Because You Know I’m All About That Trek
Those of you who know me know I’m all about that trek, bout that trek (no Tevas?) so when I learn the second deepest canyon in the world is near Arequipa, Peru I’m hiking it, done deal.
Minutes after I arrive I’m at the front desk mapping out the trail with Miguel from reception, apparently so excitedly that it catches someone’s attention nearby.
“Hey man, you thinking of hiking Colca? I was thinking of boogying down there myself.”
Meet Adventure Mike. Mike is not only an experienced hiker, climber, and canyoner, but he even does it for a living teaching ‘adventure education’ in Colorado- uh, best job ever? There’s no one better to trek with than a chiller, and a dude that shows up Nalgene in hand, bandana draped around his neck, dropping “boogy” like its cool then calling it a ‘Mike-ism’ when asked to clarify, is the perfect hiking buddy. My roommate is even impressed when he sees the serious spread-out of our gear that evening.
Roomate: wow- what size is your Baltoro hiking pack?
Meir: YEH IT’S PRETTY CLEAR, IT AINT NO SIIIZEEE TWO.
Colca Canyon is six hours away from Arequipa, so rather than opting for the city bus where we’ll likely get our belongings and/or identities and/or seats stolen, we pay for roundtrip transport with the private van taking the hostel tour group to the trailhead. This turns out to be a great move because the van also stops at Cruz Del Condor, a natural viewing deck overlooking a valley where condors nest… and apparently fly around. I say apparently because after twenty minutes there are still none in sight.
Before today the closest thing I’d done to birdwatching was chasing pigeons away from my apartment window in Queens, NY, so after all this condor no-show my excitement starts faltering like the hands of every person next to me gripping ginormous DSLR camera lenses, waiting with bated breath for any avian sign. But just as I turn to head back to the van a triumphant “¡MIRA!” pierces the air, and sure enough there’s one swooping down over our heads, sending “ooooohs” and “ahhhhhs” throughout the crowd and I’m not gonna lie it’s pretty amazing.
This hike’s a two day-er: all steep downhill to an oasis at the bottom of the canyon on day one, all strenuous uphill to get out on day two. Getting to the oasis requires following a series of directions spray painted on random objects along the way, which for the first half of the journey works out great until “Oasis” gets suddenly replaced by the word “NO.” Um. Wut.
Meir: According to the Miguel map we’re supposed to be headed in the “NO” direction… should we check around for a “YES” to be sure?
Adventure Mike: Nah man, more like NO Diggity. Let’s roll.
Hash Tag Adventure Mike.
The “NO” way is actually the right way and snakes us through remote high-altitude villages, one of which makes for a well earned rest stop after a particularly nasty lung-squeezing bit of uphill. They have everything spread out when we get there- snacks, drinks, and of course, guinea pigs. Yep, it’s a delicacy here. If I don’t get how something that looks like someone just peed in a Coke bottle is the most popular drink in Peru, I definitely won’t understand why Peruvians eat guinea pigs.
Adventure Mike can fill a fortune cookie factory with snippets of Mike-isms, our conversations weaving between religion (I’m Jewish, he’s Roman Catholic), optimal climbing geology (Granite > Rhyolite > Moshava climbing wall) our hometowns (nono, I am not from the Jersey Shore) and the IDF, which gets brought up in highly unexpected fashion:
I cannot stand the taste of tuna. So of the many skills Israeli soldiers learn to survive in the field, burning tuna in a can using toilet paper was especially essential cuz it meant I no longer had to use packets of Israeli ketchup to make it barely edible. HAVE YOU EVER TRIED ISRAELI KETCHUP?!? IT’S LIKE EATING RED PAINT MIXED WITH SUGAR WHILE BEING FORCED TO WATCH KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS.
Maybe this practice is solely indigenous to the Israeli Army because as I pop open a can, plop on a piece of TP and light it up, I notice Adventure Mike gaping in astonishment, even more so when I let him try it.
“Wow (nom nom nom) right on man (nom nom nom) the IDF are geniuses.”
I knew tuna was good for something.
Before we know it we’re at the oasis, a gorgeous patch of greenery with shimmering natural pools. The only downside of not hiring a tour is that the nice wooden huts to sleep in are already booked up. Since I didn’t bring a one person tent like Adventure Mike, my only other option is to sleep in a stone hut with bamboo slapped across the ceiling, the bed bug forecast at 1 million percent yes, is that even a question?
Weird, I can’t find the light switch when I walk in. Or an outlet. Or anything that doesn’t convince me that I haven’t just stepped back into the Paleolithic era upon entering.
Meir: Hey, I can’t find the light switch?
Random guy who lives in the oasis and happens to own a bunch of stone huts: Do you have a candle?
No prob, I can totally do this caveman thing for a night. It’ll even be nice to disconnect from the plugged-in part of life, right?
I sleep a total of 2 hours and 34 minutes. Ya I timed it, cuz not only are these buildings as hot as Satan’s nacho farts but there are large insects constantly scurrying about the roof, which makes the probability of sleeping the same as living in Israel without ever having to argue with your cell phone provider.
So if you ever trek Colca Canyon make sure to pack your bug spray and headlamp. Or you can just be like Adventure Mike and always be shakin’ it, like you’re supposed to do.