Peru Expedition 2009 Part Eight: The Colca Canyon

20th August 2009 - No role.
As we had packed the night before, we had a slight lie-in til 6:30am. Then Maggie woke us up and told us to be at breakfast at 7am. After a late start (driver's fault), we were in the minibus and away!
After about an hour we stopped at a cafe where the guide asked if we wanted to take a "Coca" (Cocaine leaf) tea for altitude sickness. Paul explained that we didn't need it as we had been acclimatising for the last almost four weeks.
We kept driving until we came to the Mirador de los Volcanes (Volcano Viewpoint). You could see three volcanoes including El Misti. The next eruption was set for July 2010! There were piles of stones and rocks stretching for miles. I thought they were given as offerings to the Gods but apparently they're put there so people feel their sense of achievement by placing a stone on or next to the pile...
I took a picture of Mr O and then he took a picture of Kagg and I in front of the volcanoes. Apparently it was very "buddy" of us.
After various stops at viewpoints we arrived in the rural town of Chiway. We had the option of eating in the bus or going in a restaurant where we could pay S/20 for an all-you-can-eat buffet. So the leaders ate their sandwiches in the restaurant while the rest of us spread out on the bus.
Having ten girls on the team is brilliant except for when a place has only one girls toilet... Nightmare!
We then piled back into the bus and checked into our hostel, during which I almost got checked in with the two Toms. The then guide gave us an hour to get swimming gear together and see a bit of the town. Some of us bought some snacks for the evening but left a shop swiftly when a woman tried to sell Ellen an out of date chocolate bar...
Twenty minutes later we were back at the hostel and leaving stuff we didn't need wide spread across our beds.
Then, just after 4pm we set off to the Baños Terminales (the Hot Springs) which was on the edge of Chiway near the river. S/10 a head and we were in. They looked very tranquil and they had an almost Roman design to them.
The Springs were 38C (1 degree above body temperature) so you couldn't physically sit in them long without melting. There was also a slight suspicious smell of pee too...
We had great fun jumping in and out!
One really weird thing was that we had come 8000 miles (roughly) from home and the only fit guys were from the UK! There was a group of northern English guys which we later saw on numerous occasions in the future. For a couple of us, the evening had suddenly got a lot more interesting... :P LOL.
The driver and guide as well as an Italian man on the tour, then joined us.
At 6pm we headed out and back to the bus where we then went for a dinner and show. The restaurant was great and we saw various traditional dances from two different tribes. Both moulded by volcanoes: one with a flat head dress and hairstyles, the other by a cone shaped volcano and so the hats and head dress mirrored this.
Moreton got picked to dress up in traditional clothes and learn a dance during which the woman teases the guy with an orange which then turns out to be poisonous (as the guy falls flat on his back convulsing). She then takes a whip and starts smacking his sides - his clothes - and he is revived. He then takes the whip, wraps it round her neck and forces the woman to take a bite of this poisonous fruit. She then falls and begins to twitch too. He whips her on the many layers of her skirt. I think she is supposed to die but the guy then pulled her up for a bow so we weren't sure about the ending.
Moreton did a really good job of it! He even did the shaking on the floor bit and carried the woman on his shoulder!
Jo, Beth and Paul also got involved in another dance involving three people from each of the six long tables, where they danced in a circle, clapping and taking turns to dance with the two professional dancers.
We had the option of going to the "Discoteca" but we opted out. Libby was the happiest about this decision. Instead we had our own rave on the bus, the "Rave Bus" as Moreton referred to it.
Once at the hostel, a lot of us went to bed. We heard squeals from the others - apparently they were all trying to fit into the shower at the same time... I wish I'd gone in and seen them, but as soon as I sat on my bed, all I wanted to do was sleep! So that never happened :P

21st August 2009 - Risk Assessor.
Only five days left!
Our corridor got the fifteen minute later wake up call at 5:30am for breakfast. Drowsy and not quite with it, the last of us dragged our feet downstairs and to the table. Do you really have to ask what was for breakfast?! Three words. First begins with B, the third with J. Yep, bread and jam and then some weird orange juice.
Bags packed, rooms checked out, keys handed in head count and we all piled into the minibus. As I was Risk Assessor I had to check for the team medical bag, I don't really get why considering it had spent the night in the overhead compartment of the bus... Meh.
[My awesome camera of 4 megapixels packed in at this point so I'm heavily relying on other people's photos from here on]
The first town we stopped at was called Yancaye. Paul being the oh so funny man he was started making jokes about Yankees. Here, as well as llamas women stood with birds of prey asking for money. It was rather sad the way the birds would try to fly and couldn't. It upset Mr O.
Back in the bus we soon got on to dirt track and began a bumpy journey into the hillside. Our first stop was at a viewpoint where a couple of women stood with a hawk and eagle on their shoulders, next to a stone arch and platform overlooking a particularly beautiful part of the Canyon. You could see three lakes from here called the Mysterious Lakes because they change from blue to green to purple during the day depending on where the sun was reflecting off the different minerals they contain. One was in the shape of Lake Titicaca (Gromit!), another like a volcano and I can't remember the last one...
Mr O began leaping about with his camera, taking photos from the platform, up a boulder, over our heads! It was amusing and random.
The wind was really chilly so the team didn't stay out long. Pretty much as soon as the guide finished his piece everyone piled back in.
At our second stop, the guide told and showed us how the tribes used to bury their dead in the holes in the cliff side so they could be as close to possible to the sky and the Gods. They were placed in the foetal position because they supposedly returned to Mother Nature's womb. Kagg pointed out that we only know the position of the foetus due to high tech machinery today, so how did they know what the foetus position was? I suggested dissection, Kagg said conspiracy...
One crazy funny feature of this tour was when the guide turned round to us just before a tunnel and asked us not to take pictures when we went through because people have claimed to see goblins in there.
So we continued into the dark whispering and questioning why we weren't allowed to take photos.
When we got through the other side the guide turned back round to us again and explained that last September, a tourist had seen and taken a picture of a goblin. The next day the tourist was found dead and they don't know why. Plus, the guide and driver went mad two days later.
Paul's repsonse to this was: "Ha! Right. Sooo basically, you just don't want to go mad?!" To which the guide chuckled nervously and turned back in his seat. And so we carried on.
When we finally got to the Mirador de los Condores (Condor Lookout) we were all pleased to reach our final destination and get out to stretch our legs.
The group followed the guide up to the Cruz de los Condores (The Crossing of the Condors) and wandered along the viewpoints. We were looking over at the deepest parts of the Canyon (well, that we would get to see anyway) of just over 3000m deep.
At first we saw nothing but sparrows for about half an hour, then someone shouted and we all rushed to the edge. In that first thirty minutes we saw five condors in the distance soar round the side of a slope. They are roughly 1.5 metres tall at adult size and their wing span is three metres long!
FACT: condors don't flap their wings! (Or, so I've been told...).
About twenty minutes later, we saw two condors fly close to us! We saw a French guy edging his way down the rocks and disappear. We didn't see him return... I reckon he ended up condor bait.
Gurthej kept telling Moreton to throw a dead cow over the side.
After an hour and a half of being away from the bus, we returned to prepare for a walk to another viewpoint just behind the previous one. During the walk, a condor flew right over our heads!
The most amusing thing was watching loads of tourists trying to cram themselves over and around the Cruz de los Condores hill, straining to get good views of the flying beasts that were swooping around with ease in between rocks. At these viewpoints it was cool to see the resemblance of the guidebook photos and the real thing :) Putting text to reality! Just like at Machu Picchu.
Although the walk wasn't particularly strenuous, it did make me realise I was not a fan of trekking at high altitude...
Happily sat on the bus again, I started talking to the bus driver about the differences in our educational systems. [As you do.]
In Peru they have eleven years of school education, finishing at 16/17 years of age. Then you have to take a pre-uni exam to get into Higher Education. University is optional here too.
He was astounded that we have the option of going into further education from the age of 16-18 or begin working in whichever field we wanted and begin working up.
He also advised us not to go to any clubs or discotecas in Arequipa as they could be very dangerous. Cuzco would apparently have been better. (People did not take very well to this a couple of days down the line).
We had to wait for another twentyish minutes while Maggie and the guide took Mr O back to the viewpoint to see the birds. (He'd stayed behind with Beth who hadn't wanted to go on the walk).
On the way back we didn't stop at all except in a village named after a plant which the Spanish used up so there was none left due to the Spaniard's "good taste". I think it was called Huancaye...
The driver then put on an RnB CD with some dubbed and reggaeton versions of popular songs from a couple of years ago. Rave Bus 2.0 with some Jay-Z, Avril Lavigne (?!) and a couple of weird versions of other songs like a reggaeton version of Usher's "Yeah". It was amazing fun and the majority of the bus joined in!
On the way back over the mountain, we also saw a sort of tornado which didn't really move much from the spot, sucking up sand.
At the beginning of the ride, the guide had said we'd be going straight on through and back to Arequipa. But he changed his mind and after two hours we stopped at a small cafe. My lunch we'd had the best deal: S/15 for an all-you-can-eat buffet!! Everyone had about three helpings of everything because it was that good! No jammmmm!
From there on it was smooth sailing back to Arequip, Arequip, Arequipaaaaa!
We sung some more as we passed as passed the Vicuña (small llama-deer cross) site of the Nature Park and round some "very dangerous bends".
First we dropped the Italian man off at his hostel. It was weird though because although the driver and guide were all respectful and buddy-buddy with him, as soon as the man disappeared into the crowd, they started slagging him off saying stuff like "He was weird! So fake!" I think I relayed this information a little too loudly to Libby and Paul... I wonder what they said about us :P
As tonight was Gurt's last night, we wore what he wanted [keep it clean] and chose a nice place to eat. His clothing choice was Inca Kola t-shirts and team sarongs. We must have looked ridiculous, judging from the looks we got, but everyone was having too much fun to care :)
We went to the middle of the square to see some performers buuuuuuut we felt we could use our own entertainment so we held onto each others hips and did the conga to the other side of the Plaza de Armas. We had so much fun! Sure it was out of time, but everyone was happy! I think everyone else preferred the nutty Brits too.
Finally we found a restaurant which appeared to be outside but wasn't - was in a covered courtyard.
Like the diner, the waiter didn't have a clue. We wrote down the wrong thing and forgot orders. The food was delicious though!
Maggie gave a speech about how good an addition Gurthej had been to the team, how it was sad he had to leave a bit earlier, and then presented him with a wooly finger puppet Condor as a reminder of the Colca Canyon. [Dead cow over the side for the win!]
That evening we had to go and meet the doctor who was travelling back with Gurthej at his four-star hotel. He was nicknamed Dr. Chuck because his full name was much longer.
We must have looked so bizarre in such a top notch hotel in our Inca Kola t-shirts and sarongs. We couldn't stop giggling! 
Back to the meal, anyone who ordered a pizza with ham had it made with the meat under the cheese... Iiiiiiintereting....! Yummy though!
Gurthej also gave a sweet speech about how he'd miss us and miss seeing Moreton so close every morning (jooooookes). Paul then of course ruined the moment by saying it was the 'gayest' speech ever. Nice one Paul.
When we got back that evening we opened a three litre bottle of Fanta and Sprite plus some chocolate biscuits and strawberry wafers. Mr O managed to hook his camera up to the kitchen TV so we could see the photos he'd taken of the expedition (some of them are in this blog).
The team then signed Gurthej's Inca Kola t-shirt  and he signed some of our sarongs "Buenos Nachos!"
Then we returned to our hostel to pack for our move to Los Andes the next morning. It must have been pretty late by the time we got to sleep.

Part Nine: The Ice Princess and White Water Rafting!
Han Meets WorldComment