This weekend I went for a two-day hike in the Colca Canyon which is about 160km north of Arequipa. Since I'm all alone here (sad face), I took a tour which offered transportation, guide, food and accommodation all for only 40US$ (this country is ridiculously cheap).
As I entered the bus at 4 in the morning, I met the group I was going to spend the two days with; 4 french guys from Lille, 3 Polish guys from a village outside of Krakow and a drunk American guy. I looked at them and thought "oh, beginners" and I decided to use my "I live in Switzerland so hiking is my life" card. Well, that probably wasn't a great idea.
We first had some touristy stops to see condors flying around. And since it's touristy, you can find any type of people there - but my favourite breed is: The Hippie. A not-so-rare breed here in Peru. You can encounter it in many shapes and colours but it always is easily recognisable.
After that stop, we started walking. Since it's a canyon, we first had to hike 3 hours down to the bottom. I started giving people tips about the do's and don'ts of hiking down a mountain and I got the nickname "the Swiss", which I was rather proud of.
The drunken American didn't have time to pack his bags (since he was out partying) so he grabbed what he could and put them in a very original bag. Please see for yourself:
Yes, a trash bag.
As we were going down, my feet started getting really sore even though I was using the ingenious techniques that I was teaching everyone. I was in pain but that didn't stop me from enjoying the most fabulous landscapes.
There were some isolated villages along the way. And when I say isolated, I mean really remote and only accessible by hiking.
What surprised me, is that they all have running water, 24hr electricity and street names! We don't even have this kind of luxury in Beirut.
The other way villagers access their villages is by riding mules - it's either for the lazy bums who can't hike (certainly not me) or for transporting merchandise.
Since it's the rainy season, things got wet at around 16h and another trash bag joined the group. I think it's the trend in 2010.
All the group - including the two trash bags - were looking forward to our reward: The Oasis. An actual Oasis in the middle of the canyon where we were going to spend the night. All of us were getting rather tiered after 5 hours of hiking - and I on top of that was in extreme pain due to my feet - but I pretended to be cool about it, "I've done longer hikes in Switzerland" - I had to keep my reputation.
I was so dead I couldn't enjoy the pools, I just went straight to the bungalows and crashed on the bed before getting up to take a cold shower and eating dinner. The next day was tough - we had to start walking at 5am for 3 hours...well it took me longer than that. It was embarrassing.
Great views to motivate us in climbing 1'000 meters so early in the morning.
I won't lie, I suffered. I suffered a lot. I thought I was walking fast but everyone was getting past me. I miscalculated my water. My sore feet were not helping. My bag was very heavy - being The Swiss, I was being very preventive and brought too many emergency clothes that I never used. And I was just extremely tiered.
As I was dragging my legs up this endless mountain, I saw the shape of a colourfully dressed woman and this is when I realised that I was saved. It was: The banana lady.
The banana lady is always at the end of a harsh trek smiling and selling overpriced bananas and water. I love her.
But of course I got last to the top and - despite my highly developed actor's skills - I couldn't fake my exhaustion. I thought that everybody was going to be breathless as well, but NO, they were sitting there, chatting, laughing and eating their expensive bananas. HOW?!? None of them had hiked before and they were not tiered!! I had done harder hikes in Switzerland, and I thought I would be prepared for that one!! But I guess I managed to prove that a theory is wrong. Yes, the theory that says "practicing at one thing would make you successful in it" that's bullshit, and I proved it. God, I'm working even on weekends now!
Anyway, it pains me to admit it - but I suck in hiking. I couldn't however admit this to the rest of the group, so I told them I was taking pictures along the way which is why I got so late. But also because I was chatting to a guy - and this is true - who pretends he's a real Inca - wooo, exciting. He said that it was the first time he sees a Lebanese guy in the Andes and proposed to throw me into the canyon in order to donate my body to Mother Nature. He was rather crazy, but I may have provoked him a little by suggesting that the Incas should've chosen a spot on the beach with palm trees and cocktails rather than to live up the mountains where everything is hardly accessible - I don't think he liked my suggestion. Well, despite the attractive "let's sacrifice your body" offer, I had to decline it and I started walking fast because he was really stalking me and reiterating his offer along the way.
So the group believed my story - because The Swiss is wise and never lies. We finished up with a 20 minute flat walk in what looked pretty much like Switzerland.
Except for the Inca terraces.
Bottom line is that I now understand a bit more why the Incas felt so powerful. For the first time I saw the real Andes with all its magnificence and imposing stature. They really are impressive and wild. Once you hike them, you feel invincible and that nothing can stand in your way (well, maybe just a few armed Spanish Conquistadores would make you shit your pants) but still, it was an amazing hike
But let's not forget the most important thing we learned. You don't need to practice hard to get better at something - you're either born with the gift or you're not!
And I'm not a hiker!