More buses. Promise you. the cheapest and easiest way to travel, but by no means the nicest.
From Arequipa, we went on a bus to Cabanaconde, a small town on the rim of the canyon. Tip about hiking the Colca: DONT BOOK TOURS IN AREQUIPA. Go to Cabanaconde and hire a tour guide there (though in all honesty, you can hike it by yourself with the help of this trusty map that EVERYONE has there.)
Day 1: Hike to Llahuar. Llahuar is quite the hike but well worth it once you get there. The little stop is two guesthouses that hang off a cliff overlooking the Colca River and provided the river doesn’t overflow, boasts thermal waters right beside the raging river! Plus you get bamboo beds. REALLY comfortable.
Day 2: Hike to Llatica and Fure. We passed by Llatica and just booked it to Fure, where we were hoping to go up to see the cascada (waterfall). But because it had rained furiously and the villagers were telling us that the roads were destroyed, and because the guys were looking at us strange and making comments that we were the first women travellers they have seen in a while, we decided to move on from Fure and by nightfall we were safely in the village of Malata.
Day 3: Headed down from Malata back to Cabanaconde. The hike was really straining for me… altitude makes it really hard to hike. You get altitude sickeness (sorrocho) and the remedy is coca leaves in tea with sugar… except that same remedy keeps you awake at night from the caffeine. The hike nearly made me go crazy. But brandi was great in encouraging me throughout and the views were WELL worth the dizzying heights and steep climbs!
During the whole trip, we picked up two dogs who were quickly dubbed Pip (white) and Excalibur (black). Pip, being the female, was the leader of the two, and quite the catch. She was our tour guide for the Canyon, directing us through the paths that were sometimes hard to tell. Hot stuff came with a price though. Almost all the other dogs on the trail were dumb male dogs in heat. Can’t tell you how many times we had to shake off a desperate mutt trying to get at our Pip. ick.
Coming back to Arequipa, we decided to explore around a little bit. The Santa Catalina convent is one of the most beautiful in South America, boasting a material called Sillar that is white volcanic rock. The Spaniards first introduced this kind of building material and the city has since become known as “The White City.” The convent used this material. but changed the color palate and I had a lot of fun wandering around the mini-city and soaking in all the beautiful colors in hidden places.
We got sick a lot in Arequipa… but this was our temporary solution to everything. Coca tea!
Next stop: Puno and then Bolivia!