After extricating myself from the clutches of La Paz, I made my way to Colca Canyon in an effort to purify myself by trekking in the wild environs of southern Peru. This canyon is actually deeper than the Grand Canyon and only plays second fiddle to one other canyon which also slithers its way through a nearby region in Peru, albeit a little more remotely located. Joining me on this trekking endeavour were some great people that I ran into whilst walking around the streets of Arequipa, recognising them as members of the bar staff from my hostel in La Paz. After a brief discussion, we all realised that we had the same aim of escaping party central in La Paz and restoring a healthy balance to our lives by going trekking.
After having a conversation with a local from one of the villages in the canyon, I determined my route and ran it by my trekking companions, who seemed happy enough to follow me on what turned out to be a stupendously wonderful adventure. Our first night was spent in Sangalle Oasis, which is found by the bank of Rio Colca at the canyon floor. It’s a serene setting,
complete with palm trees and swimming pools; however, one has to wait for the sun to rise high enough to shine its warmth down into the canyon, as the walls cast shadows that make a mid-morning swim an overly invigorating experience.
Our second day was always going to be a long one, as it involved ascending countless switchbacks up the steep walls of the canyon in blazing sunlight, just to reach a trail that from below seems impossibly worn into the side of the canyon. The views afforded from this trail caused me to stop dead in my tracks many times, seemingly stricken by awe at the vistas that opened up before me. Our destination on this day was the tiny settlement of Fure, which is located in the corner of an adjacent valley. This village contained about twenty or so abodes and was the last settlement in this particular valley. As such, you can understand our happy surprise when we discovered that they had a tiny store that sold bottles of rum! Having trekked with my charango in my hand and one of my Belgian trekking buddies transporting a ukulele upon her back, we broke open numerous bottles
of rum, played drinking games and sang songs long into the night, lifting our voices over the sounds emanating from the surrounding waterfalls and the river that was rolling along below us. I am clueless as to when this revelry came to a close, as the rum seemed to have some mysterious effect upon my brain and I don’t recall retiring to bed for the evening…Luckily, a hangover was avoided by all parties and the following morning we took a short walk through the valley to gaze in wonderment at the waterfall known as Huaruro Falls that comes bursting with a torrent of irrepressible force through a cataract at the valley’s apex, tumbling down in a mesmerising fashion until it strikes the rocks below and becomes the source of the Rio Huaruro.
Night three was spent in even tinier Llahuar, which boasts a total population of five residents! Llahuar was a welcome destination due to the thermal springs located by the side of the Rio Colca, which enabled us to soothe our tired muscles in the fading dusk, complete with some well-earned beers. As with the previous two settlements we had stayed in, Llahuar can only be reached by
foot or mule, which makes the experience even more special, as you know that you are visiting places where life functions at a more essential level. The hours spent trekking amidst such grand scenery also gives one time to ponder matters that the hurly-burly of day-to-day life often obstructs, due to the seemingly more pressing matters that crowd and compete for your thoughts. Some of my happiest moments during this trek were sitting at natural lookout points or upon bridges with the river raging below my dangling feet, playing my charango and letting my mind become clear and content.
The final day of the trek was one that we were all daunted by, as it involved a six hour ascent up the seemingly sheer walls of the canyon. However, with conversation, tinned mackerel, dry biscuits and a positive mindset, we all made it back to Cabanaconde for a meal that had been making a few of us salivate for the entire ascent: delicious alpaca steak!
To conclude my visit to this canyon, which had provided me with some of the best trekking experiences and vistas of my life, I decided to awake before sunrise and catch a local
bus to a section of the canyon where the condors awake and drift skywards on the thermal currents, gliding and arcing almost within touching distance. At one point, there were eight of these ginormous birds of prey circling just above my head. It was a terrific way to end five days that reaffirmed my love of trekking through the remote outdoors, as well as forming new friendships through shared experiences, rum and music.
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