After a good knees up in La Paz, Nato and I decided to head to Arequipa. Arequipa is Peru´s second biggest city behind Lima with around 1m people.We talked to a few people, all of which had pretty good things to say about it.
We got into town around 4am, after a pretty painful trip, which involved 5 different means of transport, being 2 buses, two taxis and a boat. However, as we often find ourselves saying, normally in the middle of the night in a bus station in the middle of nowhere, if we wanted to go to Club Med, we would have gone to Club Med.
The next morning we had a look around town and were really impressed. THe main square is really nice and the buildings are all made of a white volcanic rock, which is a pleasant change from the shitty red bricks that all of Bolivia seems to be made out of.
The main attraction in Arequipa is the Colca Canyon which is the second deepest canyon in the world. The deepest one is the next canyon over but because it is a lot less accessable, this one gets all the glory. We booked our tour to the canyon for a few days´time, as Emma and James were keen to come via Arequipa after their Pampas tour and Nato and I were keen to muck around for a few days.
Our two day tour started off with a supposed 3am pick up which was tough work, especially after a big night the night before. We drove for about 4 hours to the canyon and checked out a good lookout where you are meant to be able to see condors. This lookout was offensively touristy, with all the people who just go out for the day. We didnt really see any condors, but jumped back in the van and headed to the place where we started our trek from.
To be honest, when the guy at the travel agent sold us the trek, he said there was a bit of walking, but whether he played it down, or Nato and I got the wrong end of the stick, we walked away thinking the walking was going to be a stroll in the canyon, certainly nothing like the kind of stuff we were doing on our Salkantay walk.
The first day ended up being 15km walking, all downhill, all on steep, loose rocks and shist! We were not really ready for it at all, so by the end of the day we were massively relived to arrive at the oasis at the bottom of the canyon. The canyon itself was pretty cool. There was nothing in the way of trees, forests or animals (although we did see a few condors cruise past which was great) it is just a canyon, with mountains on either side that is massive. Really massive. Sometimes you would stop and look up and see the biggest sheer rock face you have ever seen.
Everyone slept like baby alpacas that night as we were up at 5am to ¨knock the bastard off¨before the sun came up. Although day 2 consisted of only 5km, it was 5km straight up and out of the canyon. It took us about 2 and a half hours and by the end of it we were spent. It was at least as tough as the climb we did on day 2 of Salkantay.
That afternoon, we operated a Peruvian buffet, where we all tried guinea pig, which is a popular Peruvian dish. We then had a look around town and purchased some truly awful vodka orange mix for our bus ride home.
Overall, im glad we did the 2 day trek, not the 3 day trek. The canyon was amazing for one reason only - because it was so big. Standing at the top and looking way down to the valley at the bottom was great, but easily done in 2 days.
Since we have been back in town, we went and hired some more motorbikes and had a burn around. It wasnt as good as what James and I did in La Paz, especially at the start when we had to push start the 600, the saftely equipment the agent talked about was actually just knee pads that an 8 year old would use for rollerblading and my helmet was held together by masking tape. I would have been impressed if I could have guessed within 3 crashes how many crashes that helmet had been in!
Once we got going though, it was ok. James and Emma were on a 600, Nato a 250 and I was on a 400 (despite our favourite big mouthed agent assuring us that we were all on 600s). The bald tyres made the sand riding interesting, but going around the outskirts of towns on bikes is a great way to see places that the average gringo in the hostel wouldnt be able to get to. It was a good reminder that although central town is really nice, with plenty of good restaurants etc, peru is still a third world country and you do not have to go too far out the city centre to see that.
Tonight we are getting on the bus to Ica to do some sandboarding and do around the sand dunes in buggies. I think we will be doing a fairly brief stop there and continue with our push up to the beach. It would be great to be in Mancora for my birthday and also for the All White´s first game but we will see how we go. We will most likely pass through, or at worst, briefly stop over in Lima as we havent heard many good things.