I hate Snickers bars. Offer me one in the UK and I will instantly refuse, regardless of exhaustion or hunger. Today, at the top of the toughest mountain trek of my life, the Snickers and banana my  companion Marvin bought me was like mana from heaven. Let me start from the beginning of the week…

Back in Coporaque, we really enjoyed our last weekend break. We made our way to the nearest town (Chivay) with Sarah coping far better with the heat and altitude this time. Although we elected to take a ‘short cut’ through the fields, Peruvians who live this rurally don’t really ‘do’ proper paths, and we ended up on a pretty difficult hike through cacti and scrubs. At Chivay we splashed 30 soles on huge pizzas and mango lassies: the best meal we’ve had so far I reckoned.
We also enjoyed a small party with some beers my surrogate Dad bought. Once again, they’ve been very kind to us, and attempted to learn some limited English as well. We’ve certainly been able to make our Spanish more natural and fluent, especially the boys who hadn’t had much formal Spanish before the trip started.
This next week, Alejandro told us, we can regard as a ‘holiday,’ a break in between the two challenging volunteer projects either side. We left relatively early on Tuesday morning for Cabana Conde: a more touristy town deeper in the canyon. We even managed to stop at the Condor Cross to admire the spectacular view, with mountains stretching from high above us, to the canyon and river snaking invisibly below. No condors though…
Our hostel in Cabana Conde is very touristy. This is a nice break, actually. It’s refreshing to hear English voices again. After a monster pizza dinner and breakfast we set off down the canyon on foot to Sangalle. Although I found it relatively easy, poor Sarah wasn’t quite acclimatized at the time and, being shorter, had trouble negotiating the path. She hopped on a mule for the rest of the way.

Sangalle (‘Oasis’ in Spanish,) is a collection of five hostels deep in the canyon surrounded by insane plant growth and fuelled by the river further below. It felt rather like a traditional resort: pools, terraces, everything. It was a rather lovely and unique place, with one’s happiness tempered only by the knowledge that at some point, you have to hike back up.
After a restful full day, we met three lovely American guys called Moshe, Ari, and Elly. I decided to go trek up with them the following morning. The boys are both fitter and more competitive than me, so I figured this might be easier. We rose at 4.30am, and headed up the mountain, with the head-torches of other groups trailing us like lumbering glow worms. The view of the sunrise over the canyon was, needless to say, spectacular.
I said goodbye to the guys at their hotel and met up with the others again. We had all met at different times, and whilst I took two and a half hours, Robbie managed one hour twenty. Even Sarah made it up by starting relatively early in the morning. We are all tired but hugely satisfied.
This next week: Arequipa till Saturday night, then on to Puno for the Karina project.

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