I slept really well during the night. The blankets on the bed were so incredibly warm I didn’t even know if it got cold over night. I think I slept for almost 12 hours. I was still dizzy when I woke up, but we made our way to the patio for breakfast around 8am. Everyone else who had stayed the night was long gone, starting their treks so they would beat the hot sun. The hostess brought us tea and pancakes with butter and jam. I felt more able to eat the breakfast than I had the dinner, but afterwards my stomach was hurting again. Thankfully we still had almost an hour and a half to just relax in this beautiful place before we had to walk back up the hill to the road. I tried chewing a coca leaf, but I was just really not a fan.
I rested in the room another long while, and Eric settled up paying for our meals with the lodge. As we were leaving we saw a French woman we had seen at dinner last night again. She asked if I was feeling better. I said I was well enough to walk back to the road. She said she and her partner had gotten up at 6, climbed for an hour, and gave up and came back. He was sleeping at that moment, but they were also planning to take the bus back. I felt a little better about myself and we said we would see each other on the bus.
Eric and I set out for the bus very early, not knowing how long it might take me to get up to the road. We arrived at the road at about 11, and a local woman said the bus often comes at 12, but could in theory be anywhere from 11 to 1. We found some shade on the side of the road and waited. Just a few moments later the French people came up the road and joined us in the shade. They said they heard the bus yesterday hadn’t come until 1:30. We spoke with them for a while, learned they are French but living in Miami. They had planned to hike to Sangalle that day, but as we already knew they couldn’t make it and were opting for a bus back to town like us. As far as places to wait go, the side of a dirt road in the shade with a canyon view wasn’t the worst choice.
Sure enough the bus showed up just after 12, and the 4 of us tourists climbed in. It was mildly crowded already, but we found seats around. The bus itself was actually identical to the “tourist bus” we had taken out here in the first place. Just this one also had a screen playing Latin music videos. With the windows open for any kind of air circulation we got just as dusty as if we had walked the trail ourselves. The passengers seemed to be mostly the rural farmers as I expected, including the sweet old woman from the tiny village above Llahuar lodge who had reminded us the bus wouldn’t come until 12. As the bus filled up, and there were clearly no more seats available, the farmers started piling their bags of produce in the tiny aisle and sitting on those. I sat between a Spanish speaking hiker and an older local woman sitting on her bag of potatoes. The ride took less than the 2 hours our hostess had estimated even including stops for all the people and one stop for some of the bus employees to play with a snake on the side of the road that they ended up bringing on the bus with them. For 10 soles per person I was glad we had an alternative way back to the town. I gathered that the road had recently been finished to connect all the villages in the canyon for many good reasons, but mostly because some company just found an actual gold mine and is trying to start a business mining gold there.
We arrived in Cabanaconde around 1:45 and saw the 2pm bus back to Arequipa sitting in the square. The opportunity was too perfect to pass up even though we could have stayed the night there. Our French companions decided to stay the night in Cabanaconde, so we said goodbye to them and climbed on the public bus back to the big city. This was a big coach bus, not like the busvans that we had taken down that road before. It handled the gravel and rocky roads a lot nicer for us. We also took the time to call the guy who had booked our night in San Juan de Chuccho and let him know we wouldn’t be arriving there. We had no way to get in contact with the village or the lodge directly, but we wanted someone to alert them that we had gotten sick and decided to leave early. It seemed that when hikers didn’t show up for their reservations it worried everyone a lot, so it was better to try and let them know not to expect us. We would have taken the same bus back the following afternoon anyway, just a day early and out the $20 we had spent pre-booking the lodge in the other village. So for a grand total of 57 soles ($19… And some good timing) two people can get from the bottom of the canyon all the way back to the nearest major town in one day over the course of about 7 hours if necessary.
When we stopped in Chivay and most of the bus got off, we also took that time to call the hotel we had been staying at in Arequipa. We explained that we had a reservation for the following evening already, but that our plans had changed and we would like to stay tonight as well if there was room available. They said it would be fine and they would wait for us to arrive tonight from the bus. Many more people boarded the bus in Chivay, and a man even strolled the aisle selling ice creams. We snacked on some wafers we had purchased from Llahuar lodge, and after about a 15 minute stop the bus was off to Arequipa again. This time the bus put on a movie for us to watch on the ride. It was all in Spanish and wasn’t one we recognized anyway, though according to the end credits it was November Man. I think that if one has no qualms about traveling with the local people and making a few village stops, the public bus was actually way better than the tourist one. It was cheaper, bigger and more comfortable, and showed a movie! The tiny breakfast and condor stop were not worth the tourist surcharge to me. Though I guess the other trade off was the tourist bus picked up at our hotel which was a peek at 3am, but not a big deal to get a taxi from the bus stop in the evening.
Unfortunately, as I was beginning to feel better and tolerate food more and more, Eric was getting more and more sick from riding the bus back. I guess it worked out that at least one of us was functional at a time. After November Man they started another movie dubbed in Spanish, possible called Escape Artists. At one point the bus came to a complete stop for a good 15 minutes on the road. I couldn’t see any reason aside from a little man in a road workers uniform with a flashing red stick. Even our driver was honking and yelling “vamos!” after a while.
We got into the bus station around 7:45, used the restrooms, and went out to find a taxi. Unlike everywhere else we have gone, for some reason this place did not have a million people offering to be a taxi service. One man approached us, but when we told him where we wanted to go he said no and walked away. We walked out to the road where there seemed to be a line of taxis coming and going. We flagged one down and gave him the card the hotel had given us with some keywords to direct taxi drivers. He first took us to a location that apparently has the same name, but was incorrect. He read the card again, zeroed in on a different keyword and took us generically to that area. Thankfully his generic guess was only about 2 blocks from the hotel. We guided him verbally the rest of the way and ended up right outside the door of the hotel. He was relieved when we got there as much as we were and we all had a mini celebration. And he still took the originally quoted price of 8 soles.
So getting back was an adventure, but it all worked out. And I didn’t regret my decision to leave the canyon a night early. I think staying and feeling sick would have been unwise, though I did feel terrible at how sick Eric got on the bus ride back. Sadly I suspect that would have happened no matter which day we went. Eric was experiencing similar symptoms to those he had in Cusco early on so I tried to just make him comfortable, but there wasn’t much I could do for him. Once we got to our room we showered quickly and crashed.
Sunday May 24:
I woke up earlier than I had hoped I would, but I guess I still slept 8 hours. Eric had been sick all night long and was basically lying immobile on his back when he wasn’t in the bathroom. I woke up dizzy again which I attributed still to dehydration, but my stomach wasn’t feeling totally well either. Even water didn’t feel good going down. Plus on top of that I felt cold, shaky, and could barely move from soreness. I assumed the soreness was mostly from the hike, but I get body aches when I’m sick so it felt confusing. We were both a mess this morning.
Eventually the bathroom symptoms took me over as well. Eric went out to find more water for us, I took some painkillers and pepto. We mostly just stayed in bed. I felt a little perkier after the Tylenol. And it brought me to a normal level of soreness, down from the immobilizing grips of pain. We found the Monaco F1 race on TV so we watched that for a while. It was fun to see because we had been on parts of the track there when we visited Monaco. After the race we found the one English channel on TV playing a random movie we hadn’t heard of. I managed to cut my nails, but that wore me out a bit. We watched a tv show on the iPad and I tried to sleep more. Really I didn’t get out of the bed the entire day, just slept on and off and occasionally feeling a little better than other times. Eric felt a bit better in the afternoon and went to sit in the garden. He took pictures of Paca the tortoise who lives here and I am very sad I missed him due to being bedridden.
Later in the evening we were able to help each other pack up for the flight the next day. We ate crackers and drank diluted sports drinks. It was about as nice as it could be I suppose. And I was so thankful we had gotten back to the city to be sick and had not stayed down the canyon another night. Bummer that the day we gained in Arequipa was spent in bed and not in the city, though.