Trekking Tarvits Deep In The Canyon

Trip Start Mar 18, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

We were impressed with Arequipa as soon as we arrived. It was Sunday morning and the Plaza de Armas (there is one in every South American town) was packed with families, pigeons and a good vibe. The plaza is surrounded by a beautiful cathedral and white stone cloisters full of markets and restaurants. The architecture of the city is heavily influenced by the Spanish.

Our first stop was Santa Catalina monastery which is spread over five acres in the middle of the city and is surrounded by a huge wall. It is a city within the city and was off-limits to the public for 400 years until 1970. We spent a few hours wandering the maze of alleys, colourful courtyards and rooms previously occupied by nuns, whose slightly morbid portraits are displayed on many of the walls.

We also visited a museum containing the frozen body of Juanita, a young Inca girl sacrificed to the gods on top of Mt Ampato approximately 550 years ago. It is an amazing story. The frozen girl was discovered in 1995 by climbers ascending the 6,000m+ peak, where her body had been preserved in an ice cave, which scientists believe was created during a nearby volcanic eruption. Juanita has been studied extensively in both Peru and USA to reveal a great deal about her age (around 12), mixed heritage, diet and her death by fatal blow to the face as part of the sacrifice to the gods, after being made to drink a potent cocktail which numbs against pain and the freezing temperatures. The body is displayed inside a glass case, with the temperature maintained at -20 Celcius. Juanita`s shiny hair looks in better condition than ours!

Colca Canyon is considered to be the deepest canyon in the world and we were determined to find out just how deep it goes. On a three day hike from Cashapampa, about five hours from Arequipa, we descended into the canyon to spend a few nights with local families. The scenery was spectacular, particularly in the lower sections of the canyon where the rock walls seem to stretch forever into the sky. We walked about four hours a day - much more palatable than our previous trek - and had a chance to visit different communities along the way, sampling local fruits and `chicha` which is a fermented corn drink known as the `cerveza of the Incas`. We still prefer a cold Corona.

On the second afternoon we arrived at an oasis with swimming pools and green grass, tucked into the side of the rock walls. We got to spend the afternoon and evening lazing about with a few beers and contemplating our early wake up call the next morning. Of course if you hike to the bottom of the canyon, you also have to hike out, carrying your gear on your back. Given the hot daytime temperature once the sun hits the canyon, our guide explained that we would have to get up at 2am to start the trek out. Shame about that.

Guided by torchlight and a full sky of stars, we rugged up against the cold and spent a few hours putting one foot in front of the other until we reached the top. Watching the sun come up over the canyon was almost worth the effort! After a good feed and a few coffees to warm up, we bussed it further along the rim of the canyon to watch the huge Andean condors flying around and then soaked our weary muscles in the local hot springs.

The Colca Canyon trek was a very different one to our previous trek in the Cordillera Blanca. Having the time to meet the locals and see their way of life gave us an appreciation for how tough some people do it over here. Each village grows fruit and veg in terraces on the canyon walls and barters with other villages to sustain their needs. Other basics require a trip to Cashapampa, which means a hike out of the canyon every time you need toilet rolls or a new chicken or donkey. The traditional dress of the locals includes finely embroidered hats and vests, which differ from other cultures as the communities in the canyon pre-date the Incas, who never took up residence in the dusty depths. Unique people living in a truly unique location.

We are pumped for our next stop - Cusco - and the opportunity to see a range of Inca ruins, including Machu Picchu. Until then.....
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leisa11 on

Hi from the O'Briens
Fantastic guys. We are just loving your trip (our surrogate trip!)Thanks so much for the incredible updates. Sorry I haven't responded to the last few. Bit crazy here at times with deadlines and other things going on. I'm doing alot of Art workshops up at the Gallery these days...not making much money but my soul is LOVIN it - but of course there's real work waiting at home !! Josh is growing up too quickly..even we can see that. He asked me on Wednesday what God looked likeand when he gets really old and dies will he go to God and after he dies, will he ever live again ???##*??? I was STUNNED to think he asked about these things and I enquired if they'd been talking about God at Kindy but he said'No Mum, I've just been wondering about it!' UNBELIEVABLE I thought most 4 yr olds thought about colouring in. He continues to crack us up on a daily basis. We caught up with the guys at Lu's Birthday get-together and even though it was great to see everyone, it made us aware of how much we all are missing you two !!!! Sharon looks fantastic, by the way. There have been a few 'Murrin waves' out the front which I've taken advantage of..unfortunately there's alot of bait fish around as well. I have to learn how to put some pictures of Josh up but that will have to wait. So great to hear from you and we send our thanks, love and big hugs XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

roannelegge on

Hello you 2
Hi! Your travel pod is making me nostalgic...I wanna come baaaack!!!! Working life is completely crap! Enjoy Cusco....go to The Real McCoy pub and to Jack's cafe if you want a break from guinea pig for dinner! (bet you are eating that all the time of course....)Roanne xx

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