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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Colca Canyon Trek

Well it looks like the blog for the past few days is down to me to complete as we have some very tired girls here in Peru!!!

With all World Challenge trips you are given an itinerary which is only a suggested outline plan, we do have the opportunity to change things should we so wish. With this in mind, when we arrived in Arequipa we were told by our local contact about a trek which descends into a Canyon called Colca. The promise of spectacular views, an opportunity to test the girl’s fitness and the opportunity to see Condors flying in their natural habitat sold it to I just needed to persuade the girls :-)

This expedition seems (so far) to have been filled with late finishes and early morning starts and the trip to Colca was no exception. The girls were woken at 02.30hrs ready for the bus to pick us up at 03.00hrs....Yes folks it was that early!!!!

After three and half hours we arrived at our first destination, Chivay. This is a very traditional Peruvial village and sits at an altitude of 3,400m. This was where we were to have a very traditional Peruvian breakfast....Greasy Joes it certainly wasn’t. A selection of Bread, Jam, and some sort of meat, tea, coffee and even the local Coco leaves (which help with altitude) we laid before us....What surprised me was how fast the girls made this lot disappear....and then asked for seconds!

We then headed to the Cruz de la Condor to watch these amazing birds cruzing the early morning thermals looking for food. The condor has a 3m (9 feet in old money) wing span which when only 7 metres away feels very intimidating. To have this opportunity has been my highlight of this trip so far.

Following this we met out local Guide Nestro at the start of the trek. Our destination was an aptly named area at the bottom of the Canyon called ‘Oasis’. We knew we had a big descent ahead of us but what we weren’t expecting was the unrelenting steepness of the path. Zig after zag followed zig after zag....really without any real incidents until we arrived at the canyon floor....with jelly legs from the constant pressure on the thighs. Some of the faces that were being pulled by the girls said it all... The heat had been stifling the whole way down. It was at this point I realised that ‘my girls’ had not done the training I had suggested when I first met them at the ‘Meet the Leader’ evening. The descent was really just the first obstacle as we still had a few more hours trekking to reach the Oasis. A short (Inca short) saw us at a local house for our lunch stop. Not a sandwich in sight here...Traditional Inca Veggie soup was followed by a traditional meat and lots of carbs dish....topped off with a very juicy orange...Delicious! Some of the girls appetite had been affected by the exertion of the trek but for most ...ok me everything went down really well.

Following lunch we had to ascend for an hour and traverse through two villages (remember the descent into the canyon is the only way to these villages) until, as darkness arrived, we started our descent to Oasis. So with head torches adorned we set off down a particularly slippy path. We arrived at Oasis at 20.00hrs (8pm!!!!) with a lot of extremely tired girls. We were told by Nestro that evening meal was planned for 21.30hrs so everyone went to their rooms (little huts) for a quick rest....ok we all had a snooze...luckily I had set my alarm as everyone was out cold and only woke when I knocked on the door of each hut. To say the girls were grumpy is putting it mildly!!!! Appetite once again affected by over exertion and tiredness...

I woke everyone at 04.30 in the morning ready for a 05.00hrs start...I don’t think I was the most popular guy in the world at this point but needs be! The evening prior I had discussed with Nestro some options for us to make the ascent out of the Canyon as easy as we could and so we hired 4 mules....two mules to carry one of the girls who had struggled the most the day before and Mrs Douglas (she didn’t complain much about this ;-)) and two mules to carry everyone’s rucksacks. At 05.30 the trekkers set off for what we all knew was going to be a particularly painful and challenging day. The mule train was due to set off an hour or so later.

The ascent went really well using a combination of tactics from myself....I have to mention how proud of the girls I was today....Every single one of them showing great determination! For one or two the determination went as far as simply putting one step in front of the other...One of the girls had been a little sickly and tired the day before but she was determined to make the whole trek. At the top of the canyon a short (Inca short again) saw us in a little village where we were given a delicious breakfast of Eggs, bread, jam and a hot drink....Everyone was very hungry and had been mentioning food (porridge) all the way up the 4 hour ascent....Everyone left content!

Our day wasn’t quite over as we had a planned trip to a local hot spa where we could relax our for me having experienced the very basic ones in Chile last year was very surprised to find a very well maintained Bath (Bano) with an enclosed area which kept off the cold wind. It wasn’t long before our time was up and we made the long journey back to Arequipa only stopping at the highest point on the road (4,900m) and looking at the gorgeous Alpaca and Lamas.

Arriving back at our hostel early (for us) meant we could get out and have a meal and a well deserved early night....A note to self here...always make sure you know where you are planning to meet the group in town otherwise you go hungry!!!!

Note to group: Don’t drink the water in the hot Spa!!!!

Quote of the Trek (and of the trip so far) from Roisin: “Even my dead Grandmothers legs feel better than mine do right now”.

I’m currently writing this from the bus on our way to the next step of our expedition in stand by for lots of exciting blogs from the girls...if they are not too tired!!! This bus has Wi-Fi...How awesome is that!!! I should also mention the sheer luxury of these buses. The standard seats on the top are very comfortable and recline to a comfortable sleeping position. The seats down at the bottom are the ultimate in luxury being wide, very padded and able to recline to 160%...having never tried these seats before I thought I better....just so I can pass this information onto other groups in the future of course ;-) hahahaha....

Photos to follow :-)

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