Colca Canyon

Trip Start Aug 15, 2006
Trip End May 27, 2008

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

So much for me not being cultured. After the monastory I bumped into Emma's friends IŽd met in Cusco and who'd been on the Inka Trail and in the club. Didn't realise they were heading to the same town. They were off to a museum so i decided to join them as I was billy no mates anyway. Turned out they were off to one I'd ead about that sounded interesting. It is a display about frozen mummys they found in the mountains of South America, with the first discovered named Juanita. Basically, the Incas believed that the world was ruled by natural things like the sun, mountains etc. When these 'gods' got angry they would cause natural disasters like earthquakes. So the incas sacrificed children and buried them on top of mountains with gifts such as gold inca statures, pots with detailed designs on and sacrificied llamas in the town and burried statues of them as they were too heavy to carry them up the mountains. These children were picked at birth, basically if they were perfect and pretty and raised away from their family in case they needed some sacrifices. The Incas believed the children would live with the gods once sacrificed so the children were thought to be special and it was a privalige to be chosen. If a large disaster occurred they would sacrifice a lot of children. If nothing happened and the children grew too old they became nuns or high priests. the sacrifice involved them having a toxic drink to send them unconscious then they were hit on the head with somehting. The first mummy they found, who they named Juanita, could be seen in a class cabinet kept at -20 degrees C. It was really interesting I thought but shame you couldn't take pics of anything as it was all protected from light to preserve it.

I managed to re-book my trip but had to go with another company but worked out cheaper which was good. Anyway, the guys invited me out for dinner and they had Guinea pig but served the traditional way, fried flat with nothing removed so still had its head and little teeth. Looked gross and the meat didn't look as good as when I'd had it but that's what you get for going to a tourist restaurant.

Got picked up early for my 3 day trek into Colca Canyon and was disappointed to find I was only with 1 other person, much more fun in a bigger group and more people to talk to when you have time to kill. She was nice though, from ireland but living in Sydney for past 4 years. She went to Oz as part of a RTW trip and fell in love with the place and managed to get sponsored for full time employment (don't panic just yet mum and dada!). We had a long bus trip and then stopped at the top of the canyon in a town for lunch (Cabanaconde?). Everything was pre-organised and when they served lunch I saw a strange looking object that I thought was some kind of veg and stupidly I asked what it was-the chopped stomach of a cow (mmmmmmmm). I thought they were joking but sadly not. As it was the only protein on the plate I decided to give it a go but it was really rubbery like squid so I had to leave it. We then headed down into the canyon for about 4 hours and stopped the night at a place in the middle of nowhere in a little mudhut which was really cosy (apart from the big spiders). The following day we hiked down again and our guide explained a lot about the plants in the canyon-a cactus which gives juice to make tequila, aloe vera plant (which smelt gross and nothing like when you get it in the shops!), lots of herbs which are used for cooking and also in tea for stomach and headaches. She also showed us this nasty tree which if you break the twigs it contains sap which causes nasty blisters very quickly and if in the eye causes blindness. Apparrently if you put breastmilk in the eye, gradually the sight comes back - how did they discover that?? She also showed us plants which can give you a major high (Devil's box I think) but sounded pretty nasty as she said a group of Israelis tried it and it made them all eally sick!

We arrived at our accommodation (Oasis Paradiso) just before lunch so had all afternoon to chill in the natural springs and sit in the sun. We had an early night as we were up at 2.30 to hike out of the canyon but the owner was having a party (it was a saturday night) and must have invited his neighbours (all 3 or 4 of them) as they were drinking, singing and dancing in their hut. they invited us to join them which would have been a laugh if we weren't up so early. Sleeping was hard though as a couple in the hut nect to ours were talking really loud for ages.

We set off early with headtorches and the hike was much easier than expected as the altitude was 2200m to 3200m so I'm used to that now. We came across a lady selling tea and chocolates on the way up (it was about 4am and she must go there just to try and tempt the tourists). Looking back into the canyon we could see a bright orange light from oasis Paradiso which looked like a fire had started. Maybe a candle got knocked over as there's no electric in the canyon and they had been drinking. Apparently the owner left a candle going last year and the kitchen burnt down so it would be suprising if the same had happened. I just hoped the couple next to us had woken up!

We caught up with another group on the way up, some students from Oxford who've just finished their 1st year. Must be loaded to spend 8 weeks in South America! At the top we got breakfast then got the bus to the Condor viewpoint around 8am. We only saw about 4 or 5 condors but tye were pretty big. They didn't fly close enough for a really good piuc and it was hard to capture them when they are flying past you. I would have liked more time there but we had to go and headed to the hot spings in Chivay which were nice but we only had 20 mins there.

Back in Arequipa I booked my ticket to Bolivia for the mornng and headed out for some light tea. I decided to treat myself and had lemon merangue pie and a coffee on the plaza so paid tourist price (a whopping 1 pound). Those who know me will understand that I was weary that I would be dissapointed with my pie but it topped the charts and was the best ever. Really chewy merrange, mmmmm. The girl didn't have the correct change so knocked off 50 centimes which is nothing but it was nice not to be ripped off for once. The perfect end to Peru I thought........
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