My journey in Peru - part two - Cusco, Arequipa and the Colca Canyon

Saturday 9th November 2019

The rest of the team, except 4 of us, departed back to the UK at ridiculous o’clock!  3am they left the hotel for a 5.30am flight.  Needless to say, I was busy sleeping so we said our goodbye’s the night before.

When Elaine and I were first making plans for our extension to our trip, we all thought that everyone was departing on the 10th so we hadn’t planned to leave Cusco to go to Arequipa until then.  This meant that we had a whole day in Cusco, which was lucky for me as I had completely missed out on the day before by being ill in bed.

2 other members of the team were also staying on, Kelly and Maggie, though not with us.  However, they also had a day in Cusco, so we decided to hang out together.

We had a fun day exploring museums, mainly a beautiful textile museum, Laura Museo and the not to be missed Chocolate museum, where we busied ourselves trying different chocolate liqueurs.  Lunch overlooked the main square.  We visited the artisan markets and generally had a full day wandering around this beautiful city.

Dinner in Organika, which we found on Trip Advisor.  Beautiful home cooked, fresh food.  Then back to the hotel to get an early night before our departure in the morning to Arequipa.

 

Sunday 10th November 2019

We had to get up at 4.15am to had to the airport for our 6.45am flight to Arequipa.  Arequipa is a city further south of Cusco, known as the White City and the gateway to the Colca Canyon.

After checking into our hotel, we walked towards the City Centre…….or so we thought.  Neither Elaine or I have the best senses of direction and we soon realised that we weren’t in the right area at all.  However, after some reorientation we managed to make our way to the main square in the centre, also known as Playa des Armas.

Arequipa Cathedral

Elaine and I in Plaza de Armas. Arequipa

What a beautiful city and certainly very white.  We found a bar overlooking the square, which was full of drunk Peruvian business people and started discussing our plans for the next few days.  We had left this part of our trip open as we were unsure how we were going to be feeling after our Inka Challenge.  Would we be wanting to do anymore hiking?  Well, it’s amazing how short our memory is and the trials of the challenge had started to fade and we decided the Colca Canyon was looking like a great option!

The Colca Canyon is the 2nd largest canyon in the world and is actually the deepest.  What were we thinking of?

Elaine and I are both Librans.  Making the decision to go to the canyon was quite easy, but deciding on the right guide was always going to be time consuming.  Being a Sunday we couldn’t make too much contact with guides so we sent some emails and as we weren’t going to the canyon until the Tuesday, we decided to have a wander.  We did, however, book a cookery class for the following day.

The afternoon was mainly spent at Santa Catalina Monastery. The Convent of Santa Catalina de Siena was built in 1579 and is located in the historical center of Arequipa, Peru. It served as a cloister for Dominican nuns from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, and still houses a small religious community today.  It was like a small town and really demonstrated how the nuns lived.

After eating a dinner of Duck and Rice in a restaurant opposite the monastery, Tantra, we headed back to the hotel and we were in fact both asleep by 8pm.

 

Monday 11th November 2019

We both slept really well and after a lovely breakfast on the terrace we ventured into Arequipa again.  This time we made it without getting lost.

River in Arequipa

Making decision on the guide was tricky, there seemed to so many factors to consider.  However, FINALLY we did make a decision and booked a guide called Andres Cancina to take us to the Colca Canyon the following day.  He would be our guide in the canyon and he organised our homestays and transport as well.  We were then able to relax, decision making over, and enjoy our day.

We wandered round a local market for a while before heading to our cookery lesson.  We were really excited to be learning how to cook authentic Peruvian food and more importantly, we would be learning how to make Pisco Sours 😊  Diana bought us a bag of large macaroni shaped sweet crisps to take home.  She explained that dentists are really expensive in Peru, so they don’t typically eat sweets like we do here.  She also bought us a small bag of little coconut cakes

Diana and her boyfriend Patricia were our hosts for the cookery lesson.  Patricio was the chef and Diana was mainly the translator.  She took us to a local market and talked to us about various different produce before we went back to the house to begin the class.  We were cooking Ceviche and Beef Saltado with rice and chips and of course, learning how to make the Pisco Sours.

There were only 3 of us in the class.  Charly, a Scottish lady, was vegetarian and learning different dishes.

We had great fun, especially flambeeing our Saltado and ate our delicious food, before enjoying the Pisco’s.  We were awarded a certificate and also given a recipe booklet and a small bottle of Pisco.

After a night cap drink with Charly, we headed back to our hotel to get ready to leave for the Canyon in the morning.

 

Tuesday 12th November 2019

We were picked up at 5.30am by Andres and our driver.  They arrived early as the roads out of Arequipa were going to be closed, due to strikes.  We did see police with riot shields on the side of the road in preparation.  Probably a great time to be leaving the city.

The route to the canyon took a few hours in all.  However, it was beautiful, so much scenery.  We saw Vicunas and Alpacas on the way.

My stomach was starting to play up a little again.  I wasn’t however sick this time.  It was just cramping really.  The lunch we had in Cabanaconde before commencing the walk wasn’t great, served in a hotel that reminded me of Fawlty Towers.  The chef apologised for being drunk, it was apparently his birthday!

We commenced our hike.  We walked down into the Canyon.  This was mainly downhill at this point and the terrain was dry and gravelly.  This made it quite slippery and Elaine fell a few times on the way down, luckily without hurting herself.  We saw some Condors flying and also a number of them gathered on the ground eating a cow.  Andres kept us entertained making up songs and singing about the Condors flying over the Canyon.

Andres Cancina, our guide

Our first night was in a homestay called Posada Roy.  We had Alpaca for dinner with rice and vegetables.  We sat chatting with Andres for a while before heading off to bed.

 

Wednesday 13th November 2019

We were up early for breakfast.  We had thick, American style pancakes with scrambled egg and fresh pineapple juice.

We started walking at 7am.  The first part of the day was quite undulating.  It was though magnificent.  We made our way to Sangalle Oasis Lodge for lunch, passing through a village called Maca on the way which has a village square that Andres told us about how they danced on the square when there was a festival.

We rested up at the Oasis.  I was thinking of going for a swim when I realised that I had left both my phone and my kindle at Posada Roy. Aghhhhhhh.  How to get them back?  I couldn’t really walk back.  Well I guess I could, but that would have rather put our itinerary out and it wasn’t exactly just up the road.  Luckily another guide in the Oasis was going to the same homestay that night and would meet us the following day to return them.  Problem solved (or at least so I hoped).

We departed the Oasis at 2.30pm for a 3.5 hour hike out of the Canyon.  Wow, this hike made the Inka Trail seem tame!  Or maybe it was just the fact that we were going at a faster speed.  It was really tough!  Uneven steps and boulders with groups of mules that passed us on the narrow paths with sheer drops to the side. We were rewarded though with a great sunset over the Canyon!

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