Colca Canyon and more trekking

Trip Start Nov 15, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Steve and I arrived in Arequipa after what I though was a fairly rough ride but Steve slept straight through, at 6am.  We headed for the hostel we booked but I didn't like it in the flesh as it were so we consulted our bible (the Lonely Planet guide) and headed for a better option.  I decide to have a couple of hours sleep while Steve was busy uploading photos (the absolute bain of  almost every backpackers life).

We then walked around the city centre and visited the Santa Catalina de Siena Monastery.  The monastery was enlarged over the centuries until it became a city within the city, about 20000 sq./m. and covering a good sized city block.  At one time, 450 nuns and their lay servants resided within the community, closed off from the city by high walls.  In 1970, when the civic authorities insisted the monastery install electricity and running water, the now poor community of nuns elected to open the greater portion of the monastery to the public in order to pay for the work.  The few remaining nuns retreated to a corner of their community and the remainder became one of Arequipa’s prime tourist attractions.

Colca Canyon tour (2 days & 1 night):
Well, I only went to bed at 11:30pm because I was busy catching up on all my blogging for 4 hours and then the 2:45am alarm went off for our Colca tour.  At that hour I could still hear the hoards of Saturday night revelers still partying hard in these early hours of Sunday morning!

DAY 1:
We were supposed to have been picked up from the hotel at 3:30am but the agency guide arrived at 4am and we didn't set off until 4:15am as there was others to be collected as well.  Now the saying goes "you get what you pay for" and we managed to negotiate a good price for the 2 day tour, but we were supposed to be in a group of 8 people in a minibus, but here we were with 3 or 4 other agency in a large bus!  I'm not just being picky or moaning, but the fact that we were 40 minutes late because we were picking up every tom, dick and harry, meant that after the 5 hour bumpy trip to the first lookout point "Cruz del Condor", I only caught a glimpse of 1 condor and that was it (prime time is between 7am and 9am to see lots of them soaring in the sky above but we arrived at 9:15am so we didn't).  So I spent 40 minutes just sitting around really as the views of the Canyon at that point were not a patch on the spectacular views during the Machu Picchu trek.

OK, moaning over (that would be the lack of sleep).  We set off on our 3 hour downhill hike into the canyon (from 3300m to 2200m).  The path was rocky and dusty so skidding down every few seconds was unavoidable.  Common sense tells you to stick to the mountain side in case you fall - hopefully you won't fall off the cliff-face!  After 2 hours of the downhill hike, I was starting to think that perhaps this wasn't such a good idea so soon after the Machu Picchu trek as my knees (yes both of them) were hurting real bad!  Another half an hour and we arrived at a restaurant for lunch (and a break).  I actually didn't realise that people lived in the Canyon!  Well, they do - not many, as they've emigrated to the bigger towns for schooling and better education.  We visited 2 of the small towns within the Canyon and most of the buildings were derelict.  In fact the town had only 45 inhabitants, 3 of which were children who attended the school within the canyon - can you imagine a school with just 3 pupils?!

We had to hike another 2 hours downhill to the Oasis - our accommodation for the night.  By now I am hobbling down the canyon in so much pain with my knees, each step downhill hurting more than the last.  But what can you do but clench your teeth and push on - "No pain, no gain" as they say!  It's a 3 hour hike back up the Canyon tomorrow so as it stands right now, I am seriously considering hiring a mule to take me up, otherwise I'll end up having MY knees replaced (hey Tata?!).  As soon as the sun had set at 5:30pm, the Oasis was plunged into darkness.  It's lucky I thought to bring a torch with me for the evening and the early start in pitch blackness the following morning.  That will be fun, since the pathways are so narrow, rocky and with a sheer cliff drop, one fatal move from my dodgy knees and I'll be condor food! Ha!
Dinner was served at 7pm - soup followed by spaghetti and coca tea to finish.  It was an early night for all of us at 8:30pm.

DAY 2:
We woke up at 5am with a view to setting off at 5:15am or a 3 hour uphill trek to the top of the Canyon and only then would we go for breakfast.  So off we set with nothing in our stomachs, in the darkness, the narrow cliff path lit only by torchlight.  I'd strapped my right knee up with an elasticated bandage the guide had given me, but after 45 minutes the pain kicked in once again.  I forgot to mention that on this tour we had to carry our own backpacks, adding an extra 5kgs to the pressure on the knees.  The lņast hour up the canyon was the toughest by far - not only were my knees in pain, my legs were now physically exhausted and mental negativity kicked in.  With help from a little talking to myself, my music and Steve waiting for me, I pushed on forward and then practically collapsed when I finally reached the top.  Steve and I have a little joke about the word "cake" as we both love cake and so when either of us mention the word out of the blue, the other person perks up and we both start laughing - so that little joke helped get us up the mountain too.
I have to say, 6 days of hardcore trekking within a week was probably not my brightest of ideas!

After lunch we headed back to Cruz del Condor as the guide had promised me (me, being the operative word!).  We arrived there and the guide shouted out my name on the bus for me to get of and photographs the condors.  Other people started to get off the bus when they saw me get off but the guide rounded everyone up after 5 minutes as it was only a quick stop for little old me!  - talk about pesonalised service! (there's something about guides in Peru - they seem to take an instant shining to me and of course Steve found it all very amusing as the guide would literally always address me and not him, despite being on the tour together).
Ha, I forgot to mention that for lunch, the guide had also specially picked some twigs of Muņa for me as I'd mentioned i love the tea (Steve was jealous as he didn't get a cup of that tea, which he also likes!).

Well, it was a quick stop at 4900m to take some photos of some volcanoes, but to be honest I didn't move from the bus as I was that tired and I'd seen better views.  It was then a long 4 hour bus ride back to Arequipa in almost a death trap of a bus - the gear box crunched every time the driver changed gears, half way through the journey the bus driver had to slow right down as the brakes were over heating; and the air conditioning was set to freezing.  I was glad to get off the bus and finally relax with a bottle of wine.  Well seeing as Steve and I are now parting ways - why not.  Steve's heading south and I'm well, heading north as I have decided to extend my trip to Central America. 

I'm far from ready to go back to the UK if indeed I ever do, so it's time for some new adventures in Central America beginning with Panama.  But first, yep, maybe you guessed it ... a quick beach break in my favourite place - Mancora.
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Steve on

Some happy memories of our time trekking in the canyon - but unfortunately an anticlimax after MP!
Every time I have a slice of cake it raises a smile - Limon Meringue Pie in Bolivia is surprisingly good.
Hope you´re still getting the personalised service!!
x Steve

Robert Olton on

New knee not so good and very expensive - better keep yours.
Better be ready for reality "adventures" Tata.

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