On the Gringo Trail

Colca Travel Blog

 › entry 2 of 7 › view all entries
Getting ready for the trip to the Canyon. Yes, that is all our stuff.

It is only day 6 of my trip and we already had a robbery attempt that resulted in a high speed foot chase through the winding streets of Arequipa. Okay. Maybe not that dramatic. But it did get the old adrenaline pumping.

 

Chris and I were having lunch in a tiny hidden courtyard off the main square. We were busy chatting away and stupidly let our guard down. Stupid gringa mistake. A well dressed older gentleman came up to me and started speaking to me quick in Spanish and then he actually started hitting me with the fronds of the fern plant that was behind me, saying “Linda, kay linda.” I know it sounds so obvious now. But at the moment I was thinking, “What the hell is going on here?” And then I thought, “He is trying to steal my bag.

The Misi Volcano
” I looked down and it was still next to my foot and I looked up and he was leaving. It only took me a second though to realize it wasn´t my bag he was after, it was Chris´s. I then realized there was a second well-dressed man I hardly registered lingering on the other side of the courtyard. Both men were gone.

 

I asked Chris where her bag was and we realized they had gotten it. We were up and out of that courtyard asap. Amazingly, the two men hadn´t gotten very far. Chris grabbed the one man who had been talking to me and yelled, “Where´s my bag?” Even more amazingly, he pointed the other guy out, gave his buddy up without hesitation, so he could make his own getaway. I spotted the other guy on the far end of the street and started running, thinking, “Okay, here goes. Try to outrun me you tiny little bastard.” In my mind I was already chasing him through the streets and jumping over carts, knocking over couples…

 

But he took one look at me, big angry gringa screaming obscenities, and Chris right behind me and freaked.

Vicuna in the National Park
He made like he was going to try to outrun us, but thought better of it and tossed the bag. Chris went for the bag but I followed the guy. He slipped around the corner and got into a cab and was gone. I was pissed that he got away. We both were. But we got her bag. And the most amazing part of all is that none of Chris´s stuff was taken. Not one thing. He didn´t have the time.

 

We cursed ourselves for being so damn stupid. Both of us have travelled before--Chris has been in some rough parts this last year. But we let our guard down. Won´t happen again.

 

After that excitement, we settled into a long afternoon of shopping. Bought a ton of crap I have to haul all over now. But it is so cheap and irresistible.

 

We got up early this morning and headed out on an organized tour to the Colca Canyon.

Having coca tea before heading higher.
I am not a huge fan of tours but it really is the only way to see the Canyon. A lot of Peru is like this actually. We are on what is referred to as the Gringo Trail, a loop that goes from Lima, to Arequipa, then Puno then Cusco and then back to Lima. I don´t mind being on the Gringo Trail except that it feels a little canned now and then. Lots of locals dressed in traditional dress pedalling handicrafts and demanding money for pictures. And they are sharp with that photo racket too. If they catch you trying to sneak pictures they are on you right away for money. And they seem to always catch you. Also, you run into the same other gringos on the tour over and over again. But outside of that, the tour we were on was pretty reasonable and we saw some pretty amazing stuff.

 

We headed out early in the am yesterday in a bus with three couples, one French Canadian, one Italian couple and one Peruvian woman and Swiss man.

Coca tea stop
The other couples were nice enough. Except angry Swiss guy who wasn´t happy about anything. And the minute we were alone at the first water stop, he took the opportunity to tell me how miserable he was in his marriage. He told me all about the cultural differences, where they met, married and lived, how much he hates being tied down and that this is his second marriage. I tried to jokingly suggest that maybe he would have learned his lesson after the first marriage. He said yes, he had learned his lesson but then he said, "My rabbit was lonely though. What was I supposed to do?"

 

Hm...okay. I tried to change the subject and brought up my visit to his country, but when he found out I had only visited the French part of Switzerland he dismissed me since he is from the German part. Thank god my sister showed up and saved me.

 

The trip to the Canyon took us through a National Reserve where we saw Vicuna, Llama and Alpaca, all camelids native to the region.

Chris bartering over handicrafts
We also stopped and had some coca tea to help us acclimate since we had to climb from 2,300 meters to 4,900 meters in 2 hours. After our coca tea stop we headed on. During the ride up, our guide gave us coca leaves to chew which we all decided was “No Bueno.” At the highest point we got out, took pictures and built little appechetas--ceremonial rock towers. Locals used to make them when they were giving offerings but now, all the rock towers at the high point have been made by tourists. (This is what I mean about canned). But I made one anyway. I was feeling kind of dizzy at that altitude, like I had a little bit of a buzz and it was super hard to breathe but other than that the altitude was okay.

 

We ended up in Chivay which is a town in the Colca Valley.

Blankets
We were dropped off at our tiny spare room at the hostel we booked and the other couples were driven to their more expensive and comfortable hotels. We took the next hour to shop and look at yet more handicrafts.

 

We were then taken to a hot spring in the valley where we were able to soak in hot mineral water and drink beer. I sat in the hot water looking out at the amazing hills around us and said, “Yep Chris, we´re living the dream.”

 

At dinner our guide took us to a place where there was local music and dancing, and•oh happy day, audience participation. I was dragged out onto the floor by a tiny little man in a mask who made me do this carnival dance that tells a story of malaria. Part of the dance involved lying on the floor and being lightly flogged by the masked man. After which he actually picked my huge ass up and threw me over his shoulder.

Local woman weaving
I couldn’t stop laughing.

 

After dinner we slept in our unheated room and woke up super early to head to Cruz Condor which is a look-out point for giant condors that use the thermals in the Canyon to soar and drift. We stopped a lot and took pictures and looked at handicrafts and more colourfully dressed locals. When we got to the canyon, our guide was telling us that there might be a chance that the condors would not appear, since they are not machines, but mid-sentence, the Italian guy spotted a huge condor. We all hopped out and spent the next hour stalking condors with our cameras. They were everywhere. They were huge. They were ugly and beautiful at the same time. I took way too many pictures.

 

The landscape in the canyon is unreal. Absolutely stunning. I can´t describe how stunning the valley is and my pictures don´t even begin to capture the beauty.

Chris picking out coca leaves to chew on the ride up.
I kept thinking all day about how lucky I am right now.

 

We headed back down to Chivay and had lunch. Which was traditional Peruvian food, which turns out to be lots of potatoes, vegetables, alpaca, chicken and even tripe (sheep stomach). It was delicious. My body is angry with me though for all the food and the altitude changes.

 

We are back in Arequipa now and in a few hours we head to Puno to check out Lake Titicaca.

 

In the meantime, I am off to down some immodium and try to ride out this vague nausea that I am battling.

Coca leaves
Good stuff.

 

 

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Getting ready for the trip to the …
Getting ready for the trip to the…
The Misi Volcano
The Misi Volcano
Vicuna in the National Park
Vicuna in the National Park
Having coca tea before heading hig…
Having coca tea before heading hi…
Coca tea stop
Coca tea stop
Chris bartering over handicrafts
Chris bartering over handicrafts
Blankets
Blankets
Local woman weaving
Local woman weaving
Chris picking out coca leaves to c…
Chris picking out coca leaves to …
Coca leaves
Coca leaves
Condors flying above Colca Canyon
Condors flying above Colca Canyon
Condor in Colca Canyon
Condor in Colca Canyon
Chris scoping out condors at Colca…
Chris scoping out condors at Colc…
On the streets of Chivay in Colca …
On the streets of Chivay in Colca…
The town of Chivay in Colca Valley
The town of Chivay in Colca Valley
The Colca River, Colca Valley
The Colca River, Colca Valley
Our guide, Percy, telling us about…
Our guide, Percy, telling us abou…
Trying out local cuisine at lunch …
Trying out local cuisine at lunch…
Me at the highest point on our tou…
Me at the highest point on our to…
The Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon
Part of the malaria dance. He thre…
Part of the malaria dance. He thr…
Terracing in the Colca Canyon
Terracing in the Colca Canyon
Colca
photo by: Sylvie1