Colca Canyon

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April 20th 2011
Published: May 13th 2011
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What another great experience to add to the list; an amazing three days spent in beautiful weather with great company, good food, decent exercise, culture, impressive scenery and many laughs.

I had been recommended this trip by quite a few of my travelling buddy's and so after asking around at a few tour agencies; there are literally hundreds, I settled on 'Land Adventures' which I had seen on trip advisor. Vanessa at the desk was wonderfully enthusiastic and I just couldn't say no. Friday I was off on a two night, three day advemture through the world's second largest canyon (the first is also in Arequipa province here in Peru)
A later bed time than I had wanted but after enjoying a very entertaining chinese dinner outing with 6 london lads I decided to finish the night off with a beer...or two. A couple of hours later my trusty casio was beeping loudly in my ear and it was indeed time to get up. I think it read something like 2.46am?!!!
After rolling out of bed (i'm getting used to this) and getting dressed in the dark I made my way to reception and waited; half an hour to be exact (all the while thinking this would have been perfect sleep time!) and finally the very friendly face of Roy popped his head in the door and escorted me to the bus. The big bus. Here I was expecting 5 others max, instead there were at least 13 others. Never mind I jumped on the bus took my position in the back seat and attempted to doze off. It was a 3 hour drive before we arrived in the first town of Chivay where we ate a surprisingly yummy breakfast of egg tortilla and bread and coca tea. Back on the bus within 30minutes it was another hour drive through the now spectacular canyon until we arrived at the Condor Cross where we joined the thousands of other tourists feasting their eyes on the magnificantly graceful but oh so ugly condors crusing their way through the canyon. Huge SLR's could be seen everywhere and the click, click, click of their camera's could be heard as the birds flew past. These birds, whilst being quite ugly were actually really impressive and put on quite the show for us tourists; flying low over our heads, weaving in and out between on another, flying close to the cliff side....40minutes of watching in awe and we were again back on the bus (If you choose to do a one day canyon tour, this is what you'll be doing; sitting on a bus, taking photos, sitting on a bus, taking get the idea; its a so called 'japanese tour!' so maybe think twice and book a two or three day tour, its worth it!)
We arrived in the town of Cabanaconde at about 10.30, met our guide Remi (jackie chan) and walked straight to the hostel where we waited patiently in the sun for our lunch and got to know the gang! Well this tour should have been recalled the Holland/Aussie tour, we had 5 dutch girls; Marieke, Ariadna, Janna, Tessa and Judith (All awesome!) two aussie guys who were polar opposites Jake and Dermott, me of course, a lovely Colombian/Swiss couple Angela and Fabian and our token American girl Erica! We were an awesome group and whilst we were spilt up into groups for the hiking part of our tour we were together for meals and fun and oh what fun we had!
By 12 oclock we were on our way down into the canyon. Whilst it wasn't physically exhausting it was mentally challenging, 6 hours down hill on slippery rocks wears you out after a while but as I said nothing physical. We stopped at a village to watch some futbal! before continuing on for the final stretch to our homestay, 20minutes up hill that no one was expecting, a nice heart pumping finish to a long day. We met our mother and our bamboo beds, washed up and got ready for dinner; peeled some peas, set the table and sat down as one big family to enjoy one of the best meals I've had so far! Thanks to our adorable mother we ate a delicious chicken soup, followed by a dish that I cannot for the life of me remember the name of, but one which contained milk, cheese, paprika, potatoes, spices and some magical ingredient, with rice. It was very tasty and very different to anything I've tasted before and as a result of this, very enjoyable! Finishing off with a nice cup of coca tea it wasn't long before we all found ourselves tucked up in bed after a very long day (do you think i can fit in any more very's?!!
Listening to the guinea pigs squeaking outside my door and I have a peak at my watch and it is indeed time to wake up. The best thing about this tour; not once did we have to wake up before 7 awesome!! Breakfast was banana pancakes with caramel topping and of course they came with coca tea and very nice start to the day. By 8.30 we were off, a nice cruisy day had been planned. After about 30 minutes of walking we dropped in to meet another Vanessa and her family and look around their newly founded museum, a tiny little work room with instruments and clothing set out. A quick 10minute super interesting explanation of how they use the instruments to catch, prepare and cook their food, the animals in their region, the medicinal plants they use and for what reasons, the many many ways they use their very colourful corn, how to put a baby on your back using the blanket (i've forgotten the real name, but I'd always wanted to know!) and a run down of how expensive it is to purchase and buy a traditional costume. A really interesting conversation with Vanessa followed about how long it takes the 'locals' to get into town, yes they climb 1,200m up the canyon just like we were going to, however it takes the men about an hour and a half and the women two hours! I have nothing but utter respect for all of the local families who live out here. They work so hard and basically live off the land, everything they grow they eat and or sell/trade for other goods. We could all learn a thing or two about hard work and sustainable living off these wonderful people!
Onwards and upwards, or rather downwards, we made our way along the slippery paths for about two hours until we arrived in paradise, literally! An incredibly awesome little lodge complete with swimming pools and fountains, lush green plants and cold beers, you just couldn't get any better! Before long we were swimming and sun baking on the perfectly positioned sun lounges next to the pool, overlooking the awesome scenery awaiting our lunch. Being the awesome group we were, we joined both Roy and Remi in the kitchen and helped prepare lunch all whilst listening to some great 80s tunes of course. With full bellies after our delicious chicken noodle soup and chicken and rice oh and of course our blue oreos we started to pack up and get ready for the ascent, the part none of us were really looking foreward to. As mentioned, with full bellies; we literally left 45minutes after consuming a large meal and all i could think of was how often people told me as a kid, not to exercise with a full belly....well we were exercising alright, in fact we were about to climb back up out of the canyon, something like 1200m!! nothing too major.
The hike up wasn't all the bad, apart from my mental breakdown half way through, nothing like a good cry haha, and by 5.30/6pm we were showering and talking about the great time we'd had. Beers, pisco sours and a cold dinner later and there was salsa dancing, tunes, crazy photo taking going on. I retired to bed at about midnight but the story goes some didn't get to bed until 3am!
After breakfast, about 5 cups of coca tea and saying our goodbyes to the awesome Roy and Remi we were back in the van on our way home. Stopping into some impressive lookouts along the way and a final stop at the hot springs, which were indeed very hot, we finished off a great tour with a yummy lunch and a long 3 hour drive back to Arequipa.
I cannot say a bad thing about this tour. The guides, Roy and Remi were awesome; always enthusiastic and great fun to be around, the group of people I was with were equally as awesome and absolutely made for a wonderful trip, the canyon was spectacular and nothing really like I had imagined and the three days were well worth the money. Overall I absolutely recommend you do this trip and I can only hope you have as great a time as I!

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