There were a lot of people hiking to and from the small towns in the canyon. By taking a longer route we found ourselves on a road less travelled, and we were well up for the more challenging trail. Ruben is an athletic dutchman with tree trunks for legs. He stumbled clumsily downhill, but motored powerfully uphill. Daniel is Swiss-French, with equal passions for trekking and Tinder. Patricio was our legendary guide; 5 feet tall, portly, 50-something, fleet-footed, soft-spoken and all smiles. He hiked in a long-sleeve padded goalie jersey, track pants, and tattered, imitation Keds. He is poor, possibly because he spends his money taking care of two wives and four kids. He walked with his arms flared wide, and took three steps for every two of mine, but I could barely keep up with him. The trek was all steep climbs and painful descents, but I bit my tongue. I couldn’t complain about my knees to a diminutive 50 year-old.
Overall, Colca Canyon was amazing but somehow familiar. The highlights were the impressive condors, the well-timed earthquake that shook scree and boulders from canyon walls while we stood at a scenic overlook, and the lazy afternoons. Even though we signed up for the longest of the popular canyon tours, we arrived each day by 1pm. So we passed our time playing cards, reading by the pool, and lounging in a riverside thermal bath. It was incredibly relaxing, which was great, because my life has been so stressful lately.