WD insisted I book a tour into the
I laid out all my stuff the night before feeling happy to lighten my pack. Unfortunately I woke up feeling like complete shit but with no refunds I was going. Not being fully with it I ran out without my raincoat—an item the tour company highly recommended. I was the last to be picked up, and when I got in the front seat of the van I turned around to see: three couples. I later learned my assumption was a mistake as everyone on the tour was great fun to hike and chat with.
Not the best start to the morning but as we drove into the highlands and surrounding volcanos the scenery and my well-being started to improve. We drove through a national park with vicunas roaming around and stopped to hike and photograph some wild rock formations.
We then headed way up to nearly 5,000m (over 15,000ft) for a surrounding view of the volcanos. There have been several mummies found on the peaks of these volcanos–Inca child sacrifices, some of which Dawn and I later saw in the museum in
After experiencing life at this altitude, I have serious respect for the Incas that were able to scale these peaks—or any mountain climber really. I squatted down to take some photos and when I stood up I nearly passed out. Mind you I didn’t walk but was driven up to here as well. Incredibly tough—Everest is not on my “to-do” list.
After lunch we drove along the canyon rim and the sky grew darker because I had no raingear. The
Next morning we started our hike down at around . The trail was a steep decent but thankfully it did have switchbacks and resembled a trail. I don’t mind hiking uphill even with all the heart-pounding thigh-aching pain—it’s all good for you. But going downhill is murder on the knees! By the time we hit the campsite at the bottom my knee was on fire.
After lunch I woke to my guide asking if I wanted to do some more hiking. That’s what I came for so I got up and started along with the group. I barely left camp before I started limping along. “Shit! Hiking up out of here tomorrow is going to be brutal” I thought. A couple from
Next morning we were up at 4:30 am to hike out–and the knee was no better. Thankfully the rain from the night before had stopped and I was spared not having my gear. My guide was nice enough to stay with me to see I was alright, but after a while I really wished he would just go ahead. I felt like he was cracking the whip to get the straggler moving, but he was genuinely concerned. Surprisingly, I made it out in less time than it took to get down the previous day and felt pretty good once we reached the top.
We stopped at Cruz de Condor for some andean condor spotting and had much better luck this time. It’s great watching these huge birds soar on the thermals, they just glide along and never seem to flap their wings.
A good tour up until I filled out a ratings form at lunch. I gave the driver a good blurb and I think he was waiting for this form to be completed because he shifted into Mr. Hyde mode immediately after. We started climbing into the mountains back towards Arequipa and he got heavy on the gas pedal as the snow started to fall. We took turns at high speed with screaching tires and I could feel everyone in the van dig their fingers into any nearby hold. There was no guardrail to keep us from dropping 1,000ft on the andean turns. Not long after I took this photo we went into a slide:
Thankfully there was only a 6ft drop on either side of the road at this point and we stopped short of it, but it would have still been enough to roll us over. We all got out and pushed the van back into the middle of the road. Everyone was really wired awake and pissed off after this and not much was said. Our driver proceeded more carefully for the next hour until the fear wore off.
I survived the near death experience to return to see WD feeling much better and ready for Lake Titicaca, or so I thought–more on that next time.