As I said, the bus was quite the experience -- with classically-clad Peruvian ladies (and their ENORMOUS bundles) muscling each other out of the way and onto the packed vehicle... thank goodness we had seats, because there was some serious elbow swinging going on in the aisle.
After lunch at our "home base" hostel in Cabanaconde, we started out on a four hour slip-sliding descent into the Colca Canyon.
The canyon is about twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, at approximately 4000 meters. We didn┤t hike to the deepest point, that┤s out of reach for tourists, but did reach the base where we crossed the river and walked half an hour more to a tiny, 25-family town. We spent the night in basic cabins and were up bright and early the next morning to begin our most hike-heavy day.
When we reserved the tour, the operator told us that the second day would be "a bit of a challenge" because we were, after all, going to be hiking our way up and out of the canyon again.... but I don┤t think Aaron or I really took that adequately into consideration...
The first part of the second day started with a twenty minute uphill jaunt, after which our guide laughingly informed us that "that was just a taste" of the 3 hour uphill
journey that we┤d be embarking upon later.
I, for one, could not begin to imagine how we┤d survive.
We walked for 3 hours that morning and then stopped for lunch at another tiny town. In our "free time" we had a quick swim and seriously contemplated hiring donkeys to carry our weary selves the heck out of there. At 2:30 in the afternoon we were off again.
It was not fun. It was one of the most physically AND mentally exhausting undertakings of the trip. I was a big wuss and hated every second of the climb up -- except for my brief Snickers break.
Aaron trotted along ahead of me, seemingly unaffected by the strenuous climb, while I swore under my breath and prayed for a helicopter.
It was especially aggravating when another tourist rode past on his poor donkey -- smoking a pipe and leisurely joking with his wife. I secretly wished for a big gust to carry him over the edge (not really)... The views, however, were completely breathtaking and the total rush after reaching the top was overwhelming. It was absolutely worth it, and I┤m so glad we did it, but it certainly made me consider substituting taking the train ride to Machu Picchu for the 4 day hike we┤ve booked!
That night we were treated to lovely hot showers (well, I had a hot shower but I think I used up all the water before Aaron had a turn), and great food at the hostel in Cabanaconde. It was so fantastic to get back to the "real world" even though we were only gone 2 days.
The final day of the tour was the more "touristic" part of the adventure. We got up early, fought for seats (again) on the public bus, and headed over to Cruz del C˛ndor
to observe the biggest birds in the world.
Then we had another pushy-shove-y bus ride to the town of Chivay (lucky, once again, to have seats) and had a fabulous buffet lunch. Our last excursion was a much-anticipated soak in the nearby hot springs.
That night we bussed to Cusco, our current location. We are loving Peru -- it is so spectacularly beautiful -- and we┤re just resting up before starting the Inca Trail this weekend (I guess I should really give it a go)
You┤d be proud of us. Aaron and I officially conquered the world┤s deepest canyon. We left Arequipa in the early morning hours on Friday. We started off with a five hour bus ride on a public bus (a definite adventure of its own) past some of the most striking scenery yet to arrive in the small town of Cabanaconde.