At four a.m. I stuffed down a Twix bar and started the four-hour vertical ascent out of the canyon. The word "ascent" sounds too gentle to really capture the pure horror I had those first few steps. "This was a mistake! I'm not qualified for extreme tourism!" I thought.
But it turned out that all those hours of basketball had paid off, and I made it up the to the top of the canyon without having a debilitating leg cramp or passing out. Ha! Here I am about halfway up, looking about as exhausted and sweaty as I felt.
It was almost in that exact moment that my mom, comfortable and dry on her mule, passed by. Great timing!
She and a few other hikers from our group had elected for transportation up the hill. They got to leave an hour later and arrive up top an hour earlier. I truly regret not being faster with the camera and getting a photo of mom on her mule. Next time?
But just as our spirits were getting low, the sun's rays peaked out over the volcanoes and caught the rain clouds, forming an awe-inspiring rainbow that stretched across the canyon. Most of us stopped to absorb it. Within 10 minutes, it was gone.
I'm not sure the picture I took does it justice:
Here is the view from the top of the canyon:
After a quick breakfast in the town of Cabanaconde, we drove on down to the "Cruz del Condor," a popular spot to catch a glimpse of the giant and majestic condors that live in the canyon.
The condors left us with a memorable goodbye before we took the bus back to Chivay for lunch, and then to Arequipa.