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After our visit in Bolivia we went back to Peru and to Arequipa. Last time we visited Arequipa
we were only stopping on our way to Cusco. We then only had time to visit the sites in the city and nothing outside. This time around we wanted to visit the Colca Canyon
The deepest section of Colca Canyon has been measured to have a depth of 3191 meters making it the second deepest Canyon in the World.
If you are a bit of a nerd and like numbers and statistics, like Ake is, we can tell you that the deepest Canyon in the World can also be found in Peru. It is named Cotahuasi Canyon
and it has a maximum depth of somewhere between 3345 and 3501 meters (different sources give different depth). In comparison Grand Canyon
in United States only has a maximum depth of about 1800 meters. However even the mighty Cotahuasi Canyon is totally dwarfed by a section of Gandaki River
in Nepal. The river runs in between the mountains Dhaulagiri on one side and Annapurna on the other. The riverbed is there at a level of only about 2000 meters. And with both of the mountains being
Cactus on the edge of Colca Canyon
over 8000 meters high the altitude difference is a mighty 6000 meters! However Gandaki River is at this section considered a gorge, not a canyon.
Cotahuasi Canyon may be the deepest canyon in the World but since it is hard to reach on public buses and very few tours go there we went to Colca Canyon instead. We took a tour as it is quicker, easier and, as it turned out, also cheaper than going independently.
The first place we stopped at on the tour is called Cruz del Condor. Colca Canyon is home to a sizeable population of Condors
, an impressive bird of pray where large individuals have been known to have a wingspan exceeding 3 meters. The birds are very heavy and rely on strong updrafts to be able to fly. Winds are only favourable for flying in certain places, and Colca Canyon is such a place, and at certain times of the day, especially mornings are good. When we arrived in Colca Canyon this day it was already too late. But we got another chance to see the condors on the last day of the tour.
Instead we moved on to the town Cabanaconde
Emma in Colca Canyon
Emma with a spectacular view of Colca Canyon
and from there we started our trek down in the Canyon.
In the bottom of Colca Canyon there are a few small villages. However, as there are no roads leading down in the canyon, only trails, the only way to reach these villages is to walk. Well there is one other way, you can take a "taxi". Later on we'll get back to how that works.
We hiked from Cabanaconde down to a village at the bottom of the Canyon. There we had lunch. After that we moved on to another village where we stayed overnight.
The guesthouse where we stayed overnight was simple. The room had a ceiling, four walls and an earthen floor. But considering where we were, this village really was in the middle of nowhere, we have to call this way beyond our expectations. The guesthouse had both hot water in the shower and electric lights. When you are on a hike both of those is sweet luxury!
On some sections of the canyon it was possible to see columnar basalt
, a phenomenon that it seems like Ake is the only person in the World who thinks is fascinating. Many of the columns
Grass in Colca Canyon
, the best possible shape to repeat over a flat area if you want to cover all the surface of the area and use only a minimum of boundaries. Or in other words, it is a proof that nature knows mathematics! By the way, bees also know mathematics. The cells of a honeycomb are hexagonal thereby giving them maximum volume of the cells with a minimum of effort to build the walls.
There was more luxury coming up on the next day, unexpected luxury we can add. The second day started with a short hike to a small village further down in Colca Canyon. Near that village they had a natural spring supporting the village with plenty of crystal clear water. Some of this water was diverted into two swimming pools so right there, again in the middle of nowhere, we could have a refreshing swim.
We stayed in this village for a few hours. We had lunch there and after that we went for the big hike of the day, the hike from the bottom of Colca Canyon up to Cabanaconde. This was a climb of roughly 1100 meters and took about three hours to complete.
Plants on the edge of Colca Canyon
Plants on the edge of Colca Canyon
Ake happily did this on foot but Emma decided to do this climb somewhat differently.
As we mentioned earlier, there are no roads leading down in Colca Canyon. So the main means of transport is to walk. However, there are alternatives to this. There are also "taxis" going in and out of the canyon. The "taxis" are in this case donkeys. For somewhat less than USD 20 Emma rode a donkey from the bottom of Colca Canyon up to Cabanaconde. Emma took the donkey entirely because she thought it was fun thing to do, not to avoid the climb. Ake can easily verify this. This climb was much easier than the second day on the Inca Trail and neither of us had any problem with that.
When we came to Cabanaconde we went to a guesthouse where we had a shower and then we had dinner in a restaurant in town.
The morning the next day we went back to Cruz del Condor again. This time we arrived there in time to see the Condors fly. We stayed there for almost two hours and watched these majestic birds sail past us. It was a wonderful experience!
View of the Colca Canyon
Spectacular view of Colca Canyon
After this we went to a town named Yanque. There we first had lunch and after that we visited the main attraction in town - a spa. We stayed at the spa for two hours before we were picked up for our ride back to Arequipa.
On the ride back to Arequipa the tour bus stopped at a few places for some quick sightseeing. At one place we could see some nice farming terraces. Some of these terraces are dating back to the time pre-Inca. At another place we could see some tombs clinging onto a mountain side. These tombs are also pre-Inca. The last place we stopped at was for taking photos of some Vicuñas
that were grazing at the side of the road.
On the trek in Colca Canyon we were totally 10 people in the group. One of the other trekkers has also published an entry on this trek. We thought we here at the end could add a link to his story
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