Thursday, August 28, 2008

Colca Canyon

First off, Eric is indeed still on this trek despite his lack of posts. He has been using his internet time to buy parts for the Rwanda hydro project, while I, lacking such a noble task, wile away the time writing these posts and reading the New York Times.

We got back yesterday afternoon from a three-day, two-night trip to the Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world. When I hear the word "canyon," I immediately conjure images of one of the jewels of the National Park Service, the majestic Grand Canyon. As Eric and I were somewhat disappointed to find out (although I think Eric had a more realistic notion to begin with), the actual physical manifestation of the word "canyon" can apparently vary widely. The Colca Canyon, while beautiful, might be better described as a deep valley, no matter how it was geologically formed. Therefore, having seen and walked through quite a few valleys on our previous trek, the scenery wasn't particularly novel and when combined with four hours of sleep before hiking down dusty switchbacks for four hours, we were a little grumpy the first day. However, our spirits quickly rose when we reached our first night's lodgings, a remote colony of huts run by an extremely amiable man named Claudio. While basic, the bed was comfortable and the view overlooking the confluence of two rivers was spectacular. Oh, and did I mention the hot springs? We also met a guided group and quickly became friends with a father and son pair of French Canadians, so by evening we were excited for the next day.

The next day began at 9:30 as we hiked up the far side of the canyon and then back down into the valley to a little set of huts and swimming pools called the Oasis. The 11 hours of sleep from the previous night (it's amazing what happens without electricity) made this trek pretty enjoyable. However the highlight was definitely lounging by the naturally filled pools in the afternoon while playing cards and reading. The only bummer of the day was that Eric developed a rash under his lip which we soon determined to be caused by the sap of a cactus he had played with the day before. The white, milky sap became sticky as he pinched his fingers together, which was cool, but he must have accidentally wiped his face with those same fingers, causing the rash. It's healing quickly though and is even a little amusing since it mostly just looks like he has jam on his face.

The final day was pretty rough as it began at 4am and ended three hours and 1100 meters straight up later. Although cursing under my breath most of the way up, I did feel quite a sense of accomplishment as I looked back down into the canyon. We had thought we might be able to catch the private bus back to Arequipa which our French Canadian friends had come on, but once in town we were bummed to learn that it was full. However, we eventually made it back to Arequipa on a public bus (after close to 7 hours of enduring Peruvian Synth Pop Music) and were both quite happy to have done the trek, despte our initial disappointment with it's "canyonness."

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