Sad, but not tragic. A forced opportunity. Maybe even a fortunate adaptation…fuck it. Let's make taco salad.

Arequipa/Colca Canyon

The cold bug that hit me in Puno proceeded to kick my ass for 10 days.  It got so bad (I know you want to know how bad) that I had big green boogers coming out my eyeballs.  One night, I had to get up and wash my face in order to open my right eye; it was completely glued shut.  Dad called it the “diesel snots” because of the horrible emissions from all the old busses and broken-ass collectivos around here.  Whatever the fuck it was, I’ve never seen shit like that come out of me before.


By the way, Arequipa (~1 million people, ~7500 feet, Rubble Alert Level: Sunshine!  No problemo!) has a beautiful Plaza de Armas, of course.  Despite my condition, we did manage to get in some sightseeing, shopping (bleh), and futbol before taking off on a tour of the Colca Canyon.






The Colca Canyon (according to our guide – he is likely lying) is the deepest in the world at 1800 meters/5900 feet, about 200 meters deeper than the Grand Canyon.  Our first stop was a pass at 16,000 feet, certainly the highest I have been (except for with the French guy in Mancora), but it was not nearly as painful by bus as it was on foot with a punch-drunk Czech in tow.  We paid a visit to “the highest baño in the world” (surely, this is bullshit) and used our well-practiced “No gracias,” and “Maybe later!” on the indigenous locals.  They were impressed.





After a month in Peru, I was finally given the “how to macerate coca leaf” demo, as opposed to using the coca tea and lozenges that I’ve been voraciously consuming.  The leaves need an agent to activate the alkaloids inside, and what is most commonly used is either potash or sodium carbonate (i.e. Tums).  The flavor is not exactly righteous, but the effects are amazingly real for reducing the effects of the altitude.  You also get the fancy numb mouth sensation that comes with other drugs that some people might be using.  (Mom, I know what you’re thinking, but coca leaf is considered a sacred plant here and is about as close to cocaine as a coffee plant is to a double caramel macchiato.)



We then stopped for an interesting evening in the dusty little town of Chivay (~5000 people, ~12,000 feet,  Rubble Alert Level: Fuscia – if I wasn’t stranded on this fucking tourist bus, I would surely run away.).  We bailed out on our lame tour group and went out to party on our own.  One important side note here is that, 90% of the time, if a drink is not on the menu, they have no fucking idea how to improvise.  So, instead of trying to convince the restaurant to put the pisco in the pineapple juice (this is the go-to drink for me in Peru, by the way), we just ordered pineapple juice and then ran to the store next door to get our own pisco.  We finished the first bottle walking around Chivay (this took approximately 7 minutes), and picked up a second one to take back to the hostel for a nightcap.  Except that the second bottle went down far more smoothly than the first and we were also out of juice.  (Is this the miracle cure I’ve been seeking?)  Back in to the clothes and back down to the corner store, where Dad announced, “We’re back!!” to belly laughs from the entire family working there. I tried to get the mother figure to exchange hats with me, but she wasn’t having it.  At least I got this…


A 5 am wake up call, moldy bread and instant coffee for breakfast (seriously), and we’re off for another 3-hour dusty diesel snots bus ride to the Condor Cross overlook.  (Why do I feel like this is my new destiny?  A year of fucked up bus rides?  I chose this??)  The place was literally crawling with touristicos, but that didn’t even register when the condors started swirling directly overhead.  Apparently (again, could be tour guide propaganda) the only larger flying bird is the albatross.  Surreal experience; it’s like they knew we were coming and were waiting to show off.






It was a long ride home, but we went back the same way we came…time for Xanax and a dust mask.

The architecture of Arequipa is quite stunning because of all the white stone mined from the surrounding hills.  It’s kind of like Minas Tirith, but without the orcs and that pesky eye of Sauron thing.  (Thank el baby jesus for that.)




One of my favorite parts of this journey is running into fellow travelers that we have met along the way.  In Arequipa, we watched futbol with Ken, a Brit who roomed with us in Mancora.  (The bastard still owes me a tequila from the US v England game, but I couldn’t stomach it this time around.)  We had dinner with Tom from Slovakia who hung out with us in the Sacred Valley.  And, on the street, we randomly bumped into Orlando  from LA who had drinks with Dad and I in a bar in Cusco.  There is a different spirit in those who are on the road and you connect in a way that is so much different from our lives in the “real world.”



As our week in Arequipa comes to an end, what was once a cloud of fear has now become my sole focus:  I haven’t spent more than two hours alone in more than 6 weeks and I am about to chew my fucking arm off.  Yes, it will be difficult to be completely alone.  Yes, I am lucky to have family here.  But family is family.  And what was once a scratch becomes a gash becomes an open sore becomes a severed limb, if you’re not careful.  I am SO ready for everyone to go home and to get some time to figure out why the hell I am here.  We had a great, relaxed time our last two days in the city and were able to close on the highest of notes.  While Holly, Dad, and Nan took the arduous plane ride from Arequipa back to Coeur d’ Alene (36 hours…yipes…), I popped two halcyon (thanks Dad!!) and jumped on the night bus back to Cusco.







One Response to “Arequipa/Colca Canyon”

  1. kevinpdx says:

    Nice Jesus pictures. Have you ate a hat as of late?

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