When we quickly passed through Arequipa the first time, we really enjoyed it, so we decided that it would be a great place to celebrate Mikes birthday on February 14. So, immediately after island hopping, we got on a bus to Arequipa. Id have to say that my favorite part about the bus trips around Arequipa and Puno were the llamas and alpacas, god are they ever cute!
Unfortunately, Mike wasnt feeling very well that night and we ended up going home pretty early. I had had more to drink than him and it was definitly obvious-Im sure he wasnt impressed!
We did a lot of really cool things in and around Arequipa. On the 18th we took a cheap two hour raft trip down Rio Chile. It was my first time and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, as did Mike. Its too bad that it wasnt a longer trip, I can definitly see more of that in our future! And that night, we met a couple of boys from Dawson Creek, British Columbia at a pizza joint near the plaza. We hung out for a little while and convinced them to join us for our next adventure: El Misti!
El Misti is a 5825m-high, thats approx. 18 000 feet, active volcano that looms over Arequipa. I mean, when you see this thing, your jaw drops! Its perfectly cone-shaped and oh, so majestic looking. And, looking for an adventure, we decided we would climb it...you know, just for shits and giggles! So, we paid a tour company $47US each to climb this beast, which included our guide, all meals except for lunch the last day, transportation, a tent and any other gear that we required. The next day we were picked up at 7am by a 4x4 that drove us to about 4000m. There were five hikers to begin with: Mike and I, Todd and Mark, the two brothers from Canada, and an older man from Denmark. Our guides name was Jesus (pronounced hay-zues)...which was funny, because whenever Mike got frustrated, he would always curse, "Jesus"! Anyway, we hiked for a solid five hours to base camp. It was a deadly and constant trek uphill with infrequent stops. Ill kill someone if I ever hear another guide yell "vamos", which is "lets go"! When we got to base camp it was pouring rain and snowing a little. We were absolutely exhausted and when unfolding out tent, realized that it was about 2 feet too short for any normal sized human being to sleep in! Not only that, but the tarp given to us, wasnt even for our tent and on top of that, the tarp, nor the tent were waterproof! Mike spent a good hour digging trenches around our tent so that we wouldnt wake up in a puddle of water (we were on a slant obviously, so water was just streaming towards us). When we were set up, Jesus told us that he was going to walk the man from Denmark back down most of the trail and that he would be back at six to make dinner. First of all, anyone who climbs halfway up a volcano, is crazy and secondly, as if Jesus was going to walk down and all the way back up again before 6pm??!! Needless to say, after a hot and fairly tasty dinner with coca tea at about 6:30pm, Mike and I settled into bed and I a fantastic sleep! NOT!! All of our wet gear had to be kept inside the tent with us, we were on a huge slant downwards, we had to sleep diagonally in the tent to fit and our sleeping bags were soaked. In total, Id say that we got about and hour and a half of sleep, if that! And when Jesus woke us up at 4:30am, most of our stuff was soaked with water and our shoes were drenched-Mike was squeezing water out of his! Oh, and for breakfast, we drank coca tea. Thats right, we are about to summit an 18 000 foot volcano, with a 6 hour uphill slog infront of us, and we get tea for breakfast? Give me a break! And the worst of it was, everyone had left their lunches at base camp, because we were expecting breakfast during the summit attempt! Todd wasnt feeling well, so he stayed behind, but the rest of us started walking at 5am, an hour later than scheduled! When we started walking, it felt like we had never stopped from the day before, it was horrible. We hiked for a solid 5 hours, in waist deep snow at times, others, scrambling up rock faces. At this point, Mike and Mark were stumbling all over the place and their pace slowed dramatically, they were suffering from severe altitude sickness. Even when we asked our guide to slow down, he pushed us because we were already behide (his fault for waking us up late). We hiked another 50 steps or so and then we made a joint decision to descend, it was just too unsafe and a storm was brewing. Oh, and how did we descend? Thats right, down an avalanche schute?! But it was safe, because our guide threw a tiny snowball down the mountain every once and a while??!! We pretty much ran down this schute of volcanic ash and snow, but it was difficult to go slow and even more difficult to stop! Mark nailed me one time and I rolled down about 30 feet, and then Mike also took a good tumble-he went head-over-heels about three times. We were at base camp a couple of hours later; everyone was hurting, not to mention, disappointed that we had failed when we were so close. I made sandwiches and we were given 40 minutes to rest, then we pack up camp and made our way to the 4x4 about 2 hours down the mountain...it pissed rain the entire way! Even though it was by far the toughest and most demanding thing Ive ever had to do-physically and mentally, it was the coolest experience Ive ever had. Id attempt it again if we had the time, maybe well try another one in Chile!
After getting back, we took a day to recover and then went out the next night for Todds birthday. He was hammered, we were embarrased for him and had a couple of laughs, then we went home!
A couple of days later we all met up again to trek into Cañon del Colca, the second deepest canyon in the world, second only to Cañon del Cotahuasi nearby. The deepest sections are reportedly 3400m deep! We were being picked up at 1am by the tour company (the same company we used for Misti), so Mike and I decided to pass time by doing a little drinking-wed have time to sleep on the bus! The five hour bus ride to Cabanaconde is by far the most horrible buss ride Ive ever had. The road is full of potholes and bumps, even river run across it! We had seats at the back and every time we hit a bump, which was every .0002 seconds, we would fly out of our seats! It was like riding a roller-coaster, but it wasnt fun! Mike hit his head on the ceiling of the bus, I hit mine on the windoe a couple of times and to top it of, they dont let you get of to use the washroom until 4 hours into the rides, I nearly pissed myself about 10 times! Anyway, we got to Cabanaconde at 7am, had breakfast and then descended into the canyon. We walked down for three hours to where we ate lunch. On the way down we saw Andean condors, whos wing span can measure up to 3m in length! These birds are absolutely huge! One flew about 10 feet over our head and it sound like a plane, it was crazy! After lunch, which our guide, Ronald, had made, we hiked another three hours to an oasis with three pools and a bar! We ate well that night (another one of Ronalds masterpieces) and went to bed before midnight. The next morning Ronald woke us up at 4:30 so that we could hike out of the canyon and eat breakfast by 8am. The three hour walk uphill was difficult, but especially hard for me, as Im still nursing that sprained ankle of mine, and right knee gave out during our Misti trek! Im such a mess-I bet my ankle will never heal! Anyway, Cañon del Coca was beautiful to say the least and its the coolest feeling ever to have finished a hard three hour hike before breakfast! After breakfast, we took another bus to Chivay where we bathed in thermal hotsprings for an hour, followed by lunch and a Baileys and coffee and an Irish pub that we had found near the plaza! then, it was a tour hour three hous bus ride home!
That night, we met up with everyone, including Ronald, Diana (a girl we met on the hike) and B(have I mentioned B yet...I met her in Cuenca!) and went to a bar caled Dadyos for ladies night and $1 beers...good times!