The Colca Canyon
Chivay Travel Blog› entry 17 of 35 › view all entries
We didn't know much about the Colca Canyon when we arrived in Arequipa, but we quickly got chatting tp some other travellers who had recently done a trek down into the canyon and really enjoyed it. 'Marlon the tour agent at our hotel reccommended we do the trek in three days, but we decided to tough it out and attempt to do the walk in two days as we needed to move on to Cusco a soon as possible.
'Marlon' seemed like a reasonable guy, but when he said we had to leave at 1am in the morning for this two day hike, I started to get a little worried. Anyway, the transfer to the bus terminal arrived at 130am and where we waited to board the coach which Marlon had organised for us.
Thankfully a guy met us at the station, and seemed to be expecting us, his name was Roy; he looked about 18, and apparently he would be our guide for the trip. We were told that the bus trip to where we would begin the trek was 7 hrs away on the bus (I´'m not sure that Marlon made this clear) so I guess the middle of the night departure would mean we got a good start on the day.
The bus was where the fun began. We had to be walked onto to the bus with Roy who proceeded to tell people to move from our seats (we had allocated seats apparently) and they would all have to stand in the aisle.
AC had convinced me that we would wear shorts on the bus so we would be ready for the hike when we arrived (in fact he didn't even bring any long pants on th trip) but pretty soon into the trip we both realised our mistakes. It was absolutely freezing. We were climbing from 2500m (Arequipa) to 4000m and back down to about 3500m to arrive in Chivay. We both huddled up with my scarf over our legs, trying to sleep so as not to notice how freezing it was. Plus the people who were sleeping standing up kept falling on you, and the road was NOT paved.
We travelled about 150km in the first 4hrs (to chivay) along a mixture of paved and unpaved road, and the final two hour apparently we only covered 15km (all un paved). The last 15km road was very bumpy and we stopped at all the commuities to let the locals off. By now it was getting light, and the scenery was really beautiful. Lots of green farming areas, with very high snow capped mountains in the background, quite picturesque.
The final bus stop and our destination was cabanoconda. Here we ate breakfast in a small ´restaurant' and met some of our fellow group members.
The 'trek' basically involved walking down into the canyon, then through the canyon and further down to an oasis where we would spend the night. Total walking time was about 8hrs and the scenery was very spectacualar, however the first 4hours of going down was very hard on the ankles and knees (this is not Sarah's forte), needless to say we are both very happy with the Garmonts (hiking shoes) no blisters to date (we might think differently after machu pichu?) By 12 we had completed the walk down in to the canyon and we came across a house, which Roy said was the restaurant where we would have lunch! It was pretty cool that we are in a remote area of peru, and someone wants to cook our lunch.
Similar to being in Peruvian towns on each corner selling drinks and chocolate, there was a plethora of spots along the way on this seemingly remote location to purchase water or any other soft drink and chocolate bars. True the water was $1.50 here instead of the usual 50c but still it was a great idea (I wish they had have done this in Torres Del Paine).
We made a final descent down to the 'oasis' which was the lowest point we would go to in the canyon arriving at about 5pm. The oasis had a great pool that wasn't even very cold which was great after a days walking, and we stayed in bungalows that were made of cane and didn't really seem to allow for all weather (ie rain). In our luck it started raining that evening. However after eating dinner in the rain (Marlon had convinced us not to bring rain jackets, very cold now, AC still has no long pants, and he had got his shorts wet in the pool, he had to wear my zip off shorts for the evening) we went back to our little shack and found it wasn't wet.
We were up at 3am to make the descent out of the canyon. We had to climb 900m height in 3hrs and we had heard it would be very difficult, particularly as all of this was in the dark; our head torches came in very handy.
When we got back to the top at around 6am we had a quick breakfast before heading off on the local bus to the condor lookout. We had to get in a queue this time (no allocated seats) and Toy told everyone to push to the front to make sure we got a seat.
The condor lookout was amazing. This was a deeper spot than we had walked in and apparently the condors like to fly in the updrafts of the canyon. Just before we had to head off about 15 condors flew over our heads, pretty spectacular they are absolutely huge birds.
Next stop Chivay for the hot springs, to relieve our aching muscles and then some lunch and shopping at the markets.