A canyon with no sole

Trip Start Oct 01, 2012
Trip End Oct 01, 2015

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Flag of Peru  , Arequipa,
Thursday, October 11, 2012

Well 2.30am is not a time either of us have had to set an alarm for before let alone to begin a 2 day hike into the worlds second deepest canyon. We climbed into our minibus and settled in for the 4hour journey to chivay - the town on the edge of the canyon where we had breakfast. After being thrown around for the past 4 hours in the back of the minibus and having climbed a further 1000mtrs I (sarah) wasn't really feeling like eating breakfast- tai managed to eat enough for us both though. The place we stopped was really picturesque and we were both really excited to get to the cruz del condor, the look out point where condors fly over the canyon in the early hours of the morning. A condors wing span can reach 3.5 meters and the birds themselves can weigh up to 10kg!
As soon as we arrived we spotted one circling above, and then another perched on an edge of the canyon about 50mtrs from us. We were excited to see more, hopefully closer. Half an hour passed and unfortunately we saw no more condors. The canyon itself though was incredible it stretched as far as our eyes could see and was so deep we couldn't even see the bottom! We jumped back onto the bus and headed to our starting point for our hike - today would be around 8hours. Our guide- Omar - explained a little about the canyon, where we would be walking and how the villages within the canyon survive. There are obviously no roads and so the only way for them to reach shops, hospitals or schools is to embark on a gruelling hike out of the canyon to the nearby town, as the mules were generally used for carrying the heavy goods this left the villagers no other option than to go on foot. An hour or so into the hike I realised just how strenuous a life this must be.
We set off down a gravel zig zagged path, which was very steep and slippery. The sun was beating down on us and it was only 10am! Within half an hour my awesome £6 eBay hiking boots broke, both the soles came off, I'd like to say it was the heat but I think it was probably that they were rubbish! There was now 2 options climb back out of the canyon the way we came and head back to Arequipa or carry on with sole less shoes and see the canyon - something we had both been so looking forward to. There was only one option to carry on and so for the next 2 days I hiked sole less for around 11 hours with only a slight bit of moaning along the way ;-)
The canyon was incredible it was like nothing we had ever seen before with dramatic rock formations on either side, waterfalls falling into a stream which ran through the bottom of the canyon below us and lots of trees and cactuses growing in the most precarious positions on the canyon walls. After a few slips, trips and falls on the way down we made it to the bottom an hour or so before lunch, our guide was going at a very quick pace and we were all glad of a small rest before we began a 30 minute climb back up to our lunch spot. The morning had been very tough and I was starting to worry about the inca trail we had booked in a week and a halfs time. We were all eager to continue on with the days hiking knowing there was a swimming pool waiting for us at our final destination for the day. The afternoons hiking was tough again, we passed little villages, mules and locals carrying goods, churches, huge cactus fields and stunning waterfalls, we passed areas where there had been landslides and the path was no longer accessible and so we had to walk one foot wide across these areas one by one, we crossed bridges which were incredibly wobbly and streams and finally made it to the bottom of a huge canyon wall. Omar pointed out a little hut way up and said that was about half way!! We began our ascent, the altitude was getting to us all and we were all out of breath. It took us about 45 minutes and we made it to the top where luckily - and I'm sure not planned at all - there was a guy selling water. From this point we still had another hour or so to go until we reached our hostel. Tired and aching we trudged on arriving finally at around 6pm that night, the sun was beginning to set and it was becoming too cold for a swim so we had ice cold showers and headed to the bar for a warm beer and a delicious dinner which to my (sarah) delight was pasta! Yay! My sole less shoes now had holes in them but we only had 3 hours of hiking to do the following day and I definitely wasn't going to wimp out and hire a mule to carry me up there. We all devoured our food and headed to bed ready for another early start of 4.30 the following morning. Omar had told us at dinner if we didn't make it out of the canyon by 9am then he was leaving without us. So 4.30 am came and we were all ready to get going - from where we were standing the height we were having to climb that morning seemed incomprehensible. With omars words of encouragement the night before we all knew we had to get going fast and so off we went with aching legs and me (Sarah) with sole less shoes. The climb was relentless, when we felt we had been climbing for ages we were told we were not even quarter of the way yet, every time we felt we were making progress we reached a ridge and the canyon wall towered above us once more. At parts the steps were so big they were taller than my knees and required a helpful push to make it up our legs wobbling from the hiking over the past 24hours. Mules carrying goods past us, locals showed us what they were made of by running past us all all the while we were having to stop every 20 minutes for more water and to catch our breath. Some people gave up and jumped onto passing mules to carry them the last few meters but we carried on and by 8am we made it - over 1000m from where we started this morning. Tired and hungry we all collapsed on the floor mustering up just enough energy for a cheering group photo. From the top we couldn't even see where we had begun this morning, neither of us realised quite how tough hiking the worlds 2nd biggest canyon would be but we'd done it. A short walk to a typical Peruvian village followed where scrambled eggs on toast and a very cute puppy (not to eat) was waiting for us. Ready to head back to the hostel we were all apprehensive when we were told there would be a number of stops at local villages, hot springs and look out points along the way , we were however pleasantly surprised, we stopped at the highest point of the canyon which was higher than where we would be hiking machu pichu in a few days time, a little village where we tried some of the local pisco sour made with cactus fruit instead of lime and some hot springs which were just swimming pools and the highlight was the boiled egg stand outside. After lunch we began our 4 hour journey back to arequipa, we arrived early evening and had to check out and find somewhere else to stay since stupid bothy hostels was riddled with bed bugs and I (Sarah) was covered with over 200 bites!
After wandering the streets, some very deserted and dodgy it was around 8pm and we still hadn't found anywhere. Bianca - another Aussie we met on the trek messaged ingrid and had negotiated a good price at her place if we wanted to move there, it had its own kitchen and was right next to the market so he headed across. It was beautiful - like a converted mansion. We were all
Starving at this point so without Bianca we went out in search of food- the 4 of us together are completely useless- we got lost and didn't find anywhere for another half an hour, but when we did it was wonderful. We had chifa, the Peruvian version of Chinese food. Tummys full and more than ready for bed we retreated to our new clean, bug free hostel and collapsed into bed.
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Mum on

Sounds an amazing adventure, well done Sarah for managing without soles, shows real grit, the stuff that which got us through the marathon.

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