One of My New Favorites

Trip Start Sep 07, 2011
Trip End Dec 22, 2011

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Flag of Peru  , Arequipa,
Saturday, October 29, 2011

Is there some sort of movement in Germany churning out pseudophilosophers who backpack the world sharing their strange ideas?   I've met my third such clown, and I must admit their abstract musings read straight from tattered notebooks is becoming a bit laborious.   The latest is a guy from Hamburg who admits he is a modern day Socrates.   At 3AM while waiting for the Colca Canyon van in the hostel courtyard, he decided to inform us that in order to live in the present we must take the past and put it in the future.   If anyone out there understands what the hell that means, let us know.   Maybe that gate agent in Lima was correct...I did become retarded, I'm sorry mentally disabled, on that delayed flight to Arequipa for my brain can't make heads or tails out of what he means.

He rightfully sensed we weren't so receptive to his message so of course he switched to a different medium.   What better way to irritate your fellow travelers at 3:10AM than by firing up a flute.   Had I not seen him playing, I would have just assumed this was some three year old experimenting with a musical instrument he randomly picked up. 

Once we began to mumble some complaints, he dismissively informed us those who don't appreciate music in the middle of the night are "simple minded."    A guy from Long Island dropped a few f bombs and told Socrates he was going to break the flute in half inside a certain orifice that rhymes with grass.  Am I wrong in just wanting my simple mind to be left alone at 3am after just two hours worth of sleep?
Ah, peace and quiet finally arrived when the van picked us up thirty minutes late for the five hour drive.   This is Latin America after all where sometimes the hands on a clock just seem to be one long and one short decorative sticks.  I wasn't worried or upset about our untimely departure like some of the others, especially the German who was just beside himself that 3AM doesn't mean 3AM in Peru.  I had fatih our ride would roll up when the time was right.  Part of being in another country is just slowing down, sampling their way of doing things and rolling with it.  This is their backyard.  And best of all the Inca Gods showed mercy on me and my two Polish cabin crew friends as Socrates was on a different two day hike and we had signed up for the three day version

Imagine you are in this van with your other so called simple minded friends, the driver is chewing coca leaves to cope with the altitude as he whips the vehicle around hairpin turns with sheer cliffs off one side, Socrates is just dying to share some more wisdom, and you are using your strength from two hours of sleep to press your feet into the floor to keep your balance.  Five hours of this you think, but the trip is going to pay off.  Sometimes the best things in life require effort and that bill has come due with a vengeance at this early hour.  At some point we reached the highest hairpin curve on this particular highway, but the black of night hid any view of what 15,000 feet up looks like in the Peruvian outback.  On the way back down we will make a stop here on this treeless plain for some pictures, and I am excited for that.  

A quick 8:30AM visit along with the rest of humanity at Cruz del Condor was our warmup for the 13,650' deep Colca Canyon.  This vantage point along the south rim is the prime spot to hopefully spot a condor riding the thermals up from the canyon floor.  Most people choose the daytrip from Arequipa which includes 10 hours roundtrip on mostly bad roads just to see this hole in the ground from the top near the condor site.   Sitting on the rim doesn't do the scenery and sheer size of the place justice and these daytrippers will never get to the know the canyon from the inside.  With only one condor sighting under our belt, we moved on about half a mile down the road to begin our journey over a mile deep into Mother Earth.   

Our 4 hour descent along three and half miles of steep, dusty, rocky absolutely beautiful switchbacks took us so far away from civilization that we realized how small we really are in the grand scheme of nature.  What may be pure hell on the feet sure is pure pleasure for the eyes and we just couldn't believe something so incredible can exist.   Cactus, rocks and scrub line the winding path, but far, far below we could see green and this would eventually be our final stop for the day around lunchtime in the tiny settlement of San Juan del Chuccho.   These adobe brick villages along the canyon floor are accessible only by foot and any supplies must be brought in by mule or horse.  How is that for remote?

A trip to such an amazing place wouldn't be complete without another first for me...alpaca meat.   Normally I steer away from the cute and fuzzy category when selecting my meal choices, but hunger and being nine hours removed from the closest Pizza Hut combine to overtake any sense of pickiness.   And no, it does not taste like chicken.   With my stomach full of an animal that at some point was just peacefully minding its own business near Colca Canyon, I took a nap in a tree filled oasis above the Colca River with a view of canyon walls rising thousands of feet above me.  I got to thinking about how the people on the two day hike were moving on to another village 4 hours down the river.   I came here to relax, not push myself physically.  How perfect is it to have an afternoon of lounging, and best of all no flutes and crackpot philosophy!  

Colca Canyon is one of the most spectacular wonders I have seen and my own two feet are bringing me up close and personal to some of the most unique, remote, and impressive landscapes I have seen.   Peru may not get you there on time, but when you do arrive expect to be blown away!

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