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Published: April 30th 2013
On route to the Canyon (around April 8-13)
We explored the town, Cabanaconde, and the Colca Canyon via a stopover in the city of Arequipa. First, some quick points about Arequipa. This busy city is a nice size of about one million people. The main square is very lovely with many offshoot streets filled with shopping and restaurants. We luckily found a great local diner on San Francisco street, not far from the square (on the left side if walking away from main square). Otherwise, there are other places to try alpaca or cuy (guinea pig). A good place to stay we found via a local was Los Andes which was 50 meters from the main square. Aside from walking around, city tours are popular, but book through an agency in the main square not the hotel, and you'll save more than double. So far on our trip we found that the travel books and popular website reviews have not been that great with suggestions (and some perhaps made up online- go figure), and our best finds have been through talking to locals and other travellers.
Cabanaconde, the town above the Colca Canyon
Both of us found that
this experience had the biggest WOW factor since being in the Galapagos two months ago. We decided to explore this area independently rather than go with a tour package. We took a 6 hour bus ride to Cabanaconde (leaving 3am) from Arequipa with a stopover at a look off point where condors usually fly. We were lucky and saw about 7 condors that day. They were incredibly graceful and powerful, with a total wingspan measuring 3 meters and weighing 50lbs! These birds were mesmerizing, and we essentially took way too many pictures than needed. We learned that November and December are the worst times to come here and see condors, but other times you might get lucky.
Back on the bus we continued our twisty, narrow, cliff side road as the atmosphere increased in altitude and the road in dust. We arrived at a tranquil town called Cabanaconde (altitude 11 000 feet ) and stayed at a wonderful place called Pachamamahome. Pachamama means Mother Earth. At this time it was not high season for tourism, and we felt a more authentic cultural experience in this place. Ludwig at Pachamamahome immediately helped us out in getting us settled and oriented
in this area. His accommodations and advice were honest and sincere.
We immediately set off on two short hikes in Cabanaconde. One to a mirador (look off) over the canyon hike that we were to do the next day. The instructions were "follow the road straight", and we did, but the road turned to gravel, then to boulders, then to fields. We were behind some locals (two women and a boy) walking the same road. The locals were very natural with us, giving us assurance that this was a road, and accepting our help going over the boulders. The little boy was adorable as he was on top of a boulder with hands out to Rosalyn to pick him up and get him over the rocks. Glen was busy giving a steady hand to each of the women. We use the word "natural" to describe their attitude toward us because many times in the past two months our encounters with locals ended up with us looking like a dollar sign and someone trying to sell us something. Here we were just a couple of people walking down a tricky road.
At the end of the road we encountered
pretty much the whole town at a horse/mule sale. And at this point we met the entire town with their eyes. It was interesting to watch people intensely studying the animals. It was a quiet sale, with more thinking than talking going on. Later, we would see how important these animals are to these hard working people of the mountains. We moved to continue the hike to the mirador and were met with a spectacular view of course! Engulfed with mountains, the deep canyon showed splashes of colour where rivers and trails met. This canyon is the second deepest in the world(the deepest is only 40 meters deeper and just up the road), and deeper than the Grand Canyon in the USA. This was where we were off to tomorrow.
After this one hour hike, we decided to hike a nearby smaller mountain. Again, no map involved just some tips from Ludwig. This was to be about 3 hours, but ended up being 4 hours due to some wrong turns. The sun was hot and we proceeded through the town, a road, various pre-inca terraces, and up the mountain and then followed whatever cow paths we could find. The
views of the town and countryside were beautiful. The farms, with no pesticides, were literally a breathe of fresh air! Many farms were built into the mountain using the terraces built thousands of years ago. We were experiencing so much history and tradition.
We also experienced the Peruvian bull. In Canada it is usually not a good idea to encounter, face on, a bull as they can be quite angry. The Peruvian bull, we found out, is quite easygoing. We only had to shoo them away and they moved over to eat another patch of grass. These animals have a phenomenal amount of land and freedom that they could graze and walk around in, without fences or a farmer anywhere in sight. When we did see a farmer with the cow (or sheep, etc) it seemed they treated the animal more like a pet than a product. Could it be that these peruvian cows with such access to freedom are less stressed and less grouchy than the Canadian cow treated like contained factory product? Mountain thoughts.
On this hike, we were the only two visitors up and down. We ran into about three mountain farmers, and dozens of
free floating farm animals. As we came down the mountain and about to go the wrong way again, a farmer spotted us yelling "hey mister" and kindly led us to a shorter path down to town.
We arrived back to Pachamamahome realizing that we've been up since 2am and completed two hikes in the hot sun. Pachamamahome had its own restaurant and we were starving. They had their own wood stove oven for pizzas and we ordered the large alpaca pizza. It was delicious, and the rest of the menu looked good too. We ran into a young British girl who we chatted with previously in Arequipa. She did not want to hike the canyon on her own, which was sensible, and we invited her to join us the next day. The hike is not dangerous, but it is good to be with another person in case of an accident. Especially since we were not going on the tourist hiking route, but the other way around. We made plans to meet the next morning and set out by 9am, a more reasonable time to get some sleep, but not so reasonable as the intense sun would follow us the
Next, pictures of our visits to the rough and peaceful canyon... They were tough hikes due to the scorching sun, gravel paths and no plateaus (all the way up or down we went), but hot springs and an "oasis" were great rewards!
Tot: 1.556s; Tpl: 0.061s; cc: 24; qc: 76; dbt: 0.0365s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb