22 Jun Colca Canyon Cancelled: An Unexpected Jaunt in Peru
The last thing you want on a trip is to get sick. Changing climates, altitude, unhealthy food and the physical act of actually traveling can suck the health out of you like a St. Patty’s Day weekend with Keith Richards. But every so often, altering plans leads you somewhere unexpected and well-worth the temporary suffering. A friend and I had planned to go to Colca Canyon, near Arequipa, Peru. The canyon is famous for its rugged climes as well as the community of Condors that have taken up residence there. It’s slightly less well known for its distribution of llama-leashes.
We bused for four and a half hours through the mountains and down to Chivay, a tiny town nestled in the valley between them. As our transportation delved deep into the gorge, the pressure changed and I felt the flu coming on. My head rose above my body like a helium filled balloon. I swayed in the wobbly bus seat, trying to keep my gaze fixed on the morphing terrain of Peru, passing by outside the window. When we arrived, I ate heartily (burped abruptly) and ultimately passed out in the tiny hotel room when there was nowhere to get a drink (I thought a stiff one might have really done the trick.) My body seemed to be shutting down, ear canals and nasal passages crying out in protest.
When I heard the wake-up knock the next morning, I knew there was a better chance of riding through the Andes naked on a bareback alpaca than going on a seven hour hike. I couldn’t even muster a grunt. After begging off the adventure I had come for, I hopped in a red plastic tuk-tuk pulled behind a dirt bike and wound my way up the narrow road to nearby hot springs, looking out over a sheer drop off on one side.
Normally a haven for locals, I found each of its eight pools empty. I had free reign over the shady coves with the best views of the cliffs and the hottest spots in the caves. Best of all, the enclosed steam room filtered the mineral water through a bed of Eucalyptus leaves, decompressing the cabin pressure inside my head and leaving me ready to take flight again.