Sparky Travels

April 25, 2011

Colca Canyon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — admin @ 11:20 pm

I was awake at 3am on the 23rd of April to do my second trek in a week. This time it was only a two day trek into the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world, second only to a neighbouring canyon. I slept on the bus for the 3 hour drive from Arequipa until we reached the Condor Viewpoint overlooking the canyon drop. This was an exceptionally touristy spot with hordes of international and Peruvian sightseers lined along the rocks hoping for a glimpse of the large Condors which inhabit this region. A couple were flying about a fair distance away but just as we were about to leave a few more appeared and they started to drift closer to the waiting wall of camera lenses. Second only to albatrosses (which I saw in Antarctica) in wing span they were very majestic and it was easier to get a sense of scale against the mountain background as the rode the thermals around the top of the canyon.

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We finally got dragged back to the bus (“Vamos!”) and along the road at the top of the canyon to the trek starting point. My fellow trekkers were a Spanish/English couple an a pair of French girls who live in London. We began by looking down at our destination for the evening, deep below on the canyon floor. The blue pools of the oasis’s gleamed in the sunshine and looked mighty inviting so we started zigzagging our way down towards them.

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Though deeper than the Grand Canyon in the USA, the Colca Canyon has much less steep sides so no rock climbing was necessary. We did have to be careful with our footing though since the track was made up of dirt and stones which gave way easily under our feet resulting in us sliding as much as stepping at times. It took 3 hours to traverse our way down to the floor where we crossed a bridge over the river at the bottom, climbed for five minutes and then stopped for lunch.

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My ankle was holding up pretty well given its exertions a couple of days prior and I had my right boot on very loosely to ease the pressure on it. Nevertheless, the rest was appreciated, with lunch being the usual combination of vegetable soup and rice, potatoes and meat. We lay on the grass and digested in the warm sun which sent me to sleep for 10 minutes or so. When I awoke we began making our way along the bottom towards our oasis accommodation. It was a relatively easy 3 hours with a mixture of ascents, descents and flat parts resulting in us gaining only a little height overall.

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We arrived just as the sun dipped behind the mountains which didn’t stop me and the Spanish guy from having a swim in the ‘oasis’ which was just an outdoor swimming pool built in the centre of the resort. The resort was pretty basic but idyllic and would have been a pleasant place to spend a couple of relaxing days. After a wee relax in a hammock and a nap we had dinner and went to bed. The food on the treks was average fare but there really wasn’t enough of it given the amount of exercise we were doing.

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The lack of food situation was taken to a ridiculous level the next day when we rose and began walking while it was still dark. There was no breakfast before we began, it was waiting for us at the top of the canyon, 1 km vertically up! We were told it could take 3 to 3.5 hours to reach the top which is an awfully long time to trek without something in your belly. The Spanish guy and me started to push on ahead as the girls slowed and went at a steady pace with very few short stops for water and photos. It was a hard, monotonous stomp up with the gravelly track needing every step to be carefully placed. The pace of other guys who we passed kept us going and we were surprised when we reached the top in a little less than two hours. We relaxed and waited for the rest to catch up.

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Two of the girls arrived 45 minutes later and the last, who had muscle cramps within the first 10 minutes, did well to make it up with the guide 45 minutes after that. We were absolutely starving by then and wolfed down the scrambled eggs & bread with jam in the restaurant at the small town of Cabanaconde. As we waited to be picked up after breakfast the locals were celebrating Easter Sunday with a parade and dance round the plaza. They were drinking a glass of beer each time they stopped and were having a great old time.

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Our first stop on the way back was a viewpoint which gave a really good view of an arable portion of the canyon with green fields and little lakes. The village of Malata after that was a real tourist trap but the attraction we were all looking forward to was the hot springs at Chivay. It was an extra 10 soles (£2.20) but it was well worth it. The springs were roasting and good for our aching muscles and we could easily have spent longer than an hour there.

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We were hungry again so stuffed ourselves with an average all you can eat buffet before the long drive back to Arequipa. There were a couple of further stops on the way to look at distant volcanoes (from a mirador at an altitude of 4900m) and then took look at llamas.

Back at the hostel by 5:30pm (a long day considering I’d climbed out of a canyon before 8am) I called Helen on Skype and then went into town to Mia and Marie’s hostel. They had arrived in town that day and offered to cook me dinner. I couldn’t turn that down so joined them for tasty pasta and wine on their roof terrace. Their Colca Canyon tour was the next day so I left and caught a taxi home to have an early-ish night.

On my last day in Arequipa (25th) I relaxed in the hostel until 6:30pm overnight bus to Lima. Time to hit the big city!

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