Peru shuts down for a few days before Easter, so all the voluntarios plan a trip to Arequipa.  Six people chose to take an 18 hour bus both ways.  Tricia and I opt for the one hour flight.  We win.  Clearly.

Where we lose, is with the hostel.  I use the term hostel, loosely.  Really it’s a nightclub with a bunch of beds in it.  So if you’ve ever walked into a really smokey, bumping club and thought “wow, I could really take a nap here,” then this would be the hostel for you.   The voluntarios don’t see quite enough of each other living in the same house, so now we’re sleeping in one hostel room with 8 bunk beds.  Awesome.

Arequipa is a real city.  Beautiful. Safe. Legit.  A few of us walk around and check out churches, and shops and various parks.  Then I see it in the distance, a coffee shop!  A real live, honest to god, coffee shop that could just as well be on any street corner at home.

– You guys wanna tour the rest of the city?

– No.  I’m not going anywhere.  I’m going to sit in this shop and read and listen to my Ipod and drink coffee until I’m sick!

I walk over to the counter and grin like a fool at the menu.  The barista eyes me suspiciously.  I seem to be from this planet and yet I look as though I’ve never seen a café before.

-Can I help you?

– I’ll have a latte.  No!  A mocha!  No!  A latte AND a mocha.  Oooh and a chocolate chip cookie!  Oooh and that little scone thing!

She gives me a funny look.  “I live in Huaycan,” I want to tell her, but I don’t think she’d really get it.   I look around and see another voluntario sitting at the back of the shop with two coffee cups and a book.  She sees me and waves, obviously just as excited as I am,, holding her cup up in the air as if to toast me.  I nod and smile like a maniac.  Living in Huaycan is like prison, or like being at war maybe, the only people who really understand are the people who are there with you.   “This is happening right now,” she calls to me.

It is indeed.




2 day Andean mountain hike into Colca Canyon


11PM– Bed time

11:15– Switch out foam earplugs for the better silicone ones

11:30– Grumble toss and turn because of the club that is happening outside our door

12:00– Sit up in bed and look around for someone else to commiserate with.  How are all you people asleep right now?

Toss and turn.

2:00 AM  – Wake-up call (had I hypothetically been able to sleep)

2:30 AM– Bus pick-up

We travel by bus for three hours to a little town where we have breakfast and consume massive amounts of coca leaves and tea to ward off the altitude sickness.  No, you don’t get high.

An hour later we arrive at abou 3300 meters to begin our trek.  Our guide talks to us about safety (try not to fall to your death is the basic general rule).



A fluffly black dog who appears to have a broken paw is following us as we head down the path.  I name him Amigo and share my water with him.  We walk for awhile and despite the broken paw he’s determined to come with us.

The first three hours of the hike bring us 1000 meters downhill which sounds easier than uphill but it’s not at all.  You have to step pretty gingerly because the rocks on the footpath will slide out from under you at any second causing you to slide over the edge of the not very wide path to your death.


(Not even enough path to walk side by side with anyone other than a dog.)

I have the world’s worst backpack for this trip and it must weigh 30 pounds with the two giant 2 liter bottles of water I’m carrying.  Not fun.  Kills your knees.

Eventually, Amigo passes by all of us even with his broken paw and he’s gone.  Sad face.

We get to the lunch place after three and a half hours….I’m exhausted, starving, and gross and grumpy.  I don’t want to go any further.  Then I look up and Amigo’s there!  Waiting!  Day brightener!  If he can do it with a broken paw I should stop complaining.

After lunch, we’ve got three and half more hours of hiking, some uphill, some down, to bring us to the lodge where we’ll spend the night.  Amigo limps along with us for two more hours, until he meets his little dog girlfriend (I assume this was his plan the whole time) and he takes off with her.

The Oasis is very pretty with a built in pool that’s filled up with fresh water directly from the mountains…..and then there’s the little puppy who lives there “Borbuja” (Bubble), who looks more like a little polar bear.  So cute….


But there’s no electricity, and our rooms have dirt floors.  I’m exhausted and want to shower, but it’s too cold to do it without hot water.  And now in the dark no less.  They give us dinner and we head to bed at8PM.  As soon as it gets dark we go from sweating to freezing.  I’m wearing a tank top, a long sleeved t,  a fleece, a scarf, a hat, two pairs of pants and socks to sleep.  I hang some of my other clothes out on the line outside my room to dry.  When I wake up they are soaked.  It rained.  Perfect.  My bag will be even heavier.

Next day we’ve got a 4am wake up call.  We have to hike for 3.5 hours to our breakfast.  It’s about 1500 meters uphill.  In total darkness for first hour or so.  Intense!  The fastest in our group finish in 2.5 hours.  I finish in 3 and am so proud of myself.  I wasn’t last!  I am dying though.  As I approach the top, the early finishers start yelling to motivate me, “Abby, there’s a friendly dog up here that you can pet if you hurry.  And we’ve got a Snickers waiting for you.” – So I’m officially the chubby animal lover of the group.

Six days of this crazy hiking in Machu Pichu is going to kill me.


2 thoughts on “Trekking the Colca Canyon

  1. You cannot make this stuff up! i know you will end up coming home with various dogs you’ve befriended along the way. Believe it or not i actually heard of roof dogs…on Nat Geo of course. Be safe please…sheez!!! xo AR

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