Trekking the Colca Canyon

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South America » Peru » Arequipa » Colca Canyon
July 19th 2012
Published: July 25th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

12hrs down the road and I was in Arequipa which is the second most populated city in Peru. I got to my hostel which had been recommended to me by Dean who I met in Hucachina and it was a nice place with a pool table, table tennis, huge movie room and a good vibe. I checked out the info about the Colca Canyon as there are various amounts of time you can go for, then I took a walk around the main plaza considering the options. When I got to the plaza there was some sort of parade going on and there were hundreds of people on the street..after watching for 10mins I carried on walking around then I went back to the hostel and booked in for the 3 day trek starting the following day. The Colca Canyon is the main attraction from Arequipa with the canyon being more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon it attracts many a tourist. The one annoying thing about the tour is that you have to get up and be ready at 3am which is crazy but necessary because it takes quite a few hours to get to the canyon. Due to the early start I watched a film or 2 then went to bed early after sorting my bag out.

2:40am and my alarm goes off and I think to myself why did I sign up for this. I rolled out of bed then waited in the lobby where there were a few others waiting for the same bus. I soon found out after chatting to everyone that they had chose the 2day trek and not the 3. After being told the bus would arrive at 3am it finally arrived at 3:45am with all of us thinking we could of had more time in bed. When I stepped outside the freezing chill hit me especially as I was wearing shorts because I didn't have any long trousers apart from a pair of jeans due to some things not coming out of the laundry. I got on the bus which was basically full and was pleased to see I had a blanket and a pillow for the journey so it was then time to make our way to the canyon. At 6am we arrived at a little village where we had breakfast and had some Mate de Coca which is the Coca Tea which helps with the altitude. We then all went to a mirador to see the Condors flying around which was nice to see with the canyon in the background. When we arrived there I was shocked by how many people were there with 20 or so buses parked up and people lining the cliff edge trying to get good photos. It was then time to get to the start of the trek and when we did the groups were formed with the 3dayers and 2dayers. In my group was a French couple from Paris, another couple Marco from Spain and Julia from Germany then a Peruvian family. We met our guide Luis and we had an explanation on what we had ahead of us the next few days, it was then time to make our way down into the canyon. The decent was just over 1000m down to where we would be spending our first night. There were various other groups heading down the same path and soon after starting I could tell a few of the guys in my group wouldn't be breaking any records when it comes to pace. Luis said that we can all go at our own pace but to wait at the bridge at the bottom so I set off admiring the incredible view and the sheer size of the canyon while walking on the small path that hugged the cliff edge. I passed quite a few people but that just meant at the bottom I had to wait longer so I didn't really gain anything from it. Next was Marco and Julia then we must of waited around 2hrs before the French couple came and even longer for the Peruvian family who where already in a bit of a mess as the son felt sick, the girl didn't like walking, the mother had a bad knee and the grandmother struggled a lot so had to take a mule to the bottom. Once we were all together we had a short distance to walk to our first hostel where the other 3 day group was already relaxing. We then got allocated our rooms and I was lucky enough to have my own room...I do say lucky but actually the room had concrete walls and a thatched roof with tons of gaps and a little candle in the corner for light (proper travelling I guess). I then took a walk back to the river and spent an hour or so by myself just taking in the surroundings and collecting my thoughts. With the others from my group all in their rooms on my return I went and joined the other group and had a good chat with a few of the lads there that had been working in Lima but were from Holland and France, it was after that I found out everyone had been looking for me for a while so I then went to the table with my group and had a laugh about it, luckily they hadn't been looking for too long. After dinner we all went to bed early mainly due to lighting issues and also to rest the legs ready for the days ahead.

We all got up around 8am for breakfast and knew that this day was the easiest of the trek and hopefully the most enjoyable. Our guide Luis told the Peruvians to leave an hour before the rest of the group because of the previous days events. The trail was reasonably flat as we were just walking on a path alongside the river, there was a bit of climbing but nothing too bad. We past through a small town or 2 and also some stalls that sold food and drink which is quite funny because you feel like you are all there alone then you arrive at a little shed with music pumping and powerade, twix bars and others things are there for sale! After around 3hours walking we arrived at our 2nd hostel which as we could see on the walk down looked spectacular with palm trees and swimming pools alongside many flowers and plants. I arrived first and with no-one around took a few pictures before the place got busy, also the swimming pool was a welcomed relief after the walking and also to have a shower was a nice privilege. I took a swim and the others began to arrive and joined me in the pool and also resting in the hammocks afterwards. The nice thing was that we had all afternoon to relax around the pool before our early morning start the next day to do the climbing back out of the canyon. When it got to around 6pm I left my room which was similar to the previous night and took a was then that Luis asked if I fancied playing football against the other group 2 mins away and of course I agreed. There was a small pitch at one of the other hostels nearby and we had a game with mixed teams of guides and others, was nice to kick a ball again although very rusty it must be said and we played for around an hour. The team I was on was winning by around 6 goals but somehow lost by 1 but all good fun. It was then time for another dip in the pool before dinner and bed time with around 4 covers on me as I was soo cold only wearing shorts.

The final day involved a 5am start and torches at the ready. We had to wait a little longer as expected for the Peruvians then began walking up and up and up. After 10mins or so of walking Luis said I could go ahead again so I kindly excepted and tried to get to the top as quickly as possible because at the time it was really cold. There were more than a few other people ahead because people on the 2 day trek the people do the same route but in less time so the ones that started the day after were also climbing up. After a lot of hard graft I passed a fair few and made it to the top in 1hr 20min with the average being 3hrs so was happy with that but only for around 5 mins as I realised the temperature after cooling down....I made it just before the sun came out and waited for the others with the other 3 day group making it to the top in good time, so I had a chat with them while waiting on my group. Some of the Peruvians opted for a mule to carry them up which costs a bit of money but they are efficient animals and apparently always take around 1hr and 30mins so the others left a bit later hoping to arrive at a similar time. Once we all got to the top all be it with a few tired legs especially Julian from Paris looking like he was about to collapse we took a short walk to the town for breakfast then a bus to the Hot Springs via a small little place for souvenirs that also had locals with Llamas and other animals charging for a photo. We had a good hour in the Hot Springs resting the limbs, had lunch then made our way back to Arequipa via a place 4910m above sea level to see some Llamas. It was then time to split the group and all go our separate ways, I had a bus booked for that night to Cusco so walked back to the hostel had a quick shower then hopped in a taxi to the station ready for the 10 hour journey to the Inca Capital....

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