Day two started off with a clear reminder of why I have absolutely no problem with the slaughtering of chickens. Thankfully the rum helped battle the roosters desire to have us out of bed at 4:30am. When he tagged his partner the sun into the match and they started double teaming us, we decided to get up. Cheeky put together some banana pancakes for breakfast and then we hit the road.
We stopped briefly in the neighboring town to drink some Chicha (Inka beer made out of corn) and to be cultured about the history of the canyon by a local curator/homebrewer. Thankfully the majority of our group speaks fluent Spanish and were able to translate for the two of us. Otherwise I would have absorbed about as much information as a typical highschool class after “lunch break”.
A one-hour walk put us at the base of the canyon again at what has rightfully been dubbed The Oasis. Large spreads of green grass, several pools built right into the rocks, and tall shade providing palm trees, created an excellent place to kick back and enjoy the sun. Woody and Cheeky rallied a couple of tour guides and tourists together to put the volley ball court to use. Sally and I were both quickly reminded why neither of us received scholarships in the sport and found ourselves the weakest link in what was already clearly the B team. After several games of consistently getting our ass beat the A team decided they could use some refreshments and declared the next set of games would be for a beer. The 10 Soles beer ($4) was marked up enough that the two beers we had to provide the winners was exactly the same cost as the bottle of rum the night before. This was not lost on the two of us and when rumblings of playing double or nothing arose we quickly told the A team to get fucked. Cheeky could clearly see the pain of loosing in our expressions (the last game 25-8 ) and decided that the winners would share their beers with the losers.
The sun dipped down and we started to play cards while waiting for dinner. Lyn, not wanting to be left out of the ´I Bought A Bottle Of Rum In The Deepest Canyon Club´ decided to test our true desire for alcoholic drinks (the 1,000 meter climb started at 5 am the next day). We managed to choke it down in less than 30 minutes. Woody reintroduced Sally and I to the game Asshole and thankfully declared a rule that you can only be the Asshole three consecutive times (I spent most of the game being the Asshole). If only we could implement that rule into real life. There are a couple of people out there that have really gone well past their three-time limit.
The next morning had us all staring at each other blankly in the pitch black night wondering just how difficult the next few hours was going to be. Not being satisfied with my shortcomings on the test hill I asked Cheecky what the fastest tourist time was. (Being smart enough not to even try to fuck with the local time) Cheecky told us it takes the average hiker 3 to 3.5 hours, but has been done in an hour twenty by some tourists that were really on it. Considering hiking ranks about as high on my fun list as shitting my pants in public, I talked Sally into getting it over as quickly as possible. Woody and Sarah had arranged donkeys and didn´t start until an hour after those on foot. (Sarah was getting over having water in her lungs and with the slightest exertion began to sound like a 40+ year smoker on their death-bed.) So Sally and I decided our goal was not to beat the fastest time, but to beat the donkeys up the hill.
The first 20 minutes was in the dark with flashlights and wasn´t much faster than a crawl. Once the slightest bit of light peeked into the canyon Sally and I were off. The climb was pretty much what we expected, very steep and breathtaking (in the literal form). The longer you climbed, the more tired and higher you got, the more out of breath you became.
We managed to get to the top of the hill in an hour and forty minutes! We were the only ones in sight and had about 30 minutes until we started spotting other climbers. We waited for the rest of our group to gather and then headed to town for breakfast.
After breakfast we stopped by some hot springs to clean the layer of sweat off and relax our exhausted legs. We spent about an hour kicking back and then headed to what had become the conversation of choice for the last two days; the all you can eat buffet. Being a fat kid at heart and having been given the nickname The Garbage Disposal while growing up, I was fully prepared to put every calorie burned back on…. multiplied by 5. The entire group seemed to have the same idea and by the end of our forty minute gorge the conversation had turned into grunts and trips to the bathroom.
The ride back to Arequipa was fairly uneventful and was only broken up by a few stops. One at the highest point accessible by road (This could be a complete bullshit fact? But still very high). We quickly ran from the van to the observing point to snap our picture at the 4,900+ meter point (16,000+ feet).
The trip in its entirety was considered a success and I might even feel inclined to consider another hike in the future? The underlining message that has consistently surfaced throughout my life, that even the worst of situations can be throughly enhanced by the people around you. That yes, even hiking can be enjoyable when you have good company.