So after my last blog bragging about how much fun I was having, I went and did it again. Colca Canyon was a blast- here’s what happened along the way!
Although I was super tempted by the idea of paying a tour company to pick me up from my hostel at 3 am and lead me (half asleep, of course) up and down the mountain, we (myself and 5 other crazies) decided to wing it and head into the somewhat unknown with no more than 3 completely useless maps, a bunch of snacks, and just enough sunscreen.
we decided to sleep in a couple of extra hours, and headed for the bus terminal in Arequipa around 5:15 am to catch the 6 am bus out to Chivay (about 3 hours). From what I understand, most of the tour groups head to Chivay after the trek to soak in the thermal baths for a bit, but we really wanted to mix it up and make sure to relax our muscles before climbing up and down over 1000 meters.
After finding a hostel (15 soles- about $6) we rented some mountain bikes and headed out in the sunshine to enjoy the thermal baths.
After 4 hours in the sun at the thermal baths, we continued to get our tourist on with a van ride out to Mirador de San Antonio- which, like pretty much everywhere I’ve been on my travels, is impossible to capture accurately in photos.
what is possible to capture accurately, however, is how I managed to somehow surround myself with the tallest people I could find. Am I really that short?!?
We were starving when we got back, and everyone had one thing on their minds- ALPACA. I kind of feel bad about it, but that alpaca steak was damn tasty.
Next morning was a brutal 3:30 am wake up call so we could be the early birds and go catch some worms.. errrrr condors. Little did we know, condors like waking up early as much as we do. Luckily, 3 hours at el Cruz del Condor was not wasted.. they finally crawled out of bed to give us a pretty good show around 9 am.
A 2 sol (80 cent) colectivo ride later (complete with flat tire) we made it to the trail head and started our 1000 meter descent.
HOLY KNEES BATMAN. Then the fun really started. Like the Santa Cruz mountains, Colca Canyon is home to quite a few locals, most of whom live a pretty sustainable lifestyle.. others, like our friend Gloria that followed us around trying to get us to eat at her restaurant, have found their niche in catering to the many tourists that hike the canyon year round. It is the low season right now, so it seems like the local entrepreneurs are really putting the pressure on the tourists that actually make it down. Due to crappy directions from people that seemed less than excited that we weren’t stopping to eat, we went the wrong way… twice. Instead of a 4 hour total hike the first day, we ended up trekking for 6, and I would estimate our total climb/descent to be about 1500 meters.
BUT THEN THIS.
See that tiny little blue speck in the middle of some greenery at the bottom of the canyon? That’s Oasis. And I definitely wouldn’t push for a name change. After 6 hours in the sun, getting lost twice, and then stabbing ourselves with cactus fruit spines, a dip in the pool, beers and giant dinner were very welcome. Not joking, best night’s sleep in 3 months. (note- 20 soles/about $7 each for dinner, a super comfy bed, and giant breakfast).
With the morning light also came the exciting part of the trek- 1000 meters (3281 feet) of climbing. Tough as it was, we all powered through the switchbacks in less than 3 hours! At that point I honestly couldn’t have imagined a better feeling than getting to the top, chugging water, taking off my drenched shirt, and posing for some ridiculous photos.
OH NO ITS NOT OVER YET.
From there, it was still about a 20 minute walk through farmland to get to Cabanaconde, where we planned to eat as much food as we could stuff in our faces and then catch the next bus back to Arequipa. Well friends, plans for a giant lunch were foiled when we reached Cabanaconde and found to that the next bus to Arequipa was literally leaving RIGHT NOW, and the next one wouldn’t be for another 6 hours. This time, hot showers beat out lunch, and if, magically, someone that was on that bus with us is reading this right now.. sorry I’m not sorry about how terrible we smelled.
Definitely a great 3 days in the canyon, and we all agreed that it seemed like it was probably way more fun trekking on our own instead of with a tour group.. but the reality is, we will never know. Either way, I’d like to thank the Academy, a couple of Canadian jokesters, 2 European giants, and my favorite Zimbabwean for a great adventure!