Ephemerratic - 2/25 - Independent travel blog with stories, travel guides, photos, travel art, and local food
I’ve always wanted to hike a volcano. There’s no source for this desire of mine that I know of — no suppressed trigger from my childhood, no daredevilish dream needing realizing, no genetic memory of mountaineering in my family tree. For no rational reason I want to stand at a thin point in the Earth’s mantle and stare into a conduit that leads to the core.
The cañón mas grande, Colca Canyon, Peru, is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and much more difficult to reach. The bone-shaking, heart-skipping bus ride from Arequipa is worthwhile for anyone looking to put a little distance between themselves and Peru’s bucket list crowds and to explore a landscape bigger than the beholder could have imagined. And for those not inclined to deep canyon exploring, for many the condors are Colca Canyon’s biggest draw.
What to do and see in Colca Canyon and Cabanaconde, Peru
Back in Pre-Hispanic times, two ethnic groups in the Colca Canyon area of Peru deformed their babies’ skulls — the Collagua into a taller, tapered noggin, the Cabana into a mesa-shaped cranium.
Was the Collagua’s headscaping a disturbed bid for a permanent Bumpit? Was the Cabana’s reshaping a misguided effort to gain a competitive edge in breakdance headspinning? Or were these groups just looking for a way to easily spot friends in a crowd, like those older tourist couples who wear matching outfits?
It really doesn’t matter. There isn’t a good reason* for squashing a baby’s head.
Ultimately, someone came to their senses — probably the first parents who were no-shows to the Infant Cranial Deformation Jamboree — and realized that a distinctive hat would give ease of recognition without extreme body modification.
Today, the remote village of Cabanaconde in Colca Canyon, Peru feels like a place that’s just rolled out of bed — mussed, shuffle-footed, and a little slow to react. The mood is the same as in that first part of the day when caring about the passing of time is undone by fleshy practicalities like eye-rubbing, head-scratching, and wedgie-picking.
What is it about having future plans for travel adventure that makes all the difference in how I feel about today?
There’s a drawing that shows up on my computer’s desktop, in rotation with others I’ve kept because they make me smile. It’s a panel from a comic strip by the bittersweetly hilarious storyteller Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half. Her blog hasn’t been updated since 2011, which is unnerving since her last post is one about incapacitating depression. While Allie has since explained that her silence is due to her continued struggle with depression, her last comic sits on her site, hitting too close to home.
While I’m nowhere near as depressed as Allie, lately I’ve been unusually sad and under-motivated. And, having grown up on Long Island, I also really like pasta.
It’s been a while since we’ve shared our travel stories. Let me explain.
No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
Todd and I both have been caught up in the Presidential brouhaha, watching both conventions and last night’s Presidential debate in which Mitt Romney said he’d fire Big Bird. I taught myself to read watching Sesame Street and I have a fair bit of Muppet obsession, so this policy has me up in arms and making memes.
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Having carrion-craving birds circling in the hot updrafts above you can indicate that those expert hunters of the dead and dying consider you a likely next meal.
The condors in Colca Canyon, Peru may have smelled my sweat, thick with flushed salt and electrolytes. They may have heard the hollow crunch of plastic as I crushed my last, now empty bottle of water. They may have surveyed the unsettled curve of my shoulders as I hunched them uselessly against the charring, stunning sunshine.
Whatever clues the condors employ, they’ve observed enough that their animal instincts keep them hovering, watching over me, waiting and hungry.
Trekking into Colca Canyon, Peru, the world’s deepest canyon, is relatively easy because there are small villages a short day’s trek apart. At these villages, guesthouses are ready to provide hikers with hearty country meals, bottled water, beds, and the occasional hot springs.
So, hikers didn’t need to carry much into Colca Canyon. Here’s what we hauled on our hike:
The most compelling benefit of hiking Colca Canyon, Peru without a guide is that you can trek at your own pace. This means you can crick your neck watching circling Andean condors, stalk birds and beasts, and stop and smell the wildflowers as often and as long as you want. Best of all, you can chillax in a rare spot of shade until you level up on enough willpower to continue the hike, which can be exhausting.
Hiking without a guide is not for everyone. If you are prone to making bad decisions or getting lost, you may want to hire a guide or join up with a group (meet fellow trekkers at Pachamama Hostel, even if you don’t stay there).