Of Cats and Canyons

Well. Peru is officially over. And what a beautiful, hectic mess it was. Such a mess, in fact, that it makes absolutely no sense to make one coherent story out of it. So here’s a couple of our best stories from the last month. We’re posting two today, and one big one tomorrow, so you have things to look forward to!

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The Cheshire Cat

‘Lista?’ I look up at the exasperated face, then down the staggeringly steep drop below me, and further still to where I can see what used to be Myrthe sprawled facedown in the sand, groaning slightly.

I find myself nodding. Then push myself headlong down the dune, instantly regretting it. Wind whips past my hair, the board scrapes against my elbows and my knees. Sand. Sand everywhere. My eyes, my ears, my nose. Still I hurtle down at an impossible speed, fighting my reflex to yell. Can’t afford sand in my mouth as well.

I see a figure appear through a sandy haze and ninja roll sideways off my board to avoid breaking Myrthe’s ankles. Staggering to my feet, I shoot a glance at Myrthe, who’s cackling with delight, her face so covered in sand you might have almost mistaken her for tanned.

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It takes a second before I get my breath back and burst out laughing as well.

Our lives our ridiculous. Two days ago we were in the mountains, hiking at 4000 metres altitude, cold to the bone. Today, we’re sand boarding in the desert.

‘Watch out!’ Myrthe pulls me aside as Sanne comes hurtling past us at breakneck speed, face-planting headfirst in the sand with bizarre grace. She leaps up, undeterred, board under her arm, and points at the next dune. ‘Again!’

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We all glance back, waiting for our newly acquired dune-buddy to join us. Upon crash-landing at the bottom, his already enormous grin stretches to impossible proportions. ‘It was like, whatever.’ The Cheshire Cat proclaims nonchalantly, contrasting confusingly with his spastically wide smirk.

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That evening, having spent a lifetime in the shower scrubbing off every grain of sand that had taken a liking to our bodies, we decide to take the Cheshire Cat’s offer to join him and some friends of his for drinks. We had no idea that what we’d really signed up for was the full autobiographical works of the Cheshire Cat. Not that it was dull, or forced, mind you. But we all thought we’d lived interesting lives until the Cheshire Cat showed up. Every story we had, he had two just like it, with new and more interesting additions to complete them. For instance:

Myrthe: ‘I sometimes go sailing with my dad.’

Cheshire: ‘I went on this cruise with my family and had sex with a GILF and a MILF and both of them hated each other because they were jealous and both wanted me but by the end I got a selfie with both of them.’

Sanne: ‘I had to work hard to get to university.’

Chesire: ‘Me too. I got expelled from school aged 15 because they caught me having sex with my girlfriend in the bathroom, so I had to work really hard to get accepted anywhere.’

Eva: ‘My parents raised me well.’

Cheshire: ‘Mine too except that I got disowned after I accidentally got caught trashing a house in the woods by the police and then had to pay enormous legal fees for the court process which I couldn’t afford so my parents paid up front and then later they disowned me so I had to move out and make money of my own so started growing mushrooms in my basement. Have any of you ever done mushrooms?’

You get the idea. To add some substance to these stories, I’m going to give them a moral. So, moral of the Cheshire Cat story: People are awesome. And weird. So weird. Oh, and go sand-boarding: free full-body exfoliation guaranteed.

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Baledecolcacanyon

‘Hm, what?’ I glance up from my packing, only to find Myrthe’s little Fjallraven pack dangling in my face.

‘It doesn’t ‘ffing fit. I can’t go hiking for three days with this little shit.’

‘Take your big pack.’ I shrug. Myrthe looks over at her navy-blue North Face with despair.

‘But… then I have to… unpack… the whole thing.’

‘I’m taking my big pack too.’

‘Me too.’ Sanne chimes in.

We all look at each other in horror as we realise the chaos that’s about to ensue.

Twenty minutes later and the dorm room is in shambles. My eleven kilo’s of stuff, plus Myrthe’s twelve, plus Sanne’s thirteen, litter the floor. Jackets on bunk beds. Deodorant leaking on the floor. T-shirts sprawled across the room like a murder scene. Hiking boots hanging from the door. Myrthe has a forlorn-looking sock in her hair.

Sanne and I have dismantled our packs to make them smaller, packed the few things we’ll need for the trek, and now sit with our head in our hands wondering what the hell we’re going to do with the rest of our stuff. I flick the sock out of Myrthe’s hair absent-mindedly.

Another half hour and everything has been stuffed into our backpack covers, and stowed away into a corner. In the meantime we sit in the opposite corner, completely out of breath, wondering how the hell we’re supposed to hike for three days through the second deepest canyon in the world if packing at an altitude of 3300 metres is already physically draining.

The alarm goes at 3.45 a.m. and I want to kill someone. We drag ourselves out of bed and into the minivan that awaits us, filled with other homicidal hikers. A Spanish family of three, a trio of Swiss highschool graduates, one sulking American and a beaming Peruvian guide greet us miserably.

‘Welcome to the Baledecolcacanyon trek.’ The guide says with a dramatic wave.

‘The what?’ I mutter.

‘The Baledecolcacanyon is about three hours drive away.’

‘The what?’ Sanne gives me a nonplussed look.

‘I will be your guide through the Baledecolcacanyon. Can I see your Baledecolcacanyon tickets please?’

Myrthe fishes out the tickets from her bag and studies them intently. ‘I’ve only got tickets for the Colca Canyon Valley.’ She says helplessly as she hands them over.

‘Baledecolcacanyon, yes yes.’

‘Valle de Colca Canyon.’ I repeat, unscrambling the words with difficulty. Oh, right.

It’s too early for this shit.

That should probably have been the motto for the Colca Canyon trek. Day one, up at quarter to four, followed by a six hour knee-shattering, soul-destroying, downhill trek, from the top of the Colca Canyon to the very bottom. Sanne and I passed the time singing Disney songs while Myrthe looked on with annoyance, her voice almost gone from an oncoming cold. But with every new twist in the road, every kilometre we passed, every step walked, the songs got quieter, our voices more out of tune, until the last kilometer, where all we could manage was a wheezy, pathetic version of ‘Hakuna Matata’.

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The mud & stone luxury lodge that awaited us at the finish line was freezing cold, and the door was definitely a good ten centimetres too small for the entrance, meaning icy wind blew through the room, but thankfully the owners had thought of this and provided five blankets per person. A quick post-lunch nap, we all agreed, and then a tour of the little hamlet we were in. Just a quick nap. Just a few minutes. Then another walk. Sure. We all knew fully well we were lying but were too tired to point it out. I snuggled into my slightly filthy blankets with exhausted glee, feeling my eyes drooping.

‘What time is it?’ Myrthe gurgled sleepily as she rubbed her eyes.

Sanne glanced at her phone. ‘Um.’

‘Did we miss the village tour?’

‘Um. Dinner is in five.’

Day two, another six hours, but this time from one end of the canyon to the other, so beautiful words fail to describe it. Conveniently, that’s what Myrthe is for. So here’s a picture.

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And then the third day came. Another 4am alarm. Sanne and I looked at each other, the bags under our eyes doing a sufficient job at describing just how tired we were. And just how much we regretted the three mojito’s we’d downed out of boredom the night before. In unison, we turned to glare at Myrthe, still sleeping soundly. You know you’re sleep deprived when you’re more willing to have a raging fever but ride a mule up to the top of the canyon rather than walk up yourself at 4am in perfect health.

The hike was, in all honesty, brutal. We had no food, too little water, and David, our tiny guide, leapt up the mountain with no difficulty, ushering us on relentlessly. We were so out of breath even ‘Hakuna Matata’ was out of the question. But good god was the pain worth it. See for yourself.

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So, for some added depth to this tale, let me add another moral. Moral of Baledecolcacanyon: appreciate your god damn sleep. Have that nap. Sleep in that extra hour. Just don’t tell us about it, we’re jealous as hell.

 

Until tomorrow people xxx

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