The Colca Canyon

Chivay Travel Blog

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The start of our walk into the canyon. Its about 1000m down.

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.

A traditionally dressed lady. She scammed us for a wrist band, couldn´t help it with that dress.
At 2am this bus station was absolutely bussling, not with many tourists but mostly peruvians making there way to places in the middle of the night, or waiting for early morning buses, many asleep in any place they could find in the station.

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.

Very happy with this one, even though it cost me one sole.
 Roy must have given up his seat, because he stood up for the whole 7 hours along with about 50 other peruvians. Some of them could sleep standing up, but most of them just huddled on the floor.

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.

A condor in flight, magnificent birds.
Considering the bus had the worst suspension ever (your calves actually shook as you went along) this wasn't really the best for sleeping. We both sat there wondering what we had got ourselves in for and a little bit wondering where we would be in the morning.

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 township of cabaconde where we started the walk.
Our guide Roy, also had an assistant, Rene (from Germany) and there was also a couple from the UK, Gareth and Katie, a Guatamalen guy called Hanns and a French guy, Vincent. No time for a long breakfast and chatting though, we needed to get moving.

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.

Forward ho chaps!
 The spot was lovely too, and lunch turned out to be excellent, soup, omelette and fruit for dessert. And then by 2pm we were on our way again, We walked through three small villages all with between 25 and 40 families. The only way to get to these villages is by walking or travelling by horse or mule. They use the same route as we did to get in and out, so walking along the track was a constant game of negotiating a path around the horse and mule poos.

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).

Again looking into the canyon.

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.

The green patch at the bottom of the canyon is the Oasis where we camped for the night. 8 hours to get there.
. However, Roy set a great pace and we all slowly walked up the hill, conveniently overtaking the other two or three groups on the way. Even in the early hours of the morning there were locals positioned along the path to sell us chocolate water or hot coffee if that's what we wanted. This seemed very dedicated of them as they would have had to get up extremely early to make it to this point half way up the mountain. It was quite interesting running horses and mules making the descent into the canyon at this early hour of the morning, the pathe was not really wide enough to pass a horse.

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 colca canyon.
This felt pretty bad as we were pushing past women and children (mind you they were pushing just as hard) who were heading to the condor lookout with there crafts to seel them to the tourists for the day. As one tourist noted they did seem to have the entire house with them, and when it didn't fit under the bus they had to bring it on, so the bus was fairly packed out.

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.

A little haucienda where we stopped for lunch on the first day.
By the time we got home at about 8pm that night, we were very needy for some sleep. We had got up at 3am and 1am respectively and the night before had taken the night bus from Arequipa. It was a great experience of what real peru is like, not completely off the 'gringo' trail but at least something a bit different.

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The start of our walk into the can…
The start of our walk into the ca…
A traditionally dressed lady. She …
A traditionally dressed lady. She…
Very happy with this one, even tho…
Very happy with this one, even th…
A condor in flight, magnificent bi…
A condor in flight, magnificent b…
The township of cabaconde where we…
The township of cabaconde where w…
Forward ho chaps!
Forward ho chaps!
Again looking into the canyon.
Again looking into the canyon.
The green patch at the bottom of t…
The green patch at the bottom of …
The colca canyon.
The colca canyon.
A little haucienda where we stoppe…
A little haucienda where we stopp…
Donkeys everywhere!
Donkeys everywhere!
The trek changed from barren rock …
The trek changed from barren rock…
There are many vilages along the w…
There are many vilages along the …
A little colca girl.
A little colca girl.
Me and our guide ´Roy` on our way…
Me and our guide ´Roy` on our wa…
More donkeys!
More donkeys!
Almost at the Oasis, you can see t…
Almost at the Oasis, you can see …
Our accomadation for the night. We…
Our accomadation for the night. W…
What a catch! - The pool at the oa…
What a catch! - The pool at the o…
The mad scramble for a spot on the…
The mad scramble for a spot on th…
One of the lookouts at Cruz del Co…
One of the lookouts at Cruz del C…
A young condor flying. You can tel…
A young condor flying. You can te…
The locals selling their crafts at…
The locals selling their crafts a…
Another condor.
Another condor.
Just as we were leaving about 10 c…
Just as we were leaving about 10 …
Chivay
photo by: scacos2006