Back to the real world

I tossed and turned all night and had only had a couple of hours sleep when the alarm went off at 4am. It was still dark and the last thing I felt like doing was getting up. However, we needed to leave by 5am or thereabouts to start the ascent and get as far as possible before the sun came up so, after a very early pancake breakfast, we set off.

Sun rising over the mountains
Sun rising over the mountains

Surprisingly, it was easy to walk in the dark with head torches and it was only about half an hour later when it started to get light. Other groups had already left and there was a trail of lights zig zagging up the mountain. It also took quite some time for the sun to actually appear over the mountain tops by which time we were almost at the top. It was a hard walk but certainly a lot easier than yesterday and it was also a beautiful morning, which made all the difference.

Pack donkeys in Cabanaconde
Pack donkeys in Cabanaconde

We met Freddy, our driver, in the Plaza de Armas in Cabanaconde and Paul hurried us along so that we could reach the hot springs at Chacapi before all the other tour groups arrived. This we achieved and were able to soak our aching limbs in the lovely warm water. The hot spring is natural. However, the pools themselves were a little disappointing as they were like normal swimming pools but had tarpaulin roofs, which rather spoiled them. No doubt, this was useful shade but I would have much preferred to have had the pools open to the sky.

Almost back in Cabanaconde
Almost back in Cabanaconde

Afterwards, we were chivied along once again to get to the restaurant in Chivay where we were going to have lunch. This was much more up market than the restaurant we went to the other day and catered for tourists on a large scale. I could seem why Paul wanted us to be there early though. As we started on the buffet, more and more groups arrived. It would have been hideous if we had arrived there later.

View of the Colca River valley
View of the Colca River valley

Three of our group left us after lunch as they were travelling on to Puno. The rest of us continued back to Arequipa. We were again encouraged to leave as quickly as possible after we had finished eating as the anti mining protest was still in progress and we didn’t know if we would be able to get through the blockade. As it happened, Paul’s anxiety about this was justified.

As we approached Arequipa, the roads were blocked with all manner of things, but mainly with large rocks, which had been placed all across the roads. This wasn’t just on the major routes but also along any side roads that the protesters thought traffic might be able to use to get through. We turned off on to the back roads and twisted and turned through some fairly rough streets up the hills in poor areas until we could go no further. Paul and Freddy found a road on which the rocks were small enough to be moved easily and a couple of locals directed them to a way through. However, as we drove along, protesters threw stones at the van on a couple of occasions, which was a little disconcerting. They were too far away to actually hit us, though.

Road block
Road block

We eventually made it back to the city and I was dropped off last. I then walked up to the Plaza de Armas in the hope that the supermarket there would be open. However, the protest was in full force, with broken glass and rocks on the pavements, fires burning on the roadways and police with riot shields barricading the way. A number of people were standing round watching and the atmosphere felt decidedly uncomfortable. I decided to go to the big supermarket that was a little further away and then straight back to the hotel for a glass of wine and bread and cheese in my room, followed by a much needed early night.

Biking and hiking in the Colca Canyon

The alarm went off at 5.45am and I nestled deeper into my very comfortable and very cosy bed. It was with great reluctance that I prised myself out of it 20 minutes later. After an excellent breakfast, we left at 7.30am (it was supposed to have been 7am but too many people weren’t ready) to go to the Cruz del Condor, where we were, hopefully, going to see condors.

Pinchollo in the early morning
Pinchollo in the early morning

When we arrived, 5 were perched on a rock ledge, admiring the scenery and thinking about flying. We were there for about an hour, during which time, many more tourists arrived. The condors waited for the crowds and then put on a spectacular gliding display right in front of us. At one point, there must have been about 12 or them. It was unbelievable!

The next bit of excitement for the day was a downhill cycle ride to the village of Cabanaconde. This was exhilarating as there was only one short uphill part and the rest was all down. Some people went extremely fast, one French girl gave up on the uphill slope and continued in the van, and I admired the view but got some good speed as well.

There was surprisingly little traffic, given the amount of tour vans that were parked at the condor lookout. I even had a condor fly over my head at one point. I think all of us would have liked to have turned around and done it again once we had reached the bottom. However, our hike in the Colca Canyon beckoned.

After a short stop for a snack and drinks, we were off through the village, which is very attractive. However, it is like going back in time, with sheep and cows being herded through the streets and even an alpaca grazing outside a shop.

Local restaurant in Cabanaconde
Local restaurant in Cabanaconde
The path down to Sangalle oasis
The path down to Sangalle oasis

The temperature had risen considerably since we left the lodge this morning. We walked a little way through the countryside before reaching the edge of the canyon and the downhill track. The Sangalle Oasis, our destination, was just visible 1,200 metres below. The path was extremely steep and consisted of dry, loose stones and rocks, so I was very cautious. We all walked at our own pace but I ended up spending a lot of time with the Dutch people, a couple called Jaspar and Lavinia, and a man named Maurice. The German, Daniel, managed to reach the bottom in 2 hours but for the rest of us, it was closer to 3 1/2. One French couple somehow managed to take a wrong turn and walked a lot further and for the other young French couple it was their first ever hike. They certainly chose a hard one to start with!


I was certainly glad to reach the bottom. The walk had rekindled memories of a long ago trek down the Grand Canyon in very similar temperatures and I was very pleased that I didn’t have to do the return route this evening, as I had had to do with the Grand Canyon.

The Oasis consisted of 5 lodges with ours, apparently, being the best. Luxury it was not and a strong contrast to last night. However, the setting was superb. Whilst it has only relatively recently been developed for tourists, the Oasis itself has been used by local people for centuries.

The first stop after arrival was a very refreshing dip in the pool. This was followed by a late lunch which comprised chicken, cooked with garlic and onions in Coca Cola! Hard to believe and I will have to try it if I ever do any cooking again.

The remainder of the afternoon was free and I spent it relaxing in my room and then going down to the river, where I sat for quite a while. It was very peaceful apart from the roar of the water!

Before dinner, everyone adjourned to the bar for beer but we were all, not surprisingly, very tired and didn’t have the bonfire we had intended to have after eating.