The next venture on the PeruHop tour led us on an overnight bus about eleven hours south of Huacachina to Arequipa, Peru. The overnight bus arrived at 5AM and the city ended up being much larger and colder than we realized. Also more historical! The busy, cobblestone streets are lined with colonial buildings and the backdrop of volcanos and snowcapped mountains was stunning. We spent two full days here. The Flying Dog Hostel overbooked their rooms and upgraded us to the matrimonial suite! Yeah!
The first day we spent with two friends we'd met in Huacachina. Jon and Cayley are from Capetown, South Africa and are probably the coolest people we've met throughout our trip! We hung out in the city and toured the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, built in 1580. The best way to tour Santa Catalina is by hiring one of the guides, as the Monasterio takes up about a block and is almost a city in itself. Inside the walled catedral there are many different cobblestone streets and cells that served as living quarters for the nuns. These cells housed one or more nuns, the size depending on the wealth of the family. Once committed to the Monasterio, the women were not allowed to exit. It currently still houses a small community of nuns, but nothing near the original amount. They're permitted to leave, but mainly for necessities.
Although there's quite a bit to see in Arequipa, Ron and I were most excited for the Colca Canyon hike. Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world (Grand Canyon is the fourth). Ron, Jon, Cayley and I booked through a tour company recommended by PeruHop and prepared ourselves for the two day/one night hike and picked up some gloves, hats, and other cold weather clothes. The company picked us up from our hostel at 3AM and drove us towards the starting point about four hours away from Arequipa. Our group was made up of only seven people, plus Davíd the guide. During the drive we made one stop at Cruz del Cóndor- we saw many condors soaring above and took some awesome photos of the canyon.
The cool thing about hiking Colca Canyon is that you start at the top, which let us enjoy the views without huffing and puffing the entire time... even though I might trade the soar knees/ankles and blisters for an uphill hike next time. The first day we hiked down into the valley and across it to a small hostel where we spent the night. Davíd separated from the group early on in the day, giving us freedom to hike ourselves. We met a small dog named Rocky at the starting point who started hiking the trail with us. We were excited to have a furry companion, but had no idea he was going to stay with us the entire two day hike! Ron's bluetooth speaker was attached to his backpack so we had some great music to hike to as well! The cliffside path guided us through incredible scenery, which changed a few times throughout the day- the first couple hours we were surrounded by rocks and cacti, but once in the canyon it was lush and tropical vegetation. When we made it to the river at the bottom of the canyon and reunited with Davíd we made our way to a small village for lunch. After lunch we continued the hike a couple hours more. We hiked about twelve miles the first day. Tired and ready for a beer we made it to the hostel and somehow Ron mustered up enough energy to join a soccer game between the guides!
The second day started at 4:30AM and was a three hour hike up from the hostel to the top of the canyon. The mountains and sunrise were beautiful! Although a bit dangerous when they distracted you from the small pathway! As the sun rose and crossed the sky, the canyon would constantly look different! We made our way to the top, did a short celebration, and walked to the nearby town for breakfast and to catch the bus. Rocky stayed with us all the way through breakfast and then jumped on one of the busses so he could get dropped back off at the starting point! During the drive back to Arequipa we stopped in a small tourist town. We met a Gino, a one month old alpaca and relaxed in some natural hot springs. An amazing feeling after the fifteen miles we had hiked over the past two day.
Next stop, Cusco and one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Machu Picchu! Hefners out!
The central market in Arequipa.
I don't think we'll ever get used to the meat section of the Latin American markets. Especially the smell.
Yes, that is a pig head.
Cruz del Condor. The stop on our way to Colca Canyon.
Our group starting the hike at the top!
Our tiny path along the mountains.
Jon and Cayley.
Rocky! A local dog that walked with us the entire hike.
We were hiking to the bridge in the distance.
The hostel in the canyon.
The soccer game surrounded by the hostel rooms. Ron's in white!
Sunrise on the mountains as we hiked up the next morning.
Gino, the one month old alpaca.