Bienvenidos a Lima, nothing like the noise and exhaust from the cars and busses of ~9 million people combined with 30 degree heat to greet you after nearly 40 hours on a bus. A cruel twist of fate would see water supply cut to our hostel the day after we arrived, read: no cold showers for that layer of grime you steadily accumulate throughout the day. Complaining is easy, my parents always told me that. Starting blogs is hard. Problem solved.
Coming from the relative isolation of Cotopaxi, Lima was a bit of a sensory overload. So we consulted the guidebook and set about hitting all of the biggest tourist hot spots. Saw the beach, or the collection of rocks that Limeños flock to, to sit in the sun and pretend that it’s sand. Checked off Plaza Mayor, Iglesia de San Francisco, the Miraflores and Barranco neighbourhoods, La Lucha Sanducheria, and the Museo Gastronomico. Okay fine those last two are not at the top of Trip Advisors’ list but visiting history museums and churches with the masses when you’re sunburnt and sweaty just plain sucks. Plus we like food.
We did our best to soak in as much of Lima as possible. It’s known as a major foodie scene but once we learned that we can’t afford to drink water at the nicer restaurants we headed for the street meat stands, washed down with a few Pisco Sours.
And that was enough of that. Back to our favourite spot, the bus station, and on to Arequipa to trek the Colca Canyon. From Peru’s largest city to its second largest, except the latter is one tenth of the size. The old charm and walkability of the White City was a welcome change. Fun fact, Arequipa is known as the White City due to the stone that most of the buildings are made from, a white volcanic rock known as sillar.
We were still on somewhat of a schedule to get down to Chile so we didn’t waste any time before we set off to tackle a section of the Colca Canyon trek. We joined a tour group bus leaving at 3am from Arequipa to Cabanaconde, where the trek starts, with a stop at the infamous Mirador Cruz del Condores. Second fun fact, Andean Condors can have wing spans up to 3m, weigh up to 15kg, can live up to 70 years and mate for life. We had to do some research on these giants after we saw the lines of tour busses parked at the mirador and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about for some oversized vulture. But any bird that has the ability to fly away yet spends nearly 70 years with a bald mate who brings home roadkill for dinner is certainly worth a gander in our books. Upon arrival in Cabanaconde we promptly ditched the guided group and set off on our own route. Since we were short on time we chose to do an abbreviated out and back route to Llahuar instead of some of the more popular circuits that visit an oasis at the bottom of the canyon. With stunning views of the canyon we tackled what seemed like a never ending descent to Rio Colca and finally arrived in Llahuar at the hottest point of the day.
After getting a few litres of Rio Colca water into us and reminiscing about all the tips we read (and ignored) about not hiking the canyon during the middle of the day we set up camp and then donned our bathing suits for a post hike dip. We put a lot of thought into where we would spend our one night in the Colca Canyon, other destinations were more popular and had easier or shorter trails but Llahuar won out with its river side location, legit hot springs (not just pools warmed by the sun) and claim that trout could be caught from right near the camping area.
It seems to be the case that for treks in Peru your bus back to reality always leaves early in the day, and only early in the day. So we left Llahuar by the light of our headlamps and started the 11km and 1,200m vertical gain of switchbacks to get us up and out of the canyon. Thanks to Roxy’s blistering pace and deaf ears to my pleas for rest, we made it back in time to buy some of the last tickets for the 11:30am bus out of town. Tickets turned out to be irrelevant however, as apparently even 6 hour Coach busses have large standing room sections in the middle, aisles we mistakenly call them in Canada. Having a seat was much appreciated for the scenery though. The massive peaks forming the canyon, patterned with immaculate terraces and a lush green valley bottom had all been missed on the 3am trip out a day earlier.
I’m feeling generous today so here is a THIRD fun fact, the Colca Canyon is the fourth deepest canyon in the world at 3,270m, more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and only ~170m shallower than the deepest canyon in the Americas, the Cotahuasi Canyon which is nearby to the south. Despite what every tour agency in Arequipa claims, the Colca Canyon is not the deepest in the world, that title belongs to the Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon in Tibet at a whopping 6,009m! Okay that’s enough knowledge for one day, don’t want everyone stealing ALL of the attention at their next party.
Adios to living for dirt cheap, next stop Chile!