Cotahuasi Adventure Festival VII
The bus left Arequipa at 8:15 pm and arrived at the rim of Cotahuasi Canyon at about 6:00 am. We stopped there for about an hour while the downhill mountain bikers unloaded their bikes and got ready to ride down the foot trail to Cotahuasi. It is a steep and very rough trail that I have hiked before, and decided that there is no way I would try to bike it. However this group had their custom downhill only bikes and all the padding so were eager to start their adventure. We got some good views of Nevado Solimana while waiting and then watched them start down the side of the canyon. After they were out of sight, we headed down, arriving in the village at almost 8:30 am. I had gotten some sleep on the bus but not much, so was pretty tired.
Rappelling and the High Mountain Rescue Team
As the last person was being pulled up, one of the police asked me if I still wanted to do it so I said yes. I was a little nervous when I realized that they didn't double back the harness belt like I had learned to do in rock climbing, and more nervous when I saw that the single rope they were using wasn't anchored to anything on the other end! Normally there had been two of them lowering each person down into the canyon below the falls, but when it came time for me to go down, there was only one. And he was standing right on the edge of the canyon, with nothing anchoring him either. In spite of his assurance that everything was OK, I waited until a second person showed up to help him. We were lowered down to a lip on the canyon wall, into the spray of the nearby falls, and when ready were to give a signal to be pulled up. I was trying to remind myself that it was just like the rappelling I had done in California, but it did seem scarier knowing that there was a raging river below me rather than a solid landing spot. The only option was to go back up! When they got me back up to the top, Carmen decided she wanted to do it too, so I waited until she finished, and then hung around while they packed up to leave.
It dawned on me that the rescue team must do some practicing in the mountains, so as they were packing up I asked them if they ever practiced on Solimana or Coropuna, our two local 6,000-meter peaks. The captain said they would be returning in a couple of months to train on Coropuna and invited me to join them. As my new car is a 4x4 van, I offered to meet them and drive them to the mountain, hopefully in exchange for them teaching me some safety and rescue techniques. It's kind of strange here; the police usually travel by public transportation like everyone else, so I knew they would be returning by bus and needing some local transportation. On the ride back to Cotahuasi, I pointed out an ancient Inca trail to them, which climbs up the side of the canyon, from the river to the rim. A couple of them said they want to come back and explore that with me as well. They also invited me to visit them at their station when I am in Arequipa. This will be a very good contact as I hope to put on an adventure race here in the future and may need them to be on hand as a safety crew.
Puenting and Rock Climbing
There was supposed to be rock climbing that afternoon at 5:00, but they didn't start setting up the artificial wall until about 5:30. No OSHA here, they set up regular construction scaffolding four levels high without bothering to anchor it at all, and it was sitting on grass, not concrete. By the time they got it anchored, and the wall attached to the scaffolding, it was too late to do any more that evening.
Rafting and Kayaking
Back in Cotahuasi they had finished setting up the climbing wall, so I gave that a couple of tries. It has been way too long since I have climbed; I had a sore arm already (old age I guess), and that was aggravated by a couple of climbs, so haven't done any more. My fingers also had no strength in them; fortunately the holds were mostly large, except for one little one near the top.
Biking and Hiking
The last event was the downhill bike race, which drew quite a crowd of onlookers. As if it wasn't hard enough keeping the kids off the end of the course, which included a jump right where the crowd was, there were a couple of burros on the course higher up. Everyone made it down safely though and seemed to enjoy it. I later challenged the downhillers to a hill climb, but they didn't accept the challenge.
Most of the group left on Tuesday night but a few stayed to see more of Cotahuasi. Carmen and Alex were two who stayed, and they wanted to do some hiking, so I took them up above the city to see some ancient ruins. In my element, I finally got to shine and many times had to wait for them to catch up, as neither of them were used to hiking or the altitude. There are both in their 20s but I didn't tease them too much! I did take them on an old trail that is in poor condition and hard to follow at times, but other than going slow, they did fine and said they enjoyed it.
In all it was a fun, though short time, and other than the delay with the climbing wall, went fairly smoothly. The local residents especially enjoyed watching the "locos" doing crazy things. The following three days are the anniversary celebration for the city so the streets have been full of people, parades and bands. Fortunately I live on the edge of town so the late night activities don't keep me awake.