After an early wake up and a continental breakfast on the sun terrace (yes, there was sun and breakfast was included!) we hopped on the bus to the Colca Canyon, the world´s second deepest Canyon. En route "Pilar", our tour guide (absolute legend!) gave us the most informative commentary EVER. She knows EVERYTHING about Peru! There were several stops on the way including vast fields covered in stone fencing which she explained locals had claimed as their own as Peruvian law states that if someone remains in a place 48 hours without being evicted, they then own the land (if only that was the case at home!) The fences merely serve as markers where they will build their shacks forming a township in years to come.
Next stop was the "backsides" of three volcanoes: Misti, Pichu Pichu and Chichani. Two of these are still active and because the area is prone to earthquakes they could erupt at any time. What with our newly formed love of nature, the llamas, alpacas and vicuñas (all sheep-like, camel-like, giraffe-like creatures) created a perfect picture beneath the overpowering volcanoes. Whilst Laura happily snapped away, Emma decided it would be a sensible idea to pick up a stray llama and pose with it for photos before attempting to kidnap it!
Finally arriving in Chivay, a small shi**y village we were offered a huge buffet lunch where Emma, with her new love of animals, ate an alpaca! (Don´t worry, we ensured it was kosher!) After stuffing our faces with Peruvian grub we arrived at our hotel, equipped with hammocks and overlooking the amazing scenery along with a pet llama! Gail will to be happy to hear that our room had a vaulted ceiling so Emma felt quite at home, especially with the temperature of 110.C!
The Colca Canyon was our first step in acclimatising to the 4200m altitude of the Inca Trail peak so to adjust to the newly-thin air, we went on a two-hour hike through pre-Inca ruins. The first hour was uphill and we were amazed how quickly we became breathless (although Laura is impressed with her new-found fitness!) This hike was no English walk in the park as we had little Peruvian children running alongside us asking us to pose with them for photographs on their donkey as well as wild boars crossing our path! Making it to the highest point of 3900m for the day we were both catching our breath and enjoying the scenery until our guide pointed out we were standing in a Pre-Incan cemetery on top of a burial tower, pointing to the ground which exposed several skulls at our feet!
In a bid to relieve our aching muscles, we found ourselves headed for the hot volcanic springs (which turned out to be an outdoor lukewarm bath with lots of people in!) Stripping down to our bikinis, Emma dashed for the warm shower to avoid the outdoor temperature. Unfortunately, in her hurry, she found herself face to face with a naked man, which made her move much faster into the pool! Laura on the other hand felt she could handle going straight into the pool and not realising a group of American men were sitting by the entrance steps, she felt it necessary to announce, "I´m so cold, I think I have lost my nipples!"
Starving after our strenuous day we enjoyed dinner accompanied by Peruvian music and entertainment which got slightly raunchy when the fertility dance began! Heading back to the hotel, Laura practicing her broken spanish accidently asked the coach driver to "Close your arse" rather than "close the door!" Suffice to say, he was not particularly amused but everyone giggled when back at the hotel a llama was sitting in the porch, blocking the only entrance and when our guide attempted to remove it in an act of bravery, she sprinted away screaming after it spat in her face in front of everyone!
This morning we had our earliest wake up so far - 5am to catch a coach to the Cruz del Condor, a viewpoint where keeno birdwatchers can cherish the sight of condors (huge eagle birds with a 3m wingspan) leaving their nest and gliding gracefully through the air over the canyon. Dressed as though we were about to hit the ski slopes we sat impatiently waiting for the birds who clearly chose to lie in this morning!
Walking for another hour in order to adjust to the altitude we all thought it was lunchtime at 11am forgetting how long we had already been up for. Passing through a small village consisting of a church (surprise, surprise) and a street with a man holding an eagle, we posed with the giant bird before our 3 hour coach ride back to Arequipa where we watched an awful film, "The Heartbreak Kid" until arriving back famished and craving some Western food. Having returned to our favourite little brasserie (the only western restaurant we have found) we are now sat with bulging bellies, using the free internet above the restaurant.
Slowly we are noticing a pattern with our wake-up times: they appear to be getting earlier. Tomorrow is 4.30am in order to catch our flight to Cuzco, as the Inca Trail approaches... oh dear!