After a groggy start to the morning with an alarm going off at 2.30am, we were picked up from our hostel in a minivan just before 3am for the Colca Canyon day trip. After driving around the city for around half an hour picking other people up for the tour, we both started feeling a little uneasy. Maybe it was the lack of sleep or maybe it was the bumpy ride over the cobbled road, I don’t know. John started to complain that he could feel his stomach moving around and felt a bit sick. Then all of a sudden, I got a stomach cramp and my vision completely went! Slightly panicked, I closed my eyes and after about a minute I was fine and my vision was completely restored! John, on the other hand, had his head stuck out of the back of the minivan throwing up his guts while lorries were zooming past at about 100 kph!!! What a sight!! Luckily, we sat at the back of the minivan so no-one could hear or see John throwing up. The couple next to us, meanwhile, were fast asleep! It took 3 hours to get to our first stop….which was breakfast!!
While everyone dismounted off the bus, John still had his head stuck out of the window gagging. A concerned Peruvian woman who spoke no english tried to ask what was wrong. Es altitudo? Si. Thats as far as the conversation went. Her son appeared (who could speak english) and explained that his mother was a doctor. They told us to drink some coca tea which is meant to help with the altitude. John managed to come into the breakfast room for a little bit and only managed to drink a cup of coca tea. At the breakfast table, we made friends with a couple of French Canadian lads. When we returned back on the bus, they sat next to us at the back.
After breakfast we drove for a couple more hours with a quick stop where there were a few nice buildings and a square where there were a number of market stalls. I didn’t realise how cold it would be and I only had 3/4 trousers on….dumbass! I was freezing so we each bought a woolly hat and a pair of gloves each from one of the market stalls. Toasty!
Donning my new woolly hat!
Our next stop is probably the highlight of the trip, the Cross of the Condor where you are able to see the depth of the canyon as well as flying condors from a few viewing platforms. The condors are beautiful birds and they actually fly quite close to the viewing platforms. John was able to come out for a bit to see everything but he felt really ill and headed back to the minibus early. I ended up talking to the doctor’s son. His name was Alejandro and he was on a weekend break in Arequipa with his mum from Lima. He was very friendly and was took an interest in our travel plans and mentioned that he could never leave his family for a year. He would miss them too much.
After the condors, we got in the van and stopped at a few other places including some lookout points and a colonial church where there appeared to be a wedding taking place. Poor John was continuing to be sick outside of the window so he remained inside the van. There were a few market stalls selling souvenirs as well as a woman with a llama. You could pay money to have your photo taken with a woman in traditional Peruvian clothing and the llama. Luckily I chose not to as I saw a woman go over to have her photo taken only to have been spat on by the llama. Hilarious!
The only picture of me and John at a mirador before staying inside the van for the rest of the day
At lunch, John stayed in the van to sleep. The doctor woman was very concerned and wanted John to go to the hospital to get some oxygen but in the end we just took some altitude tablets from her for John to take. Predictably, the tablets didn’t stay long in his system. John was not getting better and I still had a throbbing headache, and we were only getting higher and higher.
In the afternoon, we finally reached the highest point – 4,800 metres (15,000 ft) above sea level. Here, we were at the view point to see the volcanic range surrounding the city and the snow capped mountains, as well as the volcano where Juanita (the frozen princess) was found. When we arrived at the view point, I stepped off the van and after a few steps I was really struggling to breathe. So I took a few snaps and headed straight back to the van to sit. As people started to return to the van, you could hear a lot of heavy panting. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one struggling to breathe! It would have made me feel very unfit! John, meanwhile, was still throwing up. I have no idea what’s left inside of him but he just can’t stop!
We finally returned to Arequipa around 5pm. Unfortunately, we were not dropped off at our hostel but in the square. so unfortunately for John, we had a short walk back to the hostel where John collapsed and fell straight to sleep. Poor boy!