Colca Canyon-twice as deep/fun as the Grand Canyon

Trip Start Mar 19, 2010
Trip End Apr 16, 2010

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Where I stayed
The Oasis

Flag of Peru  , Arequipa,
Saturday, April 10, 2010

    We signed up for 2 day trek throughout the Colca Canyon region, the deepest canyon in the world.  We weren't sure what we were in for how hard the trek would be, and were a little apprehensive when the lady booking our tour frowned a little when we showed her our tennis shoes were what we would be hiking in.  She warned us that the rocks were sharp so we just hoped that they wouldn't pierce our feet while we hiked!

    Our tour started at 3:00 in the morning when they picked us up from our hostel.  It was a 3.5 hour drive to the town of Chivay where we would be our tickets to pass into the Canyon.  The bus was small and cramped but we tried our hardest to get some shut eye! After buying our tickets, we continued through beautiful scenery.  In the entire canyon, all you can see is the river at the bottom and the incredible terracing everywhere. This valley has so much going on agriculturally and it amazing to see. Miles and miles of terraces carved into the hillside that have been around for centuries.

    Our next stop was the Cross of the Condor.  In this particular area,the hot and cold pressure system of the canyon made ideal conditions for the condors, the largest flying birds in the world, to ascend and descend the canyon.The condors, which are actually more of a vulture given they only eat dead animals have wings that span up to 3 meters.  We sat on the edge of the canyon while these huge birds soard only 30 feet overhead.  They were so huge and flew so
effortlessly it was amazing to watch.  We also had the nerve to buy breakfast from a local selling rice, fried chicken, and basil pasta from a pot she carried here from who knows where.  For only 4 soles we ate wonderfully while taking in the breath taking scenery of the canyon below us.

So from here in our writing, you can either read the long version with all the details we want to remember or the short version.  I'll give you the short version first!

1) 6 hours of hiking down to the bottom of the canyon for lunch.  Then continuing another 3 hours to "The Oasis" where we spent the night at the bottom of the canyon. waking up bright and early the next day for a 3 hour hike straight up back to the top  of the canyon.

2)  We continued on farther down the canyon and were eventually dropped off on the side of the road where we started our hike. From this point, Maria our guide showed us where we would be hiking and eating on the other side of the canyon.  It was a little intimidating when she told us it would be 4 hours down to the river and across it to lunch and then another 3 hours after that.  We started our descent, zig zagging back and froth down the mountain. The views of the canyon were incredible. As we descended farther and farther, the mountain face changed dramatically.  Some points (which we weren't hiking on) were rock that went straight down.  At one point we saw sign the said "Caution, hiking between 10am-3pm is very dangerous" We
looked up the mountain at that point and just saw boulders ready to crumble down the mountain.  We think maybe the heat might make the expand and increase the chance that they tumble hence the warning.  We had our eye on a bridge, crossing the river at the bottom.  We knew that once we got to there it would be an easy climb to lunch.  When we finally made it we were so relieved that we skipped across the bridge! Walking to lunch we passed through Cosnirgua a village built right on the hillside.  We passed fields of agriculture crops, beautiful flowers, and a very impressive irrigation system that brought water from the nearby glaciers.  We made it to our lunch spot where we happily ate Palta Rellena.  This made Nicole happy to be back in Peru, if only for the Palta Rellena!
  Finishing our lunch, Maria told us that we would be hiking up 1 hour, flat 1 hour and down for 1 hour.  We were so happy that after only 35 minutes she led us to the next village, Malata for a rest, we had made excellent timing. We ventured to the home of a family who had a little museum of artifacts the indigenous populations used to cook, weave, hunt, wear, and eat.  We also were given a cup of Chicha (fermented corn) to try.  Nicole really liked it, while Ari found it disgusting! We made a new friend too, Pepe.  An adorable dog who would not stop nipping at our legs!
  Continuing on, we finally arrived at our home (huts with no electricity) "The Oasis." They had a pool of fresh water from a nearby waterfall and despite the chilly temperature happily jumped in. We sat by the fire waiting for dinner watching the stars slowly come out of hiding. We have never seen so many stars! With no lights around for miles, the sky was so clear and there were millions of stars in the sky.  We had some fun making up constellations and taking pictures, although as you probably know, our camera was stolen with all of these great pics :(
     We started again at 5 am the next morning.  We had 3 hours of straight up hill to accomplish this day.  The moon and stars were still out when we began our ascent.  The sun slowly rose over the canyon while we made the grueling trek.  It pretty much felt like we were on the ultimate stair master.  We made great timing though, our guide was impressed when we were at the top in 2.5 hours! It was so rewarding to make it back to the top of the canyon and to be able to see the trails that we had hiked on on the opposite side.  It was such hard work, and we were sore for days, but it was so worth it! Once at the top a group of "lazy people" came up on Mules, making us even more proud of our hard work. We totally owned our guide as well who made it to the top 25 minutes after us, and she does this trek at least twice a week!

    We continued by bus back to Arequipa through the incredibly scenery stopping for a quick lunch in Chivay.  From our restaurant we watched a religious procession of music and people dressed in the finest clothing, parading around the Plaza de Armas in celebration of a wedding.

    We were so exhausted from our 2 day adventure but only had time to shower, grab a quick bite of Chifa for dinner, and get on our bus to Cusco!
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