Week 20: Arequipa & Colca Canyon. Peru

I arrived into Peru in the early hours after a fairly rough ride from Bolivia (nothing new there). While trying to pay for the toilet in the bus terminal I walked off without realising and had dropped $300 dollars in the middle of the floor in the bus terminal (it’s all I have left!). I was blessed when the kindest woman came sprinting after me with the goods. The  people you meet will never cease to amaze me.

I arrived on Paddy’s day which was always going to be a write off. I camped out in the wild rover for the day (a branch of south american party hostels owned by an Irish lad). I won’t elaborate on the details of the day but lots of fun and pisco were had. I ended up bumping into two girls who live in Drumcondra, 5 minutes from our house. If you’re Irish you got free accommodation, t-shirt, hat and ample amounts of shots.Happy Days! I always love being abroad for Paddy’s Day and as cheesy as it sounds you feel really proud and patriotic to be Irish when you see people from all over the world celebrating with our flag. Now for most it’s just an excuse to party but sure who cares! A fiesta is a fiesta!

The general gist of Paddy’s day. Photo:Wild Rover. I wisely left the camera at home that day.

So needless to say the next day was also a write off. When I eventually got to discover Arequipa I realised how stunning it was. It has gorgeous architecture, cobbled streets, amazing foods and the cutest cafes and restaurants. The perfect place to chill out for a couple for a few days.

Main plaza at night Arequipa

One of the days I did a free walking tour around Arequipa. Feeling confident I decided to do it in Spanish and subsequently didn’t understand a tap but got to see the beautiful sites nonetheless!

Some of the amazing architexture in Arequipa


Terrace in the Flying Dog hostel, Arequipa
Flying Dog hostel, Arequipa
Gracias Marina for the drawings. Marina a chica from Argentina is funding her travels by doing amazing illustrations. Buena suerte!

I decided to treat myself to doing a chocolate making class  in Chaqchou which was  incredible. In Peru there are more than 60 different varieties of cacao, out of the world’s 100 total varieties. Peru is the world’s second largest exporter of organic cacao. Some of the funky facts I learned on the tour was that Christopher Columbus was the first European to taste chocolate and didn’t like it so the Peruvians aren’t fans of Chris (what an idiot). Peru is famous for making tea out of the skins of the cocoa bean, smells like hot chocolate tastes like tea. Bleeding gorgeous. I could have camped out in this chocolate factory for months.

Chocolate making class featuring real cocoa & cocoa butter
The coco fruit, coco butter and the chocolate tea

We picked the beans, roasted them, deskined, mixed, tempered and then picked our own fillings and made the most delicious chocolates to take home. If anyone goes to Arequipa you need to do this class. I was so inspired afterwards I was googling chocolate making machines. I was in  one of my dangerous buying moods. The fact my card is blocked was probably a blessing in disguise on this occasion.

Going home with the goods! 70%  homemade peruvian chocolates

After the class myself and a Frenchie went for a few piscos and met  a few hippy friends of hers.  The hippies spent the evening  teaching me how to make jewellery to try and help me earn some dollar One of the tatoo artists had me almost convinced to a get a tatoo of a coco bean post my chocolate expedition ( which included an excellent discount). I honestly felt high on chocolate.  Once again the lack of money brought me back to earth. I think my jewellery making career will be short-lived. That being said I have mastered making rings out of wires ( no doubt I’ll be minted in no time)! Later in the night there was talk of getting dreadlocks he had me sold when he told me I’d really have to wash my hair! I  eventually came to the realisation that dreadlocks were a step too far even for me! When I came home I had found my only pair of shoes were put in the rubbish. One of my dorm mates told me the cleaner said they were filthy and fit for the bin, I wouldn’t’ mind but there are my ‘going out shoes’.  Needless to say they were rooted out pronto and are back in action.

The following day, I made mates with a Mexican, Argentinian and Columbian in the  hostel (flying dog, v good hostel) where we went to the local market to buy jumpers and eat helado de  queso (cheese ice cream). A really traditional dessert in Arequipa and the lady in the market is famous for hers. Looks like cheese doesn’t taste like cheese it’s DELISH.

Mexico and Columbia eating cheese ice cream in Arequipa´s market

Arequipa’s food market was one of the most organised I have ever seen and was actually relatively clean. As  usual an amazing collection of exotic fruits and vegetables.

One of South Americas more hygienic markets
Fish and some other suspicious meat joints
One of the many juice bars

One of the biggest attractions in Arequipa is to visit the nearby Colca Canyon. It is the second deepest canyon in the world. Instead of taking a tour myself and Santiago, the Columbian guy decided to go together. If you take a tour you get picked up at 3.00am so we opted for a later start. We ended up picking up a little kid from Canada (just turned 18 looks about 8) and a chap from Iceland (my first Icelandic of the trip). So the 4 of us headed  off to find the public bus to Cabanaconde. So when I first met the Kayden, the Canadian child I though he was a funny fish and definitely not your usual backpacking clientele (but then again who is…). Turns out he is the sweetest guy and getting to know him was a pleasure. He’s defo got his shit together. He has his own apartment and is the manager of Mc Donalds in Canada (I’ve been guaranteed a free big mac if I ever visit!!). Our very random group rocked up to a run down hostel. We stocked up on Clos (cartoned red wine that’s actually is drinkable) and pizza. The next day the hostel owner thought that Kayden was my son so a fantastic start to the day. Everyone was calling him a nino (child en espanol). We managed to secure the nino a discount on the entrance fee into the canyon. Every cloud and all that jazz.

Colca Canyon day 1
The gang day 1 of Colca Canyon
Colca Canyon
The place is surrounded by cactus
More cactus

We were blessed with the weather and the views of the canyon were breath-taking. When we arrived at the oasis we checked into the hostel where a caban for the 4 of us for the night was ($2). It was the most stunning setting and we went swimming over a few beers and chilled on the rocks. We were  lucky because the day before there had been torrential rain for the entire day.

Oasis, Colca Canyon
Bumped into this little fella outside our caba

At 6am the next morning Ziggy woke up all  up to the sound of his crappy ring tones. The steep climb up the canyon is fairly intense and is vertically uphill all the way. You are warned not to leave any later than 7am because the heat from the sun is such a killer with the uphill. If you go on a tour you leave at 4am (fairly grim). We started off guns blazing after about 5 minutes Kayden the nino started pucking his ring up and had chronic diorrhoea. He looks kind of sick on a good day but he really looked like death on this occasion. I felt so sorry for him as I’ve been in that position on more occassions that I want to recall. Ziggy, superfit was sprinting up the Canyon so me and Santiago stayed back with Kayden. I suggested we take turns in lifting him because he genuinely could barely stand upright. When the lifting idea didn’t work out we  all crawled up with him in-between pucking episodes. We were trying to get to the top of the canyon in time for the bus back to Arequipa but as time went on this was looking unlikely.

Some of the foliage in the Canyon
Day 1 Colca Canyon
Amazing scenes
Ziggy and Kayden in Colca Canyon


Me in the world’s second deepest canyon

I thought I was having visions when I saw a man coming up the mountain with a donkey. We begged the man to let Kayden onto the donkey explaining how sick he was. Obviously the man obliged at a hefty cost which Kayden was only to happy to pay. It was the first smile of the day from the poor divil. So me and Columbia trudged up the mountain and Kayden was away on his donkey. After about 2 hours of an uphill slog we made it. There’s is no way Kayden would have made it.

The rescue.
We made it!

Looking v shook we packed Kayden into the public bus and made our cheese and popcorn sandwiches (a fabulous  new combo). Mid way through the bus a Bolivian gal slapped me on the back screaming. Kayden couldn’t breath properly and was violently sick once again. Out of no where about 10 different peruvian women started screaming and throwing drugs at us. One ‘doctor’ rushed over and started pouring this yellow alcohol on Kaydens’s head down his back and on his chest. It was quite the spectacle and I couldn’t help but laugh (despite how utterly shocking and traumatising it was). Kayden was almost unconscious at this point and they all urged us to get of the bus and go to hospital. I knew it was something similar I had in Argentina so we eventually made it home after the most painstaking bus ride. During the course of the hysterical peruvian ‘docotor’s I realised that my bag and coat were soaking wet. It turn out it was piss and the old man on front of me had pissed all over my stuff. It really was the straw that broke the camels back I couldn’t have gotten out of that bus quick enough. The smell was intoxicating. After a few shower less days in the canyon, random man’s piss, Kayden’s puck and diorrhoea we were all ready for our shower that night. Up there with one of my worst bus trips of my travels.

That night we had our family dinner with the four  pasta carbonara a la Ro, Peruvian wine ( it’s terrible shit just tastes like sugar). Kayden was on the gaterorade and even managed some food without pucking so all in all a success. It was a very random group but we got on great despite the illness and rough transport system . We had an excellent few days. I’ve started to remind myself about this trip. Anything that’s rough is always an experience. I’m sure there will be plenty more to come! Let’s just hope they don’t involve any more vomit, puck or piss. I’ve had my fair share at this stage!



4 thoughts on “Week 20: Arequipa & Colca Canyon. Peru

  1. Rough one Róisín – but at least you looked after Kayden.

    Arequipa is beautiful- and your photos are gorgeous.



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