Our stay in the oasis in the Cañon del Colca last night was a short one; because this morning we got up at 2am, in order to complete the three-hour hike out of the canyon before sunrise. It was steep, it was dark, and it was cold. But it was a good slog we put in; and it meant that we were able to get to Cruz Del Condor, just in time to see the condors fly.
Our second day doing the Cañon del Colca hike was spent entirely within the bowels of the canyon. We started from the little village hospedaje that we slept in last night, and hiked all morning until we reached the oasis, stopping along the way at Victoria's museum. As with yesterday morning's hike, the walking this morning was quite pleasant, and the scenery was simply to die for.
This morning, we began our three-day hike into the Colca Canyon (Cañon del Colca). Our group of six — myself, Chris, Sarah, Dan, Jean-Claude, and Marie, plus our guide Roy — left Arequipa in the wee hours of the morning by bus; and then it was downhill, all the way to lunch.
This morning's climb of Huayna Potosí was very hard. But it turned out that getting to the top was the easy part. Once we reached the summit, we had to climb and hike all the way back through the ice, to the high camp; and then straight away, we had to continue hiking down, all the way to base camp. I was already dead when I reached the top of the mountain; but by the time I'd done the additional 5 hours or so of hiking to get back to base camp, I was semi-human. Mountain climbing lesson number 1: getting to the top is only half the journey. Once you get there, there's no helicopter waiting to take you back down.
Yesterday, I made it to the high camp on the way to Huayna Potosí. This morning, I actually went and climbed the mountain. It was very, very hard work. It damn near killed me. But, with a bit of good luck, and a lot of persistence, I made it to the top! Nothing in the world quite compares with making that last step to the top of a 6088m mountain peak, and taking in the dazzling view around you.
This weekend, I decided to try real mountain climbing for the first time in my life, and I did it on the mountain of Huayna Potosí, not far from La Paz. Huayna Potosí is recommended as a great first try for people with no prior climbing experience, as it's a relatively easy 6000m peak to ascend (the total ascent is to 6088m), and as it's conveniently close to the already-high city of La Paz. Today, I drove out to the base camp with my guide, and completed the hike of about 3 hours, to the high camp of 5200m.
We romped through the jungle on our first day here in Madidi. We did it again yesterday. And we had our final romp today. Not much different to the previous days of jungle walking, really: saw a few animals, saw lots of trees and smaller plants, but nothing hugely exciting. After all, jungle is jungle, and there's only so much of it you can see.
Our activity for this afternoon, after arriving in the jungle near Rurrenabaque, was to be taken on a romp through the jungle around our campsite, and to try and sight some animals. Sighting animals is much harder in the jungle than it is in the pampas, because the animals are all hiding away up in the trees, rather than hanging around in plain sight around a big river. But with a good guide, and a bit of stealth, it's possible to catch a glimpse of a few of them.
We did a good thorough hike of Isla Del Sol this morning, from south to north, and we saw the ancient ruins and rock carvings at the northern end of the island. It started out being just myself, Chris, Pascale, and Tony; but we ended up being joined by Ralph, two Kiwis, and two Americans along the way.
Chocco is a small and impoverished town, that lies about 20 mins out of Cusco (by taxi). This afternoon, my friend Wil invited me to come with him and a group of his friends from Hampy, to go to Chocco for an informal tour of the town, of the kids there, and of the volunteer work that's being done there to help them. It ended up being a fun, social, and intriguing afternoon. It also resulted in me (most likely) becoming a part of the volunteer effort that is Hampy, for at least some of the time that I have left here in Cusco.