So we headed out to Cabanaconde a small village perched near the edge of Colca Canyon – the world’s 2nd deepest canyon (3191m). After a shitty 6 hour local bus ride on unpaved roads and a short hike up a dirt road we checked into our hostel. We weren’t expecting much but where pleasantly surprised with this cosy joint, with its clean rooms and a wood fired pizza oven. With our alarms set for 5am we hit the hay early.
Early the next day we headed off on our mammoth hike into the depths of the Canyon. In normal fashion we decided against the easy hike and instead opted for an 8 hour trek that leads you down into the canyon, across the river, through 2 villages, half way up the other side before dropping back down into the oasis village at the bottom where we were staying. It wasn’t just the length of time, it was a combination of altitude, heat, lack of water and the fact the majority of the trek was near vertical as we had to descend over 1000m in next to no time. Not going to lie to you – it wasn’t easy…hardest trek so far by a longshot. Despite this, Dave (a dog we met) decided to make the journey with us just for fun. He followed us for the whole 8 hours, never straying from our side for more than a few moments.
However the trail was pretty rewarding; on the way we saw 2 Condors (rare vulture type birds the area is known for), some mules, breath-taking views and some of the most isolated villages we have ever seen. The local folk rely solely on the river for water, live in mud houses and some have a hard 3 hour walk to reach the nearest road. After 5 hours we stopped for a rest and a snack at one of the local huts set up for passing hikers. The owner seemed to have a secondary income from rearing guinea pigs, but despite this she still slept, cooked and washed in her one room hut.
After another 3 hard hours of trekking and navigating across a small landslide we finally caught sight of the oasis at the bottom. Much like a mirage the natural oasis pools seemed to glisten in the sun and was one of the most inviting sights we had seen all trip. The whole area was green and lush with palm trees and exotic plants. When we reached the bottom we said our goodbyes to Dave, checked into our hostel and jumped straight into one of the pools.
The ‘hostel’ was very basic – we stayed in a mud hut with a straw roof and no electricity or light, but it was better than our digs in Quito. In fact it was quite the retreat. We were in bed by 7:30pm as with no light there was little to do and we were shattered from the days walk. Our sleep was only interrupted briefly by some unidentifiable animal sneaking into our hut and nicking our cookies (Grace is pretty certain it was the boogie/cookie monster).
The next day we woke up at the delightful hour of half four- delicious. This was an attempt to beat the sun and make our 4½ hour trek back up to the top a bit more bearable. It was still crazy hard. There was an option to take a mule to the top however our tight wallets and love of a challenge meant we sweated our way all the way up. The views were incredible though and were definitely worth all the hard work and blisters.
Back at the hostel we pinched a quick shower before boarding the dreaded local bus again. This time it was even more crowded, Mike even had a baby sleeping on his shoulder at one point. The next bus we got on that same evening was a stark contrast, as it was a night bus and we were knackered we splashed out and booked Full Cama tickets to Cusco. Full Cama pretty much means first class in the bus world with seats reclining 180 degrees, personal iPads loaded with films and even a meal thrown in for free (served by our very own hostess) – Perfecto!!
- The Colca Canyon Trek (bobkatadventures.com)
- Arequipa and the Colca Canyon (kimlegeyt.wordpress.com)