Monday, April 17, 2006

April 17, 2006 - Peru

The city of Arequipa is one of many beautiful churches and
cathedrals. Specifically, around the Plaza de Armas is the
cathedral that stretches the city block. During Holy Week,
Arequipeños boast that their observances of the days of
Semana Santa (holy week) are as 'good' as those in Seville.
With the volcano El Misti and the white capped Andes
looming everpresent, we enjoyed the festivities and
excitement a city can bring. We used this time to make
preparation into Canyon Country.
This area is known for the two deepest canyons in the whole
world and where you can see at least 3 out of the 4 of the
camelid family (alpacas, llamas, vicuños). And being the
adventurous soul I am, I figured I´d better check it out
for myself. We heading up into the mountains through tiered
farmland and small villages that have a stone archway at
each entrance welcoming us. It is a much slower pace of
life here and such amazing and beautiful scenery. We made
our way up and past 15,000ft and up to the village of
Cabanaconde. From here we hoisted our packs and began our
trek into Cañon de Colca, meaning canyon of souls. It is
named as such because they used to bury their tribes chiefs
and important people into the canyon wall caves by lowering
them with a rope like material.
For hour upon hour we decended to the canyon floor where
each switchback brought beautiful wildflowers of all
colors, loads of different cacti and picturesque views. It
appearred as almost a fake backdrop. Apparently it is twice
as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Once we came upon
the Rio Grande we crossed the bridge and began our ascent
of the other side through the small mountain and canyon
settlements. One very unique thing I continually noticed
was the channeling of waters from the peaks they did
through the settlements. As nightfall closed in and our
eyes stuggled to see the path, legs and lungs burning from
the altitude, the inclines and declines, we came to the
village of Cosñirhua. Here we stayed in a mud brick hut
that had dirt floors and bamboo tied framed beds. The
compound kitchen cooked over a wood fire and even the mule
had a lot to 'say' throughout the night. We spent the cold
night here very content in the settlement welcomed by the
local family. In the morning we set out across the canyon
and then once again decended upon the river by midday with
the sun pounding above. My friend, Jon and I continually
remarked how perfect some of the areas would be for an
ampitheatre and a music concert! Wouldn´t that be a scene.
After a stopover for lunch at an oasis where pools of water
from the canyon were collected and we took a dip, we had
our biggest challenge ahead. We ascended for the rest of
the day up and out of the severely inclined trail. With
every step you felt the altitude, the legs and lungs
burning. From hot afternoon sun to the late afternoon
breeze and snow falling on the peaks, the temperature
changed as the views became more and more remarkable. As we
finally came to the top and made the hour trek back to the
village, we were quite exhausted. On easter morning we
fought along with the local villagers to make the bus. As a
sidenote, the women here where these hand embroidered hats
that are almost peter pan-like in style. They also wear a 2
layered long colorful skirt where the bottom inches to a
foot are hand embroidered and the top one is pulled up and
pinned to the waist so it draps halfway down. Also
finishing off the ensemble is an intricately embroidered
vest and top. Quite impressive! The men don´t have any
specific dress, but all wear these hats that are a
combination of a cowboy hat and a sombrero.
Ok, so we made our way to Cruz de Condor to where the
condors roost and soar and then with the bus packed to the
gills standing room included, we went to this great town
for lunch called Chivay. Due to the holiday, our trekking
group that was split into 3 (a group that included 3
americans, a spanish, 3 Swedes, a dutch, 3 french, a welch,
2 peruvians and two crazy english!) put-putted our way back
to Arequipa in a broken down old bus. We went up and over
the pass where snow fell quite hard and our driver kept
stopping because our tires were missing some of the nuts
and bolts..I think we had 4 out of 6. Hours later and with
the English couple keeping us entertained with many ideas
for games and songs we finally made it back to Arequipa and
dropped to our beds!!! What an adventure....
After a breakfast on the balcony overlooking the plaza with
warm clear skies today, we reflected on the whole crazy few
days. Fun stuff...
Off back to Lima today (might try my hand again at surfing)
before completing the trip and into the Twin Cities on
Thursday night.
Look forward to seeing some of you soon!