We had another night bus to the city of Arequipa and found our hostel that was a bit grubby but the owner was really nice and the kitchen was clean so we made our own food for most meals. Our first two days here we spent exploring the city and then booked our trip to the Colca Canyon. When we actually decided on the company to book I was waiting for the lady to fill out the receipt as James popped outside to get some fresh air, or so I thought. About 30 seconds later he stumbled through the door looking very pale and two concerned Peruvians kept exclaiming, he fell down, he fell down. James had passed out just outside! After a sit down and a drink he felt better and decided we should continue with the trip. I think he got ill because of the excitement of seeing the condors or the hard core trek we were about to embark on!
Our main aim of the trek to Colca Canyon was the hope of sighting a Condor. We were up at 2:30am to get picked up by the mini bus at 3. It was a 3 hour journey to the town of Chivay where we had breakfast and then took the mini bus another hour to the Cruz de Condors. When we got there we couldn't believe our eyes. There were Condors everywhere and soaring really close to the mountains. We had hoped to see them from a distance and never expected to see them so close, it was brilliant. After 40 minutes in admiration of the birds we went another 40 minutes down the mountain road to our drop off point.
We knew that the trek that we were on was pretty hard core but found out on the mini bus that we are actually doing a three day trip but cramming into two days-we are crazy! There were just four of us in our little hard core group, the other two were called Matilda (French) and Laurence (Italian) a really nice couple who lived in Switzerland. The walk was all downhill for the morning stint but there were loose rocks and steep declines so it was hard work for the duration. Obviously when we stopped to take a moment the views were great and conversation was flowing so the 3 hours seem to fly by. Our youthful guide kept saying how quick we were and it normally takes 5 hours to complete the first section. Feeling proud and hungry we wolfed down soup and lomo saltado at our lunch stop and then continued uphill for most of the afternoon. I got a bit of déjà-vu when Hans, our guide, stopped us after 30 minutes of walking uphill and said 'this is where the uphill section starts'. I exclaimed 'We have been walking uphill for the past 30 minutes' Hans 'that was Inca flat, this is uphill!' Bring back lying Eddie! The uphill took about 20 minutes; it was so steep and in the direct sunlight. I was so pleased to get to the top to see James ready with some water and a smile, he had already recovered. The last leg of the journey was downhill again with a finishing line of more 'Inca flat'. Hans kept letting us all go ahead and then appearing from nowhere, he had found lots of shortcuts after only a week of working as a guide. None of liked this so we ended up following him down the 'shortcuts'. They were much steeper and had more obstacles to climb compared with the main path so it probably took us much longer. However, it was more exciting Hans's way. We saw some more spectacular scenery and eventually made it to the oasis where we would spend the night. Our room was more like a poorly built shed; the wood barely touched each other. This gave us a natural fan system and a lot of bugs. There was no electricity in our room so when the sun went down the bugs weren't that interested in our room, thankfully. We had a quick dip in the freezing cold pool and played a fun card game with Matilda and Laurence. Dinner was served and then we headed off to bed ready for a 5:00am start. The next morning we knew the hardest section was saved until last. Hans told us it takes about 4 hours to complete it and it is all uphill. We all set off together but we soon spread out. There wasn't enough energy in any of us to walk and talk. I enjoyed the walk and was pleased that it was all in the shade; it made it much more bearable. James and I got to the top in just over 2 ½ hours so the relentless plodding and few breaks meant we made good time. We had another short walk to the next village to have breakfast. Hans promised us a better breakfast then yesterday. We had visions of eggs and sausage, but it turned out to be exactly the same as the day before!
On our bus ride back to Arequipa we had time to see the condors one last time and then stopped at a few villages and scenic moments along the way. We had a very good buffet lunch at Chivay and said au revoir to Matilda and Laurence. We got back to Arequipa a bit stiff and very tired but with high spirits after a great two days!
It was our full last day in Peru so we planned to have a good meal out in the evening and after more wandering around the town decided on a short bus tour of the surrounding area. We haggled down the price and saw some good sight that lye just outside the city centre. We only wanted the short bus tour and in the middle of nowhere the conductor came over to us and said we had to get off and needed to catch a taxi to get back! James thought quickly and said 'we weren't told this' (which was true) 'and therefore we don't have any money with us' (which was not true). The conductor was very nice and paid for our taxi back. It was a good tour but they probably shouldn't offer the shorter option if they drop you miles from the city, it was very bizarre.
In the evening we had planned to go to a popular Peruvian restaurant. It turned out that so did everyone else that night so we had to find somewhere else. We didn't have to walk far and found a great restaurant that served Peruvian cuisine and international food with a Peruvian twist. James chose Cuy again but this time it came with the head. I couldn't look at it and was secretly pleased that there wasn't much meat on it, serves him right! I had alpaca steak in a garlic and rosemary sauce served with creamy quinoa risotto; it was delicious and James helped me finish it, I had too much meat! James chose the local beer and I had a another pisco sour but flavoured with Maracuya (similar to passion fruit) it was really tasty.
Today we are getting a 6 hour bus to the border and heading to a surfing town in Chile called Arica. We are both sad to be leaving Peru, it is such a great country with some of the best food we've had in South America and friendly people. We would love to come back to drink more Inca Kola, maybe do some of the North and of course visit Machu Picchu and Cusco again! It was great to share a short part of this journey with M&D and we are looking forward to more family/friends visits in the future. Come and join us!