Saturday, June 10, 2006

Cañon del Colca, Perù

32 km walk + 2400 meters difference + 13 hours walk in 20 hours = new rule

I decided when I was in Arequipa to booked to 3 days trip to the famous Cañon del Colca. I hoped for a combination of touristic tour and an adventure one. I decided to spend 3 days in the canon, where I was the first day in a tourist bus and the next 2 in a mini- trekking.

Day Uno
At 7:30 in the morning the first day, the tour operator (Alberto) picked me up at my hostel and we ran around Arequipa finalizing the white mini-van with some random nationalities. We filled up the white min-van with 2 Spanish-German-Swiss (I don´t know how many of these exist on the planet, but we had 2 in the min-bus), one check republic girl, 2 dutch in honeymoon, 2 Israli, one Ausie-Canadian, and myself. We all drove to Chivay in the middle of the canon to spend the first night. Along the way we got around the Chachani mountain at more than 6000 meters, stopped to see llamas in the national reserve of salinas and aguada blanca, spend some time in the altiplano, count one by one the 11 different volcanos in the area, see some Inkas-terrace culture and finally relaxed our muscle in the Baños Termales La Calera in Chivay. It was really funny to watch a classic tourist group behaving together, where you can see predators eating up alive prey. I wont go deeper in my description, just to let you know that A. and B. wanted to do some business with C. but C. wanted to spend some time with D., and finally E. and F. where butterflying from one group to another. I was watching the fabulous spectacle through the window of the white mini-van, and spoke altogether 3.5 words. After our relaxing time at the spa in La Calera, we all went back to our hostel to go to dinner. My 1.2457 square meter room was the coldest in the all Cañon, and if not I ask anyone to prove me otherwise. I asked 2 extra blanket in case I was turning into one of these giant mummies, and I finally used both of them while I was still dressed up all night long.
The dinner was absolutly horrible for me, I was dealing with the famous soroche, and we had a wonderfull live band sitting close to my seat. The drummer kept smilling at me and I kept ginving my most horrible black eyes. Maybe this is the way in the Cañon, people give back a good felling to the music. I was torned by my headache, and I decided to leave the place just after the world famous chou-chou folkloric dance from the Colca Cañon. Their outfit is as colourfull as their land and they were changing for each and every dance, even inviting some tourist to humiliate themselves. But I could not see it. I was fitting my soroche headache with 2 Advil and 2 extra blankets.
Cañon del Colca is probably one of the last place where you can see 800 or so Quechouan inhabitant in their traditional coustumes and habits. They are still do the same thing as they use to do 8000 years ago, except speaking broken english to some random tourist in a white mini-van.

Day Dos
At 5:00 AM (yes 5 AM), we have been waken up by the local igloo concierge to have a quick breakfast to go on our journey. Too bad, I was finally feeling asleep, and get use to the sound of my teeth rubbing one another. We experience during this trip the first 5 minutes of pure silent. It was broken by C. who asked some more bread to the fridge owner. We all got into the white mini-van and went directly to the Cruz del Condor. The second deepest spot of the Cañon is situated at 3287 meter of altitude overlooking a small river 1300 meters down. We arrived at 9ish in the morning and was amazed by the number of ...... tourist already in the area. Some were coming from Arequipa (6 hours away) and began their trip at 1:00 AM. I was happy to know that I was not the only one who mistaken the term vacaciones in spanish with vaca actiones. It crazy how come sometime a small mispelling can ruin your time off.
Anyway I spent 15 minutes overlooking shoulders´s overlooking shoulders´s overlooking shoulders´s some birds flying in the mountain. I gave up and decide to return to the white mini-van when I felt a shadow on me, and guess what, the famous Condor from Perou was over my head, 10 feet away. It is the larger bird on the planet and I can say for sure it is. Of course at the crucial moment you have it right at your finger tip, you don´t have your camera ready. It did not pay attention to the caracteristic of my digital camera but when it says less than 15 seconds to startup your camera, don´t buy it, you could miss a condor overlooking your shoulder. The next time I´ll tell this story I will probably add that the condor was looking at me in the eyes and was laughing with his coldest laught that you only hear in the 50´s Hollywood movie.

Then the second part on my combination trip started right at this place around 8:00 AM.

A. my local guide, was waiting for me with 2 others partner in crime for the tricky-trekking. R. an english girl, and L, We all moved quickly in the same white mini-van to go to the bieggining of the trip: Cabanaconde. We started our trip down into the Cañon and walked like crazy till we riched the Oasis, and had the redemtion of the R. We walked more than 10 hours that day, and were amazed by all the differemt colours, plants, and others funny thing you can imagine. I will hope to upload some pictures one of these days, but nothing can explain the immensitude of the Scenery. Everyting was too bigfor my camera, and for my eyes as well. I felt ridiculously small and it flet good to be nothing. Along the way, we cross some local guys who were picking some plants on some cactus for colouring their masks for the next week festival. They scared me with their small sandals and their contortionist position to grab from the wall (yes a wall) what they need for thier dance. After grabbing what they needed, thet went down and use the direct line. I looked at how they handled their balance, and Rudolf Noureyev if it was not russian was certainly from Cabaconde. We eat at 6:30 and went to bed at 6:31. My cabin was close to the cascade that give the name of the Oasis at the bottom of the Cañon del Colca in the country of Peru on the planet earth. And I could not sleep until 9:00 PM local time even if I was tired and be able to handle my Soroche at 2000 meters :)

Day Tres
I was dreaming of a nice breakfast when my guide A. woke me up at 2:00 AM to start the trip back to the top of the Cañon. My feet were not responsive anymore and I had a long chat with them to convinced them to go back to my shoes. At that point we lost the english girl in this early battle and put her on a mula for her trek back. That was the last one available and I contemplated my flight back to the civilisation with a bitter envy over (once again) an fellow from the other side of the channel.
Anyway the trek back started with some delay due to my unability to wake up, and fight to fing my lamp. How could you start walking in the dark withour a lamp ! I took my batteries from my camera (no point of taking picture in the drak), and plug them in my only friend for the next 3 hours. But I did not knew that at teh time otehrwise I would have said something nice to them to help them help me.
At that point I need to tell you some characteristic of my guide A. He was during the entire life (17 years) a porter in this special valley. His job was to port fruits from the bottom of the Cañon to the top of the mountain. He used to do this basic camino every week at least 3 times. Saying that he knew that treek like his poncho is an euphemism. He was flying over the mountian and start a race with the other group we meet at the Oasis. That was for me the end of the fun.
I was marching, sorry running, on an Inka Trail at 3 in the morning swearing like a pig and sweeting like a dog (maybe it´s the opposite). We reach the top of the Cañon with one hour in advance on the schedule and waited for one hour in the freezing cold for the restaurant to open. Tell me somtime I don´t like too much testoterone in a macho country. that could be damaging for my extra ponds that I try to take care of for the last 5 years. We took in this order, a breakfast, a bus to Chivay, a bath at La Calinas again, a bus to Arequipa and a taxi to the hotel. I don´t really remember how I got tto the shower in the hostel but it felt very nice.

I fall asleep at 6:00 PM on that day, and had a new rulle to my Inka-Bible.
Rule 2: Never accept to do a night treeking!

My next trip was by plane to Cuzco the next day. I fall asleep thinking to myself if I should have asked the owner of the hotel in Arequipa to port me to the taxi the next day.

Joke of the day

Un hombre al otro:
Esta noche se va a hacer mucho frio, aquien dice que se va a hacer abaro zero.
El otro:
No para mi, se va a hacer abaro una !