Colca Trek day 1

Cabanaconde Travel Blog

 › entry 55 of 72 › view all entries
Group phoon in the canyon

Our start was a little earlier than expected. We were told we would be picked up at 5:50, but the guy actually arrived at 5:30. A few minutes of panic we managed to be ready and out the door by 5:40.  Then of course, the other people to be picked up were late – surprise). Anyway, we were all rounded up and taken to the bus station to meet our guide, Olivia (who was absolutely superb over the duration of the trek).

 

Our group was made up of Matt (Ausi), Dave, Bobby, Faye & Nigel (all Poms). Damn, we go 15,000km and end up with more Poms.

 

We boarded a local bus, a new adventure for all of us, and set off for Colca Canyon.

The group preparing for the descent
Local buses have booked seats and all the rest stand. Much like a normal London bus service, except that this is a 3 hour ride over the mountains from Arequipa to Chivay, starting at 2,200m, going up to 4,900m and then back down to 3,800m. On gravel, bumpy roads. I have new found respect for what people can handle. This is men, women and little kids who stand, sit or lie in the aisle for the entire duration. On the way we managed to see a couple of vicuna which are the smaller, more wild relatives of llamas, from which the most expensive fabric in the world is produced. Another little nuance to Spanish pronunciation is that “v” is pronounced half way between a “b” and a “v” so Chivay is actually pronounced “Chee-buy”.

 

After a quick pit stop in Chivay we headed on to our destination of Cabanecondor (alt. 3,400m), which is a small village on the south side of the canyon. The bus trip was faster than usual as we had “jimmy” who is notoriously the fastest of the drivers which also means that the drive is quite “exciting”.

Canyon phoon
We had lunch at the hotel where we would spend the following night and set off to walk the 1,200m down the steep walled canyon.

 

Olivia, our guide, stopped frequently along the way to point out medicinal plants, interesting local features and to explain some of the local beliefs, which are a combination of staunch Catholicism and Incan (and pre-Incan) worship of the elements (mountains, land etc). It is interesting to note that the people cross themselves while walking past or driving past the churches, or frequent crosses that dot the landscape.

 

We also had our first taste of one of the local fruits, which Olivia explained as like a banana. It is green and sort of looks like a wrinkled, furry green banana, which you peel to open. Luckily the similarity to bananas ended there and the fruit was white and almost marshmallow like with 4 or 5 black pips (which are not eaten).

The joy of hills
Really tasty and something that I would recommend.

 

The path down is quite slippery, being dust, sand and loose gravel with the odd patch of pebbles and rocks thrown in for good measure. After not a small amount of pain, we were down at the bottom to cross a small swing bridge, but not before I introduced the group to the pleasures of Phooning, which was to become a trend for the rest of the trip.

 

After the swing bridge it was time for Olivia to give us a bit of uphill. Literally. We walked up about 100m within a distance of 200m. This absolutely shattered me and did make me wonder about the wisdom of the decision to do this trek and how much fun the climb back up would be the next day.

 

We eventually got to the little camp, where we were staying in little huts with reed roves, and slumped over while Olivia made us supper which went down an absolute treat. All of us were out for the count by the time it got to 20:00.

 

A popular thing at altitude is Coca, which is good for altitude sickness as well as suppressing the appetite. This can be taken in the form of tea (very soothing), biscuits (sold by places including the monastery), chewing the leaves, and sweets. There are t-shirts which are sold at most of the shops in Arequipa saying the equivalent of “Coca is not a drug.”

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Group phoon in the canyon
Group phoon in the canyon
The group preparing for the descent
The group preparing for the descent
Canyon phoon
Canyon phoon
The joy of hills
The joy of hills
Cabanaconde
photo by: Riz7