A long way down

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2011

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Villa Pastor Backpackers

Flag of Peru  , Arequipa,
Sunday, June 19, 2011

From Arequipa one of the main attractions is the Colca Canyon, apparently the 2nd deepest canyon in the world (twice as deep as the Grand Canyon) although I'm not exactly sure how you measure these things. We decided not to do one of the many tours from Arequipa that run into the canyon and head there independently. We got ourselves to the bus station and jumped on the local bus to Cabanaconda. Nearly all buses around here have tvs on them showing movies and more often than not you get lucky and it's either in English with Spanish subtitles or vice versa. Not so this time, Spanish with Danish subtitles. As you do. We were also sitting behind a little old man who half way through the journey pulled out a recorder and started playing what sounded like random notes. It didn’t seem to bother anyone even when he switched to the harmonica.

The bus stopped off in Chivay for a bit and we bought our tourist ticket for the area. It was also weird to see that instead of broken glass on top of the walls to ward off thieves, around here they grow little cactuses!! We found a place to stay in Cabanaconda when we arrived, went for a little wander about town and stocked up on supplies for dinner and the following days walk. We took a walk to one of the miradors (lookouts) to get our first real view of the canyon. We were on the wrong side of the bus on the way down (tip: sit on the right on the way there, left on the way back) so hadn’t yet seen it in all its glory and honestly when we first walked to the edge it was pretty stunning. The pictures probably don’t do the views justice but they are still far better than my words. We also met an Argentinian/American guy called Juan who was staying in our hostel and pretty much planning to do the same thing as us the next day so we agreed to meet at 6 in the morning and head off.

Our plan was to at least walk down to the river at the bottom of the canyon and if we were making good time head to the hot springs at Lahur a bit of a way along the valley floor. We set out not long after the sun rose to give ourselves the most time and it was pretty cold. The first part of the walk goes along the rim of the canyon and you can often see the path snaking its way down ahead of you into the canyon. I was worried the views might get worse as you went down into the canyon but if anything they got better. We made really good time and got to the bridge and geysers at the bottom in about 2 hours or so. We headed on to the hot springs which were amazing. There were only two other people there and the 5 of us spent almost 2 hours sitting in the hot pools chatting and staring at the amazing surroundings. And given that the river was only feet away we couldn’t help but jump into the icy cold waters a couple of times. Well the boys did anyway. It was hard to drag ourselves out of the warm water especially as we knew we had the entire uphill still to go. We definitely decided climbing mountains is the better way to go as you do the up in the morning and then have the less strenuous down at the end. We were also regretting not having given ourselves more time in the area as there are some really cool cabins near the pools that it would have been amazing to spend a night or two in. Ah well.

We eventually got back on the road and head back up the canyon walls. It was now around 1pm and the sun was blaring so it was pretty tough going. Didn’t seem to bother Juan though who was motoring ahead of me and Liz. Young fellas! He wasn’t even drinking much water. I’d say me and Liz got through about 6 litres each during the day and he only had about 2 with him. It was a long slog up and took us a good five hours altogether. We finally made it in the dwindling light and were happy we hadn’t had to get the torches out. Colca Canyon in 1 day is doable but I’d definitely give at least 2 so you can enjoy it a bit more. We should be passing close enough to here in a couple of months on our way to Bolivia so who knows, you may see another entry!

On the way back to Arequipa the next day we got seats on the right side of the bus i.e. the left so had views of the canyon all the way back. We didn’t stop to see any condors, some parts of the canyon are very good for spotting them but we decided to save them for later, but we did randomly spot Liz’s dad and Caroline on their tour as we whizzed by!
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