After Copacabana, we passed into Peru and spent a night in a town called Puno, on the other side of the lake. We had a really nice night wandering around all the little bars in the town, mostly drinking mulled wine and hot chocolate with baileys – it was soo cold!! The next morning we caught a bus to Arequipa, the second biggest city in Peru.
It was a very impressive city, with huge white washed buildings throughout the town, and millions of impressive churches. From here, we booked a 3 day trek into the Colca Canyon – the second largest canyon in the world (the largest is just up the road, but is only 150m bigger). The trek was great, and we figured we need the practise for the Inca Trail!
The first day was spent hiking down into the canyon – a depth of 1200m. It was pretty cool; we walked down a massively steep and narrow path which wound down the side of the mountain. We saw a couple of condors, but were mostly concentrating on not slipping and falling over the edge to our deaths!! We spent the first night in a little village where we were very well fed with tasty soup and alpaca stew. The next morning we hiked along the canyon, checking out another little village along the way. The villages were particularly impressive as all the building materials had to be carried down into the canyon along the mega steep path we had climbed down the previous day. The area only got electricity 2 years ago, and the giant pylons also had to be carried down there – each one by only 4 men. Around lunchtime we reached “the oasis”, where we were spending our second night. It’s an awesome spot, completely different to the rest of the canyon as it has it’s own little microclimate. So we stayed in a basic little resort type thing, surrounded by palm trees and lush green grass. The area is supposed to have hot springs, so the place we were staying had a pool. We jumped in, but it was freezing cold, so didn’t last long!! We spent the afternoon chilling – reading, chatting and playing cards. The next morning we got up ridiculously early to start the hike back out the canyon – along a track just as steep as the one we came down on. We were given the option of paying extra to go up on either a horse or a donkey, but this was our Inca trail training, so we hiked it. We started in the dark, but it started getting light after around half an hour. We were told it would take around 4 hours to get to the top and everyone should just walk at their own pace. It was a tough climb, very steep, and breathing got harder the closer we got to the top, as we climbed back up in altitude and the air got thinner. Jas was the first to the top, in 2 1/2 hours and I was 1/2 an hour behind him at 3 hours.
The views as we climbed up were absolutely stunning, we saw the sun rising and slowly lighting the mountains in the distance. At the top, we were pretty knackered and sat down to wait for the rest of the group – the last one took about 4 1/2 hours, so we were waiting a while. There were heaps of people at the top though, so we had lots of people to chat with and got some Inca trail goss from a couple of Swedish girls who had just finished it. They said it was tough and made us a bit scared! While we were waiting, all the people that had hired horses and donkeys arrived in a big long chain. We spoke to one Australian girl who’s donkey had ran off on the way up – with her still on it’s back! She had to throw herself off while the owner chased it in to the distance! Pretty glad we walked! Once all of our group had arrived, we headed off for some breakie and then jumped on a bus for a couple of hours to another town. There we spent an hour or so sitting in some hot springs. These were massively hot, but definately helped sooth our aching muscles. After the hot springs we got some lunch, more alpaca stew, yum, then got back in the bus for the long journey back to Arequipa.
Our bus driver was a suicidal maniac, but the views were amazing. We climbed high up in to the mountains, through snow, and then back down the other side. We spent the next day chilling around the town and in the hostel, and then jumped on a night bus to Cusco. Next up…Inca Trail!