When I first read that, I didn’t like it. Surely not? Things I do without thinking are different to things I do because I’m enjoying them, different to things I don’t want to do but have to… aren’t they? Actually, no! That sentence has been in my head a lot over the past year or so. The more I’m conscious of it, the more I realise that, in general, I’m slower than some other people and more thorough, with everything; be it when I’m washing up, packing my bag, unpacking my bag, drinking something, cutting something on my plate, chewing something, digesting something, showering, walking uphill, planning or researching something… It was the same at work and it bothered me.
But now I’m trying to accept that it’s just how I am and have compassion towards myself. My body can’t process liquid any quicker, so I can’t drink quicker. My body takes longer to digest food than other people’s bodies, and there’s nothing I can do about that. My legs simply will not get me up that hill any quicker! My brain only works as quickly as it works on a given thing, and when I’m packing a bag, for example, I know that I’m subconsciously putting processes and systems in place so that I can get at something easier next time, or so that I don’t forget to do something (that’s a big one) because my busy busy brain often goes off on lots of tangents and loses the important basics.
Taking longer to do something because my brain doesn’t focus on just one thing at a time, and knowing that I’ll carry on until I consider that a thing has been done properly and feels right, is what I’m naturally like.
Known as ‘the white city’ for its white stone buildings and cathedral, lots of people I’ve met seem to really like this city. Meh! It was ok – not as much ‘heart’ as Cusco, even though there are volcanoes around the city. I took a while to decide what to do about going to Colca Canyon. But I spent some enjoyable time chatting, cooking, walking and eating with some nice people in the meantime.
The option that felt most ‘right’ was to book a trekking tour to the Canyon, to make the most of the time and avoid solitude. Start: 3am! After 3 hours the group had breakfast in a chilly cafe in Chivay, then drove on to Cruz del Condor where there were… no condors: the species is dwindling in numbers.
Then we started hiking down 1200 metres into the Canyon, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and has some pre-Inca terraces. Near here is the source of the Amazon River, which of course swells across to the other side of the continent. In the second pic you can see our destination for the night at the deepest part of the Canyon, and the zigzag path the other side of the valley that we would need to take to get to it!
We passed some terracing where potatoes used to grow in abundance, but now there’s not enough water because the glaciers above, as with so many in South America, have disappeared. So now the locals (those who are left, in the rapidly dwindling local population due to lack of education investment in the region) use it as a sports stadium instead!
The white spots on the cactus plants are little bugs that, when crushed, produce a deep burgundy colour. They’re harvested by hand and exported around the world for use in cosmetics and food colouring.
It’s called ‘The Oasis’ which ok is valid because there’s greenery here, but it was very basic accommodation, off-cold outdoor showers with very little privacy. I remember once writing an essay at school about things not being as perfect in reality as they might seem; a lovely picnic in the sun attracts wasps or gives you a headache! Here it looked amazing from above, but the pool was cold and there were cigarette butts around, and the beds were lumpy… BUT! The sky was clear so I could see the Milky Way again, we had some interesting deep discussions at dinner, there were fireflies around and I slept like a baby! 🙂
I did it the only way I know how: very slow and steady, only stopping twice to get something out of my bag, not getting out of breath, just finding my pace, listening to my uplifting music, and continuing til I reached the top < 3 hours later, greeted by the quicker people and a friendly local lady called Victoria selling just the drinks I needed 🙂
We had breakfast in Cabanaconde (and I did my stretches), a town that had been recommended to me if I'd gone to the Canyon independently, but we didn't get much time there sadly. We drove back out of the Canyon, with some amazing valley scenery, and a small taste of the local tipple, Colca Sour, made from cactus fruit.
Then before lunch we stopped at thermal baths, which I actually got in (so my head must've been in a good place!) – nice, and good for the muscles, but see notes above about reality – litter and concrete with metal sticking out – detracting from the setting!
After lunch the road back to Arequipa took us to Mirador de los Volcanes, at 4,910m above sea level (it was cold!) where amongst others you can see the peak of Ampato, 6,280m, where 23 years ago they found a mummified 12-year-old sacrificed girl from 600 years ago. Also the active Hualca Hualca volcano, 6,025m, and Chachani 6,075m which is next to Arequipa.