Colca Canyon and the Earthquake

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This past week has been a rollercoaster ride! After leaving Lima we drove for 5 hours before reaching Paracas, the town where people go for boat rides to the Ballestas Islands. Unfortunately for me I already had a bout of travel sickness on the bus, then going straight from the bus to the speedboat was a recipe for disaster. I missed out on most of the dolphins and penguins and sealions due to seasickness.

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Once we arrived safely back on land we went for lunch. We ordered lots of fried seafood. Thankfully for me I was feeling better and I tried a lot of it, my favourite unusually being the fried octopus. From Paracas we then headed to the oasis town of Huachachina, where we chilled by the pool before deciding to climb the huge sand dune behind the hostel. After a long trudge to the top we took in the spectacular views of the desert. The next day we shopped around before jumping in a dune buggy to drive up into the sand dunes to do some sandboarding. This turned out to be terrifying but hilariously fun and we tried it standing up a few times before going down on our stomachs.

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From Huachachina we caught a 12 hour night bus to Arequipa. Arriving at out hostel in the morning we were greeted by a rooftop view of the mountains and volcano. A lovely city with lots of shopping to do we spent hours wandering around checking out the alpaca wears and food. Then departing Arequipa the same day around midnight we caught another overnight bus to colca canyon to begin our 3 day trek. Just before leaving we recieved some bad news that there had been an earthquake a few days previous, causing landslides which cut off our original route. We decided to still go and check it out, and hike a different route.

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Well. These were the 3 most challenging days of my life! Nothing could have prepared me for the grueling challenge of that trek! Now I normally consider myself quite fit at home. But I am not used to carrying around a 15kg backpack across the second deepest canyon in the world! The first day of hiking was agony. I didn´t know how to adjust my bag. It felt like I was carrying a child on my back. The heat was sweltering even at 9am, and continued to get hotter and hotter throughtout the day. Dripping with sweat I descended the canyonside, slipping on loose rubble and scratching my palms along the way. I was not in a good mood and felt like I was letting the team down. By the time we reached our campsite in a little oasis village I could barely put one foot in front of the other anymore, I was in so much pain.

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Our campsite did have a resident baby alpaca though which was super cute. It kept trying to get into people bag´s and tents. We also had a dog we named Blacky who decided to cling to us and lead us along the trails.

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The next day I had recovered pretty well though fortunately, after a great night´s sleep. The route was a mix ofascents and descents so provided more relief on the legs and shoulders, and I was more used to my backpack. The heat was still as intense as the day before but I felt more confident and kept up front this time. Our campsite at the end was a nice little place with an outdoor pool and a bar, though the toilet was a bit of a hike back up the hillside.

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And then at 4am the earthquake struck.

Terrifed I sat up in my tent as the ground shook and the sound of a landslide rumbled nearby. We didn´t know what to do and lay there until it stopped. To make matters worse, me and my tentmate Emily discovered we´d picked up a lovely bit of food poisoning, and so the torture of the next 24 hours began. When the light came we discovered that most of the team had also developed dicky tummies, and we sat around the benchs with agonising cramps, thinking of the long long hike up the steep canyonside we still had a ahead of us before we could get out. In the the afternoon we set off on what was meant to be the final 3 hour hike. But with all of us having awful stomachs and aching joints progress was slow. By 6pm darkness descended, and we had to hike the last 2 hours up the canyon in blackness. All the while wondering when the next landslide might be. By the time we reached the hostel at the top we were all so relieved we collapsed onto the beds and lay there until dinner.

I have never undertaken anything like this in my life but I am proud that I accomplished it now!

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