hostel. To be fair my gent like actions might have been a tad different if I had knew how blooming far away her hostel was. The night was fairly chilled despite it being fancy dress night, only Earl donned a costume given to him from behind the bar. It's a hard garment to describe but he looked like he was a leader of a mass cult. There was a deal struck between Christina and Earl that if she stole / borrowed the costume from the hostel then he would have to wear that and nothing else for the entirety of the next day. Other than that it was just full of good chat and banter, Rich was being his normal generous self buying drinks and I was being my normal humorous and witty self hoping to impress the good looking doctor next to me. I walked Suzie home after the night was done and once again the dark gloom lifted over my head of saying goodbye to another top quality person not knowing realistically if I would ever see them again. After two years and seven months on the road you'd think that these sorts of things you acclimatise too, but if anything it gets more difficult. You never know though it's a small world and I'd like to think of myself as an optimistic person so seeing everyone I've met on my travels is not beyond the realms of possibility. It was something for me left to ponder as I drunkenly stumbled home for a short sleep before we were off on our travels again.
So until next time stay safe and take care