Cabanaconde is at 3200m so there was a likelihood of altitude issues (headaches, nausea etc) but I am seemingly super-human and suffered none of these. All you noticed is that after walking a bit down the street you became out of breath for no good reason (whether it was actually a fitness matter or not, i´m putting it down to altitude). I stayed at a really nice hostel and found myself teaching english to some local children in the afternoon as one of the ladies at the hostel runs classes for the kids each day. It was a bit of a nightmare, especially as my spanish isn´t particularly fluent and the children preffered beating each other than learning. It was good fun anyway.
Having spent the night, I set off early next morning to go trekking into the canyon for a couple of days. The hostel owner used to be a guide so he had lots of maps and advice so it was easy to do on my own. The path I took was utterly amazing. It was really just a ledge carved into the side of the cliff face with sheer drops on one side and the views were spectacular. It started off gently sloping but then turned into steep zig-zags down the mountain. At one point I stopped to let a donkey and its herder go past but their instructions to me as to where to go were lost in translation and the donkey almost barged me off the side of the cliff which was not so good. It took about 3 1/2 hours of walking to reach the bottom of the canyon (over 1000m descent) and I stopped at a little village for some lunch.
My original plan was to stay there for a night but it was only 12.30pm so I thought i´d blitz the rest in a day. Not one of my best ideas. My goal was an oasis on the canyon floor below Cabanaconde where there were a few basic places to stay but there was no direct path and the canyon has deep indents so you can´t go direct. I had to climb back up half the canyon when it was about 30 degrees and wander through a few more villages before descending to the oasis and it was pretty tough going. I think I drank about 5 litres of water just in that one day. The oasis was brilliant though. There are a few swimming pools there and I stayed in a proper bamboo hut with holes in the wall and no electricity and everything! Very basic but only cost about 2 pounds. The second day was by far the worst thing i´ve had to do for a while. It took 3 hours of entirely uphill walking on a very steep and windy path to get back to Cabanaconde and I was passed by the same guy on his damn donkey three times before I made it to the top. I also ran out of water towards the end so it was a race against time before I collapsed and died. I have never been so happy to see a bit of flat path in my life! The fact it was at altitude towards the end made it doubly difficult but it was an amazing hike to have done.
I can barely move today as i´m aching so much but i´m getting a bus tonight to Cusco where im spending a week or so, so I can rest a bit!
I woke up at 4.30am in order to get my very basic bus out to Cabanaconde which is a small village at the end of Colca Canyon where the canyon is at its deepest. Outside of Arequipa the landscape is just barren with the odd llama and alpaca roaming the altiplano (there are 4 different sorts of furry horse out here: llamas, alpacas, vicunas and huanacos, and they are all pretty much the same thing the difference being that alpacas get eaten). The start of the canyon was not so impressive but as you go further along the mountains get higher and the canyon becomes narrower and there are spectacular views to be had. I had an extra treat on this bus journey as not only did I get the obligatory pan-pipe bonanza over the radio but they had the music videos to go with it. Brilliant.