Waking at the crack of dawn, mule ride up the mountain, hot springs, wild alpacas…we had it all on the last day of our 3-day trek. And to think the whole thing, including meals and accommodation, cost us each a grand total of about $60USD.
Nancy and I knew we were too trashed to make it back up to the top of the canyon rim on the third day so we had booked a couple of mules the night before for less than $20 apiece. Well worth the cost to save us any more pain! Just because we have lost almost 100 pounds between the two of us in the last year doesn’t mean we are in tip-top shape yet. And little did we know that we wouldn’t be able to sit down for another week but that’s another story!
So, bright and early at 6:30am we set off up the mountain on our newfound mules They were on automatic pilot. As soon as someone mounted one, it quickly started heading up the trail, much to the chagrin of the rider. The “guide” was somewhere at the end of the mule train so we were all on our own. Our little group consisted of about six riders strung out along the steep rocky path. Nancy picked up the rear and she told me she spent the whole trip talking to her animal to calm herself down! All we could do was hold on for dear life and hope to hell our mules knew what they were doing!
I have to admit I have great admiration for these things now. How they managed to jump and scramble their way up the side of the mountain with us on their backs is beyond me. And they remained sure-footed the whole way. Faith had a lot to do with the trip. Especially when my mule continually decided to lean over the edge of the 1000m meter or more straight drop to eat the foliage growing on the side of the cliff.
Anyway, two hours later we were at the top and soon arrived at the small town of Cabanaconde where we had started our trip two days earlier. From hereon in, it was bus travel only and our legs thanked us for that. After breakfast we headed to the Cruz del Condor, a lookout on the side of the canyon where condors can be seen early in the morning soaring on the upward drafts. However, we arrived too late in the morning to see any condors and could only take in the magnificent scenery instead.
From there, we headed onwards along the valley and took in the incredible pre-Incan terraced hillsides from several vantage points along the way. This is one of the most fertile regions in the country and has been for thousands of years. The terraces are remnants of past cultures and still used today.
Heading towards the main Colca town of Chivay, we stopped off at a couple of smaller towns along the way as well as a great natural hot springs area. From Chivay, it was the last leg of the tour through the National Reserve where we got to see wild grazing alpacas and llamas. Then it was around the volcanos and back to Arequipa in time for dinner. An amazing three days in the back-country of southern Peru!