Villa Maria Team - Expedition Week 1!
The expedition phase began with several meetings with our new leader Greg. Those who had attended the intro weekend suffered some serious déjà-vu and everyone was just a little scared about cycling down death road after hearing a blow by blow account of the accident that occurred last year. We then spent the remainder of the day frantically shopping to stock up on toiletries and other essentials – including some snazzy trekking clothes - for the six weeks ahead. Meanwhile it was discovered that Jean’s packing skills left a lot to be desired resulting in Jimmy and Jean returning to Villa Maria to pick up Jean’s walking boots.
The following day saw a 4hr bus journey and a trip to the beach – only the boys were brave enough to enter the cold, smelly water! Dinner saw Jimmy realize that we now had a vegetarian in our midst, much to his horror, and Human cluedo got underway. After yet another bus journey we went on a boat trip around the Ballestas islands where we had spectacular views of birds and sea lions – although some found the smell just a little overpowering.
It was then on to Huacachina where we enjoyed dune buggying and sandboarding – Jaiya getting so excited that she managed to rip Jimmy’s boxers (apparently she was aiming for his hand but grabbed his boxers instead…). Jimmy also gave a great demonstration of what not to do hurtling down the dune at speed and then doing an impressive somersault. The boys all got to grips with sandboarding very quickly whilst the girls took a bit longer to masterthe sport – Ola giving up after managing to dive head first into the sand.
After hurtling down the dunes at three different locations – each steeper than the last – we headed back to the hostel bruised and aching. We all wished we could have stayed at Huacachina longer but sadly the following morning it was time for our most grueling bus journey so far – 12 hours to Arequipa.
At Arequipa we prepared for our first trek, sorting kit, buying food and discovering in the nick of time that we had no pots/utensils for cooking. We left the hostel at 1am to catch the bus to the Colca Canyon. Unfortunately Alex wasn’t feeling well and stayed behind with Jimmy. Over the next 24 hours everyone fell ill and by the following evening Louis, Flo, Ola and Greg were the only members of the team to have escaped. Flo lived up to her name and did an impressive job as Florence Nightingale keeping tabs on everyone and taking meal orders.
As a result the trek was postponed by 2 days but we got going on the Thursday after being reunited with Alex and Jimmy. The first day of trek saw the team descend into the canyon along paths with a sheer drop on one side. We managed to reach the campsite eventually despite Liv being ill and several others not 100%. There we put up the tents and cooked pasta for dinner before collapsing into their tents for the night.
The second day started with an arduous morning of trekking uphill – by some miracle (or should I say Greg’s prodding and encouragement) everyone made it. To everyone’s relief the afternoon consisted of only flat and downhill paths! We arrived at the next campsite at 2pm, a few people were brave enough to get in the pool for a few seconds and everyone (particularly Jimmy) enjoyed the luxury of toilets! Greg singlehandedly cooked up a feast – mac and cheese with frankfurters – which everyone enjoyed. The team then went to bed very early in preparation for a 4am wake up.
The breakfast team started preparing breakfast at 3.45am after tackling the obstacle of a large, barking dog – who turned out to be very friendly. We left camp at 6am and ascended over 1181m over the course of the morning. It was a very tough trek but at 12pm we finally reached the top of the canyon – Ola and Alice in disbelief that we had finally got to the top!
So everyone managed to survive our first trek and we are alive and well – just a little tired and achy! A big thank you must go to Greg, Jimmy and the boys who carried lots of extra kit to give those who were struggling a break, Jaiya for her motivating pep talks and never-ending supply of Tang and the team as whole for pulling together and completing the trek without killing each other!