25.04.2013 - 03.05.2013
Since completing the Salkantay trek we spent one final day in Cusco before catching an overnight bus to Arequipa. We were both very excited to be heading to warmer places for a while. Arequipa has a very Spanish feel to it with quite a picturesque setting being surrounded by 3 snow-peaked volcanoes which you can see from its colonial centre. We spent 2 days here looking around the town, enjoying the food (including some tasty Ceviche at the central market) and spent some much needed time on the couch with the hostels massive TV and its extensive DVD range.
We booked a 3 day trek of the Colca Canyon meaning we had to get up at 2:30am for a 3am pickup! After 3 hours of driving and attempting to sleep on the rough, freezing little bus we arrived in Chivay, our breakfast stop. After this we continued on until we reached the viewing point at ‘Cruz del Condor’. This viewpoint overlooks the canyon and as its name suggsts, it is where you can see many condors flying up and around the canyon for around an hour at the same time everyday. This was an incredible sight with so many of them gliding in very close proximity to us with their 1.5m wingspan. The bus then continued along the canyon top to the start point of the trek, Pampa San Miguel, and from this 3287 m.a.s.l. viewpoint we could see the path we would be taking down and the villages we would be staying in for the following 2 nights. The path down to the Colca river was steep with many loose stones making it quite slippery in places. We were glad to reach the bottom as the remainder of the walk to Cosñirhua was sheltered from the heat of the sun by many fruit trees and shrubs. After a bit under 4 hours of walking we arrived at Cosñirhua. We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and got to know the other 4 people in our group. We had 2 Peruvian girls, a Canadian girl, and a Dutch guy, who were all really lovely. Once again we were lucky enough to get a good tour group.
On the second morning we arose at a much more reasonable hour for our 7:45am breakfast before setting off along the canyon. The hike was just under 4 hours again, requiring us to climp up and down a path on the side of the canyon. We passed through 2 small villages and learnt about some native plants and practices. It was another hot day so we were relieved to reach the Oasis, its name a perfect depiction of this little location. From above we could see the Oasis was made up of several bungalow style mini resorts all consisting of a pool, beautiful grassed areas and shaded gardens. A little paradise! Here we had lunch, dinner and spent the afternoon making the most of our accommodations facilities. We definitely agreed with what people had told us prior - this tour was much more relaxing compared to the Salkantay trek as we had so much free time everyday.
The final day we started walking at 5am, from 2130m.a.s.l. up 1100m along a 4km track to the top of the Canyon. We were happy to be starting this early to avoid the heat and were determined to make it up the top before it got too hot. Our guide said the average time was 3 hours to reach top but we powered it up in 2. The hike was a continuously steep and we would consistently be thinking that we were close to the top as we could not see much more mountain above us to then be suprised by another huge climb each time. After all of the group had arrived we walked another 20 minutes to a little village where we had breakfast, the eggs and bread never tasted so good. Inbetween here and Chivay, we had several stops to little villages to see quaint old churches, markets, and taste the ¨Colca Sour¨. This is a local variation of the famous Pisco Sour derived by swapping the lemon for cactus fruit. Was really yummy! We also stopped at some hot-spring pools which had a therapeutic temperature of 38 degrees. Just what our muscles were in need of. After lunch in Chivay we had 2 more stops on the way back to Arequipa, one at a viewpoint to see the volcanos, and another on to take photos of the llamas, alpacas and vicuñas. We arrived back in Arequipa late in the afternoon before catching a night bus to Ica.
We had read and heard from many travellers that Ica did not offer much to do and it could be quite dangerous so the place to stay was the Oasis town surrounded by sand dunes just 15 minuets away, Huacachina. This little town consisted soley of hostels, hotels, restaurants and bars built around a small lake. The main attraction here is the dunes. We booked straight into a sand boarding and dune bugging excursion for that afternoon. The dune buggy took us flying through the sand dunes up to the top of dunes for us to slide down from, the beauty of it was that we didn't have the walk back up the top after sliding down as the buggy could collect us and take us to the next dune.
On our second day in Huacachina we visited the Regional Museum of Ica. The mummies, deformed skulls, story of brain surgery with exhibited skulls, trophy heads, wigs and hair pieces were highly fascinating. That afternoon we went on a Pisco distillery tour which took us to 2 bodegas for a tour and tastings. We tried plain Piscos, Pisco sour mixes, and fortified wines. The second distillery was interesting as it had collections of many antiques as Incan artefacts, artworks, old collectables, animals skins and much more. That afternoon we trekked up a huge sand dune that overlooked Huacachina and watched the sunset.
The following day we caught a bus up the coast to Lima, the capital of Peru. We quickly confirmed what we had heard, that there is nothing much to do in Lima. However, Peruvian cuisine is considered to be in the top 5 worldwide and Lima is the culinary capital of the Americas with Ceviche being its specialty (something we have become quite fond of). We decided that while in Lima we would spend the vast majority of our daily budgets on sampling the best Ceviche in town. The last place we tried, La Mar, owned and run by Peru's best chef Gastón, topped with us consuming a degustation plate of different 5 ceviches, a mixto causas plate and a Pisco Sour accompanied with nibbles and sauces. 2 of these restaurants were the best we had been to in South America. A nice treat after the budget friendly backpacker meals we have become accustomed to. On our last evening in Lima we checked out the water fountain show with Harry and Nicola.
We are now in Huaraz with Nicola, Harry, Jade and Paul who we met on our jungle tour and have been catching up with along the way since. We are all staying in a lovely little b&b together. Huaraz is renowned for its hiking trails so we are planning on a few short day hikes here.