Sadly there were deaths on the Inca Trail this year after a series of storms and mudslides, as I´m sure you´ve heard. An Argentine young woman and a Peruvian guide died at one of the campsites. Other local habitants also died due to flooding around the Cusco valley.
My trek was officially canceled the night before we were to leave. I knew it was coming, the news of the slide had spread fast within the trekking community. I am disappointed I could not go. I had psyched myself up for the trek and the anticipation was nearly killing me. However, I would not trek out there during the worst of the rains, or hike myself into mudslide territory. Still, there is a trek un-trekked now. I have it in my mind that I will hike the Inca Trail, but most likely I´ll be going during the dryer season next time.
I felt as though I had waited weeks to leave on a trek. Getting stir crazy to be out of a city. Out in nature. Eventually I left for the Colca Canyon in Arequipa. Finally. Hiking. Trekking. Getting up at 2am. Ouch.
The highlight of the Colca Canyon 3 day trek is definitely San Juan, population nine. Don´t let those pool-crazy tourists tell you the Oasis is the best. Yeah, the crystal blue pools nestled between rocks at the bottom of the canyon, right beside the river are very welcoming after a hot hike, but when will you have the chance to hike into a village and double the population? To see how nine people on this planet live. Simply. In the middle of nature. Bringing in supplies by donkey. Herding sheep. Raising rabbits. Listening to the clucks of a wandering rooster.
The bungalows where we stayed had thatched roofs, adobe walls and mud floors. Various creepy crawlies are the only version of room service. We were not totally roughing it though. A modern version of the outhouse with flushing toilet was very welcome. Nobody likes to squat over a hole.
Two days, a blister later and after relaxing poolside in what felt way to decadent for ´trekking´the group woke at 4:30am to hit La Subida. The Climb. 5k. No big deal. 1300meters (@4200ft) up. Ok, fine. Going from 2300meters asl (@7,500ft) to 3600meters asl (@11,800ft). Uh-huh. Bring on the altitude! It was good. It was breath-taking (the views at this point… it literally became breath-taking about 400meters from the finish). The goal – make it to the trees at the top. The time – 2 1/2 hours later. The satisfaction – hiking a 5k in 2 1/2 hours and then sitting down.
My calves are only mildly miffed at me today. The rest of my body is fine. My lungs even held on, although I will admit to feeling queasy at times. There was the option to hire a donkey for 50 soles, but the ever-masochistic-me would have none of that. Trek in. Trek out.
So it is off to rock climb tomorrow morning. Lets see if I can´t destroy my arms now. I haven´t written about the city of Arequipa. I know. I´ll give it another day of walking the streets to let it all set in and get back to you. Sporadically.