Upon arriving into Arequipa at 5:30am, we were moved from our double decker bus into smaller Van's as the streets are too narrow for the large buses. We were taken to our accomodation the Hostal Solar. It was cold at that time of the morning so I pulled out my hat and gloves. Since our two day, one night tour of Colca Canyon left at 8:00am, we were able to leave our large suitcase in storage at Solar, use the bathroom and Internet and have some breakfast in their restaurant. The staff were really friendly and helpful.
My glasses had fallen in the night bus and I now have scratches on the lenses. Argh!
Our tour bus picked us up at 8:00am for the four hour drive to Colca Canyon.
Arequipa is a very large and attractive city with many impressive stone/cement and colorful buildings. It is quite spread out so it took awhile to drive through the city.
Arequipa is a lot higher (2,300 meters above sea level) than we have been so far. Colca Canyon is even higher, almost 5,000 metres and is surrounded by volcano and and some of them are active. We did a rest stop where we were able to pick up coca leaves and chocolate to help with altitude sickness. Fortunately they also had Halls cough drops.
As the bus continued to drive up the mountain and the tour guide gave his information, it dawned on me that there was a large volcano component which John failed to inform me about. I don't mind visiting the odd volcano, but John feels a need to see all of them. John continued to swear that the tour is about the second deepest canyon in the world. The guide points out a smoking volcano.
Afraid to have the same reaction to the altitude as I had in Ecuador, I thoughtfully chewed my coca leaves. It tastes a bit sour and my tongue goes a little numb.
We went through an area where vacuna, alpaca and llamas roamed. The alpaca and llama are domesticated but the vacuna are wild.
There were a number of memorials at the side of the road and at one point we passed a transport truck on its side. People were on the scene so I guess the accident had just happened. These are mountain roads and in many places it is a sheer drop down.
Further up we stopped at another area where the llama and alpaca hang out. They were tame enough that they didn't run away when you took a picture with them. There were also women in native dress selling alpaca products. There was a hat band of sheared baby alpaca wool. It looked like fur and was gorgeous. I wanted to get it but John said we were low on cash.
We continued to drive up and up and up into the Andes. There were terraces carved into the cliffside where farmers planted their crops. Quite ingenious and they have been doing it since Inca times.
Our highest stop was at 4950 meters above sea level at the Volcano Viewpoint. I was feeling off and didn't even get out of the bus. My head was throbbing, heart furiously pumping and I was feeling nauseous.
When we stopped for lunch I couldnt eat...I did however try a small morsel of John's alpaca meat. It had a mild liver taste...not my favourite.
After lunch we checked into our hotel in the town of Chivay which is at 3,600 metres. There was an optional tour to the hot springs. John went but I was feeling so bad that I had a hot shower and went to bed. The hot springs are 83 degrees F and come straight from the mountain through a series of pipes and into the pool.
When John returned he was feeling some effects of altitude sickness so he decided to skip the cultural dance dinner show and go to bed.
I wasn't feeling better in the morning and couldnt eat. After breakfast we stopped in town and saw some dancers before going to see the condors. It was amazing to watch these very large birds, riding the air currents in the mountains. I even saw one of the Andes very large hummingbirds. Unfortunately it was too fast to get a picture.
Every where we stopped, I would look for that alpaca headband but to no avail.
We stopped back in the town of Chivay to check out the town square. While standing in front of the church a man (possibly drunk) came up to John and I and started talking to us in Spanish. He then shook John's hand and kissed it. Then he took my hand and licked it leaving a long line of goober. I was horrified and grossed out. Thank goodness I had wet wipes with me.
We returned to Arequipa where we booked into the Hostal Solar which is quite nice. I put together 2kg of wash to be done by the hotel for 6 soles ($2.50 CAD). We went out for supper but my appetite was still not totally back and I was tired. Hopefully tomorrow will be better, energy wise.
TIPS and COSTS
Altitude sickness: our big mistake was not spending time to gradually acclimatize ourselves before going up to 4950 meters. You should also take the medication a few days before going to higher altitudes. Lesson learned.
Solar Hostel, Arequipa- $46 canadian per night
Two day Colca Canyon tour- $28.00 US each (including accomodations)