Arequipa - Just watch those Condors fly

Trip Start Oct 06, 2008
Trip End Apr 03, 2009

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Hospedaje El Caminante Class

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

With Farmer gone, The Harry Bros Inc have been reduced to 2. After a lounge about hungover day in Cuzco, Kev and I do a tour of the Sacred Valley (area of multiple ruins around Cuzco belonging to the Inkaīs). We are suffering (I am anyway) from a little ruin-fatigue but I must say that the ruins at Ollantaytambo are impressive and worth a viewing. The highpoint of the day however is a buffet style lunch - a backpackers bleedinīdream. You would have to see the amount of grub that myself especially and Kev (not a big eater) put away to believe it. Necessary to take advantage of all these opportunities as they arise. Top scram - I think I had 3 or 4 different deserts alone. Needless to say, the second I am back on the bus Iīm snoring but thatīs a great sign in my book.
     That evening we take a night bus to Arequipa which is about an 8 hour journey. Its supposed to be a Cama Bus (bus with beds) - its not really, the seats just stretch back a bit but its still the best bus I have travelled on so far. Kevīs not too enamoured with it though. We land about 6 in the morning and beeline it to the hostal for a couple of more hours kip. The reason we are in Arequipa (South of Cuzco) is to go to the Canon Del Colca (second deepest canyon in the world - deepest is actually a stoneīs throw away from it but its not as ripe for easy touristing) and the spectacle of the condors flying over and in it. We book a tour in the morning and then have a look at what Arequipa has to offer. Itīs actually the prettiest town that I have seen so far. All the buildings (inner city) are made of a white sillar stone that is very impressive. The grandest of all is the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. We take a tour but have to cut it short as Kev is a little under the weather. He is after picking up a bug of some description and goes back to the hostel to sweat it out in the bed and in the toilet for the day. That leaves me to cruise around and enjoy the city - Iīm well impressed - especially the Plaza des Armes (Central Square) which is beautiful - and also pick up some supplies for the tour. We are off at 3.30am the following morning - now that time is something to look forward to.

Once we make the bus its pretty much straight back to sleep as it takes until 8.30 to make Cruz del Condor which is the Condor lookout point. Never seen a Condor before - have seen some big birds of prey in Ashford Castle in Mayo but they donīt compare for size or majesty to these suckers. They are the size of a pretty big car (or a car a damn sight bigger than my ex-Polo thatīs for sure). The way they can glide effortlessly on the wind is impressive - a real majestic bird - my crappy video clip (camera not good for this sort of thing) just doesnīt do them justice.
     After that pretty cool start, we head for breakie and a 3 day hike through the Canyon. Itīs interesting stuff partly because its so different to the trekking so far and partly because it is just darn impressive. Its hot, dry, dusty and there is alot of walking. We do have a elderly English couple with us and in fairness they are great company for the trek.
We start the trek from a small dead end town called Cabanaconde. Other than a couple of small hostels, a restaurant or two and a shop, there is little here. Itīs pretty easy to see why the young Peruvians all want to get their butts to Lima. All the people can do is to sit in the shade wishing the day away - largely no agriculture here and no industry. Seems like a tough place to live from the perspective of a tourist. It is kind of like much of the Andes that I have travelled through. Fantastic for the tourist to see and move on - bloody difficult to live in though and I can imagine as a young person you would only want to get out of there as soon as you possibly could - Kind of like Ahihole I think - had to throw in a slight there.
       From there we walk down into the canyon for about 5 hours or so to where we stay the first night. In a Bamboo cabin type thing. No electricity but it does have beds and a hot springs. So myself and Kev dump the bags, grab a warm beer (no electricity) and hit the hot springs. Itīs interesting to say the least. Not very clean (filthy really) but it is warm. The bathing alternative is a shower which I donīt even want to describe so we both jump into a decent sized bath which has natural warm water. Its a bit green and Kev comes up with a good description. A bit like Chinese Wanton soup - green and you are never really sure what is floating about in it. Aftre 20 mins though I must admit I leave actually quite relaxed and I at least look cleaner which is enough in my book.

The next day we walk down to a natural oasis in the canyon. This is kinda like the first place but a little bit swankier. No elctricity (but it has plenty water nearby to cool the beer somewhat). It also has a swimming pool and it pretty impressive. Itīs even clean and it is nice to be able to chill-ax in it after 5 hours of trekking in 30 degrees temps. The walking is great though - it is hot and dusty but the scenery is deadly. Night takes a turn for the worse though when just befire dinner when about 60 15 year olds come flying into the place. Its not that big so there are kids everywhere. Luckily for me though, Iīm pretty shattered after the trekking and am tucked into my bed for 8pm and wild horses wouldnīt wake me up. The others are light sleepers though and are not impressed.

We are all a little nervous about day 3 the next morning as we can see the challenge ahead - itīs a steep 1,000 metre hike up the side of the canyon back to the town of Cabanaconde and we are to be there for 10am to catch the bus back to Arequipa.  Therefore, to make sure we catch the bus, we agree to get up at 4.15am and it takes its toll on me. I feel like complete s**t being up so early. No bleedinī breakie either - not even a cup of tea. Its just straight off hiking. The first hour is very tough as my stomach is jumping through hoops but at least itīs nice and cool. Aftre that its fine and after tucking into a few dodgy Peruvian choccy bars, I feel top of the world and really enjoy the walking. Takes us about 3 1/2 hours and the views at the top are seriously impressive and make it all worthwile.

Back in Cabanaconde around 8.30 for breakie but its a major disappointment. We are all pretty hungry at this stage after treking uphill for 3 1/2 hours with no breakfast. All we get though is onne fried egg and two slices of toast. Iīm bloody starving leaving the place. But I am safe in the knowledge that there is a buffet lunch awaiting us in Chivay after another soak in a hot springs - that keeps me going (well that and the rest of the dodgy Peruvian choccy bars). Proper hot springs in Chivay this time but its very strange - its about 30 degrees and the water must be about 75 degrees or so. Thatīs a weird combination - much nicer to have one hot and one cold but beggars canīt be choosers and its still pretty refreshing.
       Then its grubtime - whohoo!!! Boy do we indulge ourselves. Must say that I actually felt a little sick on the bus back afterwards for about an hour due to completely pigging out. I do love the old buffets though.

Back in Arequipa, myself and Kev do some souvenir shopping and we hit the town for a couple of decent nights out. Not as big as Cuzco (Arequipaīs nightlife is a little more limited) but we certainly enjoy the local beers with a few obligatory cocktails (Anyone for a Mojito or a Machu Picchu - Yep they have a cocktail named after the place in Peru) and then its time to break up. Kev heads back to NYC and I move on to Lake Titicaca. Arequipa is a beautiful town - easily the prettiest in Peru and the Condors are certainly worth a look. All in all, a pretty good week. Now Iīm looking forward to Bolivia - Heard such great things about the place and its next on the list.
  Hasta Luego Amigos
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