Arequipa and more trekking in Colca Canyon

Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
Trip End Apr 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
Flying Dog Hostel

Flag of Peru  ,
Tuesday, August 2, 2011

We got to Arequipa via a very comfortable 12 hour journey with Cruz del Sur – where they breathalyse their drivers in front of the passengers, scan your luggage and all passengers, and record on video every passenger on the bus – very security conscious which seems a bit excessive but suppose it's for our good! We arrive in Arequipa at 7am and get straight into our hostel, Flying Dog and get breakfast as well so that was a bonus.  Arequipa is known for two things – the white city and blue sky.  Sounds good to me.  The centre is pretty with colonial style white washed buildings and practically every building has a pretty courtyard – perfect for sitting under the blue sky.  Our main aim for today was to sort a Colca canyon tour for the next day (as we’re getting short on time, who knew Peru was so big!?) and book our bus out of there following the tour.  Once we get this sorted, a three course lunch at La Creperie for 5 is needed and the rest of the day is spent enjoying the sunshine.

It’s barely the next morning (2.30am) and we are up to be picked up for our tour of the Colca Canyon – second deepest canyon in the world, twice the depth of the Grand Canyon.  For some unknown reason, we thought it would be a good idea to sign up for the trekking tour even though we had just completed the Inca Trail!  The tour drives us to a town in the canyon called Chivay for breakfast, we then go to the viewpoint Cruz De Los Condors to see condors surfing the winds – there were only a couple hanging about.  Then we start walking.  It’s a 3 hour descent to the bottom of the canyon, over 1000m descent, for lunch and during this time, Jonny and I both realise that we may not have recovered from Inca Trail yet, this coupled with the heat and dust doesn’t make it too much fun but the views and rock formations are impressive.  As we get towards the bottom we start to appreciate the scale of the canyon. A brief stop for lunch then another three hours along the mountainside, and a short descent (it was slightly shorter for me as I slipped and destroyed a cactus) and then we arrive at Sangalle, a small village at the bottom of the canyon which has tourist accommodation and swimming pools.  The swimming pool was very welcome at this point so we made use of it! 

I must admit, I don’t know what the difference is between a valley and a canyon or how the canyon was measured - our guide wasn’t the greatest and didn’t give us a lot of detail on the canyon or its formation. Also, he was probably the least assertive guide I’ve met "Guys we should go now"....20 mins later....”guys we really should go”....10 mins later...”we’ve got to go” This continues until members of our group e.g. us gather the group to leave.  We did feel that the canyon looks more like a valley rather than the Grand Canyon, but from the bottom it is impressive all the same. And it definitely was an achievement to hike to the bottom and back.

The next day is an early start (after we wait for 45 mins for the guide to turn up...definitely 'South American Time’) and a difficult 3 hour walk up to get out of the canyon, climbing over 1000m nearly did kill us!  There is no other means in and out of the canyon apart from by donkey, one member of our group opted for the donkey route but the rest of us struggled up slowly.  The rest of the day is then spent visiting small settlements around the canyon (by bus thankfully), the highlights were tasting Colca Sours (a form of Pisco sours but using the fruit from the cactus instead of lemon) and the volcanic hot springs.  We then headed back to Arequipa for a brief rest and a stopover before working our way north.          
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