Cocha Canyon Trek - Day 105-107

Trip Start Jan 31, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Various Local Bungalows

Flag of Peru  , Colca Canyon,
Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Day 105 - 21/04/09

Cocha Canyon Trek - Day 1

A crazy 3.30am start this morning, I was picked up from my hostel in the darkness with several other rather tired and disheveled backpackers for the 6 hour drive to the small town of Cabanaconde, which is perched on the rim of the chasm of the Cocha Canyon. The Cocha canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world at 3191 metres deep. The deepest canyon is just next door, sandwiched between some other massive Andean peaks, apparently it's not as pretty and it's only 150 or so metres deeper so I don't feel like I'm missing out on too much.

As I caught up on some sleep, the bus crossed a 4900 metre pass in the darkness and descended towards the town of Chivay where we purchased tourist tickets to enter the district. The next stop was Cruz del Condor which is a lookout beside the dusty road where massive condors gracefully float on the air thermals above the chasm. I Saw a few condor's in the distance but I didn't have any close encounters with these huge birds at this point. As we continued on our way to the starting point of the trek, the minibus abruptly stopped and the guide pointed out of the window at several condors floating close to the edge of the canyon. I left the minibus to take some photos of these majestic birds floating on the winds. Adult Condors have wing spans of more than 3 metres, it was truly an awesome sight as these huge birds flew only metres above my head on the canyon rim.

The Cocha canyon was supposedly formed by a huge seismic event which opened this huge chasm in the southern Peruvian Andes sometime in the distant past. The area is still extremely geologically active and peppered with 6000 metre volcanoes and was revered as gods by the
Inca's. The landscape is well and truly a wonder of nature. Although the place is referred to as a canyon it looks more like an extremely steep river valley with terraces cut into the slopes which were originally constructed by the Inca's for food production. The fertile volcanic land and the abundance of water makes these canyon's highly productive, and today the terraces are still used by the locals to grow various crops.

We descended on foot for 4 hours to the base of the canyon and the Cocha river. We crossed a bridge to the other bank and walked through several small holdings with livestock and crops, donkeys were wandering around and locals were doing their daily choirs. We reached the tiny settlement of San Juan de Chucho where we'll be spending the night in some very basic huts on the terraces above the river. A very idyllic place to spend the evening.

Day 106 - 22/04/09

Cocha Canyon Trek - Day 2

A very easy 4 hour trek today with a perfect vivid blue high altitude sky above, a pleasant change after a rather cloudy day yesterday. Passed through a couple of village's on today's hike observing daily life in the canyon. An idyllic but hard place to live for the residences. While passing through one of the villages, a local man stopped our guide and spoke in the ancient language of Quechua. The old man must of been in his 80's or 90's bend over on a walking stick. He asked our guide for a dog, a strange request. He said his last dog had just ran away and he was looking for a new one. Unfortunately our guide didn't have a spare dog in his backpack so we carried on along the trail. I was straggling behind the group and as I passed the old man he gave me a slap on the ass with his walking stick, I turned round and gave him a big smile and he returned the gesture with a big toothless grin, absolutely hilarious!

Arrived at the Oasis de Sangalle by midday. Was shown to a dusty mud brick hut with a straw roof, rustic but charming. The Oasis has 2 swimming pools which is slightly surreal considering we're at the base of one of the deepest canyon's in the world. The afternoon was spent chilling by the pool, drinking Pisco with coke and trying to avoid the sand flies which appear to only have a taste for me, no-one else seems to be having any problems, typical! The Oasis has no power, so after dinner i decided to have an early night in preparation for a 5am start tomorrow. Tomorrow will probably be a tough day with a 1100 metre ascent to the top of the canyon where a bus will be waiting totake the group back to Arequipa making a few scenic stops along the way.

Day 107 - 23/04/09

Cocha Canyon Trek - Day 3

Woke up at 5am for the 1100 metre ascent to the canyon rim and back to the town of Cabanaconde. Made the ascent in just over 2 hours which I thought was a pretty good effort considering I haven't done anything too strenuous since January. I found the ascent absolutely no problem at all, felt like I could do it all over again. The scenery this morning was stunning especially in the early morning light. As the sun rose higher in the sky the light slowly engulfed different sections of the canyon, revealing beautiful landscapes. I took some awesome pictures on the climb, the light was absolutely perfect, it was really quite a magical scene. The contrast of the greens against the bare rock, with the sky becoming a darker shade of blue as the sun ascended higher, wow!

After popping up at the top of the canyon and walking through some fields of maze the bus was there to take us back to Arequipa. On the way back to the city the bus stopped at many view points to allow us to enjoy various canyon over looks. The beautiful Inca terraces were
like a patchwork quilt of various shades of green, the Inca's were true architects of their environment. This is landscape gardening on a monumental scale. As we climbed higher approaching 5000 metres we saw Llma's, Alpaca's and the endangered Vicuņa grazing on the
Altiplano amongst tiny pools of melt water. I was really lucky to see the Vicuņa as these relatives of the camel were nearly hunted to extinction for their very warm and soft fur.

Next we stopped at the hot springs near the town of Chivay, then went into town for lunch after nearly scolding myself in the super hot pools. I didn't eat as I'm starting feel a little ill. I have stomach pain and diarrhea. I'm hoping it's going to be 24 hour thing and nothing to serious, I can't really afford to be ill. I have a jam packed schedule over the next couple of months before returning to Buenos Aires, everyday is accounted for. Fingers crossed, but only time will
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