Posted by: robinson2000 | March 17, 2011

Exploring the Depths of Colca Canyon

15th – 17th March – After a couple of lazy days spent in Arequipa, we were ready for some activity and booked up  a two-day tour of the Colca Canyon, one of Peru´s most stunning natural attractions. The Colca Canyon is deep, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and is surrounded by a few smouldering volcanoes, the most active being Sabancaya. The tour began with an incredibly unsociable 3am pickup from our hostel. We peeled ourselves from our beds and managed to wake the sleeping “Lurch” on our way out to greet the mini-bus. After a cold four-hour ride to Chivay, the first village on the edge of the Colca Canyon, we were ushered inside a small restaurant where we were served hot coffee with bread and jam in order to wake us from our zombified state. Once finished, we were bundled back into the mini-bus and taken a couple of hours further into the canyon to Cruz del Condor, a viewpoint from where you can see the famous Andean condors rising on the morning thermals. Unfortunately it was a bitterly cold morning so we only saw three of the majestic birds at close quarters.

After an hour we were introduced to our guide, Alex, and met the three other members of our group, an Argentinian couple and a Frenchmen. The trek began with a three-hour hike down into the canyon. The walking was pretty easy and the temperature began to rise as we descended to the floor of the canyon where the River Colca ran. Once we had reached the bottom, we crossed over the River Colca and ate lunch in a tiny village before trekking on another 3-4 hours to Sangelle, an oasis of palm trees, swimming pools and three campsites with basic bungalows. We were all quite tired by the time we arrived but to ease our aching muscles there was an idyllic looking swimming pool to splosh about in. As the sun set, we played cards, had a beer and dined on the two course meal that Alex had prepared. Everyone was shattered from the early start so we returned to our bungalows and were fast asleep by 8pm.

The following morning began at 4.45am, as we were thrown into a brutal three-hour hike back up to the top of the canyon. This would have been bearable but we were informed the night before that our breakfast would be waiting 1200 metres above us at the top. We left in complete darkness with only our head torches to guide us as we trudged slowly through the dark. The sun rose for the second half of the walk and we were treated to the most amazing views of the canyon with its snow-capped volcanoes in the background. Everyone was ravenous once we had completed the hike but we still had a 20 minute walk into the nearby village where we were given a very welcome breakfast of coffee and bread.

After our stomachs had stopped digesting themselves and we had topped up on coffee, we were taken to the hot springs of La Calera which were heated to a blood boiling 39 C. The baths were the perfect remedy for our aching calf’s as we relaxed for an hour in the sun before being whisked to a nearby restaurant that was celebrating its grand opening. The restaurant was serving a buffet lunch so I filled my stomach with a starter, two main courses, jelly, two slices of cake and a banana. To end the feast the owners treated everyone to a glass of wine and a beer which was incredibly generous as they had already knocked 5 Sol off our meal because we had complained about the price. To finish off the trip, we were taken to Pata Pampa pass which reaches a staggering 4900m, but due to the dense fog we couldn’t see a single thing apart from a few llamas and alpacas.

For our final day in Arequipa and to continue with the cycling theme of the trip, Rice and I hired two mountains bikes and a guide to take us up volcano Chachani. This was our third country in South America that we had biked in and proved to be by far the best. We were driven along a bone shaking track up to a communication depot at around 5000m. As we were gearing up with helmet, knee and elbow pads, the guide chatted with the two policemen stationed there for 8 day periods and kindly gave them the day’s newspaper, cigarettes and some food. Only Rice would suggest altering the front page so that the isolated policeman would read about some imminent natural disaster or that Chile has just invaded Peru. The ride down was exhilarating and challenging, taking about 2 hours to reach the base of the volcano. Rice managed to fall off three times over the ride but rolled through the tumbles with cat like grace. The guide told us we rode like professionals and were only 10 minutes off beating the downhill record.

Tomorrow we move onto Puno, situated on the Bolivian border next to Lake Titicaca.

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Responses

  1. […] main event of our time in Arequipa was to hike the aforementioned Colca Canyon. We awoke at 2.30 am and were picked up around 3.30 am and driven for four hours to breakfast and […]

  2. What an adventure you’re all having. Makes our next holiday, a cruise on the Danube, look very tame !!! but we do have our Indian memories!!
    Take care,
    Sue and Mick x

  3. Some stunning photos here, brilliant. Keep ’em coming!

    • Thanks matey for continuing to follow the adventures. Saw Palace got a crucial point against Derby today. Unfortunately Norwich slipped up against Hull leaving a very slim margin between 2nd and 3rd. Hopefully they will get promoted again this season as i bought a season ticket a few months ago at Championship prices!

  4. I see nothing changes even in another continent you still complain about spending money!!! Just how “expensive” was that meal you complained about??

    🙂


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