Monday morning, I woke up early and Rafeal arrived at my hostal to pick me up. We walked up the street to where the Dutchman and Spaniard were staying, only to find out that the Spaniard had a bad bout of altitude sickness and couldn't go. We headed to the bus station and got on a bus to Cabanaconde. During the ride, the Dutchman got a call from the Spaniard, and he turned back when our bus stopped at Chivay. So it was just me and Rafeal.
The three days of hiking were great. We started from Cabanaconde around 3 p.m. after a hearty lunch, and reached the bottom of the canyon in a mere two hours. The map said four hours, but not for us. On our way down, we passed hordes of old Germans that had started at 1 p.m. After the 1000-meter descent (which did a number on my knees), we reached the small village of San Juan del Chukcho. We stayed in a guesthouse with a grass roof. The owner made us dinner, and we were joined by two Frenchies and their guide. The five of us told stories and enjoyed a creamy soup and a delicious dish called "lomo saltado." We then frittered the rest of the night away over warm cups of mate de coca, which unfotunately has no intoxicating effects (though it is refreshing).
Did I ever say I love being an American? The default language to every international conversation is English. The French girl named Fani knew French and English. Royal, their guide, knew Spanish, Quechua, and English. Rafeal knew Spanish and English. Son of a bitch! I see a pattern! I could partake in the chatter with no effort. Tomas, Fani's boyfriend, knew only French and German, so he had to live vicariously through Fani. TAKE THAT, TOMAS! NEXT TIME LEARN GOD'S LANGUAGE INSTEAD OF HILTER'S! Boy, I am a nationalistic pig.
During this little convo, I also learned from Rafeal and Royal to watch out for women called "bricheras" that flirt with what the percieve to be rich tourists. They'll be your arm-candy until your wallet is empty. The important phrase to know is "no me gusta bricheras."
(The cellphone of the person in the booth to my right just rang, and it was that annoying "WAZZUP" thing from the '90s. Seriously, some people need to get with the times.)
The next day, we woke up around 7 a.m., and hiked around the canyon for about four hours. We passed through the village of Crosñera, Malata, and then went off in a different direction until we eventually meandered down the canyon to cross the bridge into the oasis of Sangalle (san-guy-yay). I went down to the river to read for a little while, and then we had lunch. Rafeal and I spent the rest of the afternoon drinking Arequipeño, playing dominos, and talking about movies. We had dinner (which was by candlelight as Sangalle doesn't have electricity), more coca tea, and then fell asleep in our bamboo hut near the river.
The last day, we began hiking at 5:30 a.m. (YIKES!) and made it up the canyon by 8:30. You know what's uncomfortable? Waking up at 5:30 in the morning, wearing the same clothes and the same filth you have been wearing for the past two days, and ascending 1000 meters up a steep trail. We got to the top, and boarded the two-hour bus back to Chivay. On the way, we passed a lookout called Cruz del Condor and saw the condors flying past the cliffside. Neat birds, but I prefer eagles. We stopped in Chivay for some tasty alpaca ribs, and got back on the bus for the three-hour journey to Arequipa.
This whole day has really messed with my inner-ears. I've been as low as 7,000 feet and as high as 15,000. Up is down, left is right, Obama is McCain, and I have lost all perception of reality.
Overall, it was a great hike. When I got back to Arequipa, I found a hotel room, showered, and lay on my bed and watched TV for hours. Thank the good English-speaking Lord for CineCanal and "Ah-chay, Bey, Oh" (HBO).
Now, for some canyon pics. I was going to go off on how beautiful it was, but I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Once again, this has been your captain speaking. I've got a few more days in Arequipa, and then I'm off to Lake Titicaca. I might spend a night in Isla Taquile with the natives, if time permits. Until then, adios!