So Pablo Tours was open and we managed to arrange a 3 day 2 night trek for the following day. We set the alarm for 3.30am (!!!) and our guide arrived at the hostel at 4am. We jumped in a minibus (technically mode of transport number 11, but I think it´s starting to get a little out of hand with the buses!) and wandered around Arequipa picking other tourists up. One of whom was an extremely loud and annoying american with a cast on his hand who insisted on recounting his tales of unsurprisingly being beaten up and getting rocks thrown at him in Bolivia. Supposedly this was due to his nationality however I think it may have had more to do with his demeanour.
Managed to snatch a few winks of sleep on the five hour journey when yer man finally ran out of things to say. We passed by lots of volcanoes on the way, I suppose fortunately none visibly active. Afetr about 4 hours we stopped at what is apparantely the second most visited spot in Peru after Machu Pichu: El Cruz de Condor, Condor Cross, where about a million buses stop with to provide the overweight, large camera variety of tourist an opportunity to see Condors float along the thermals. After 40 minutes of waiting we saw an eagle. No condors. Ah well. We were keen to get away from the tourist trap with ladies in fabulous local costume flogging chintz. The zig zag trails on the other side of the canyopn were very picturesque though.
Back on the bus and on to Cabanaconde, 3200m altitude, the home town of our guide, the most appropriately named Edison Falcon and the starting point of our trek into Colca Canyon itself. Iy was just the two if us and Edison so it was very personalised and we could pretty much do as we wanted. To give some perspective on the place, it is twice as deep as the grand canyon (over 2 miles at points) and 100km long. It´s just ginormous and fabulously impressive.
Edison was great at ponting things out, like his mother´s plot of land where they grow corn and barter for other necessities. Not onloy does he know trhe canyon like the back of his hand but seems to know everyone in it. One intersting crop is a type of parasite which infects a specific variety of cactus which when "burst" reveals a crimson colour. They harvest it with a spoon and sell it for export to cosmetic companies to make lipstick. 10 years ago they got about 160 soles per kilo (about GBP30) but now they only manage 16.
It was sweltering heat as we set off and despite what I felt were helpful pieces of advice to Claire on packing clothes before we left she had long trousers and a black cotton tshirt on. To this she added a fleece to prevent her arms from burning. She had nearly spontaneously combusted by the time we reached the river (with no water, but a bridge) at what we thought was the bottom We had only descended 400m and there was another 800 to go. We made some strategic clothes changes and Claire started to look human again. I now had to wear the same polypro for the rest of the trek ... not a problem we would all be minging soon with the sweat. Edison failed to break a sweat for the entire 3 days!
We carried on down to a beautiful place called Lluahar. Its basically a hostel with no elctricity at the botom of the canyon beside the river (this one with water). We stayed ina bamboo hut and our bed was basically a big slate rock with a matress on top of it. We had a fabulous meal prepared by Edison, not only a great chef but a very knowledgeable guide, in his final year of law school, has 2 kids who live with him (not the mother) and a girlfriend in Lima he only sees 3 or 4 times a year! What a guy!
As the canyon in volcanic in nature there are a lot of thermal springs around - Llahuar hasçd 2 really warm swimming pools overlloking the river and with a fiune view of the canyon walls - ideal for a soak after a 4 hour trek.
As we sipped a few rum and cokes after dinner (rum brought by me, instead of a change of clothes) we looked at the massive array stars appearing, and a sooting star even graced us with its presence. Would have been ideal to use the planosphere Mark Hanrahan kindly bought me as a farewll gift but it didnt fit in the day sack. Another day Mark!
We were in the stone bed by 9, asleep before the heads hit the pillow, which thankfully was not made of rock!