The Mighty Colca Canyon

We arrived in Arequipa with the Peru Hop bus at 5.00am on the 14th of October. The overnight bus from Huacachina was not the most comfortable as it was very windy in parts and quite hard to stay asleep. We were dropped at our hostel ‘The Flying Dog’ and all crashed out in the lobby as we weren’t able to check into our rooms until later in the day. We only had one full day here in Arequipa and walked around the central city – it is a very pretty place. It’s nicknamed ‘the white city’ as it has a lot of colonial buildings whitewashed in volcanic stone – unfortunately we didn’t take many photos here.

We prepped for our 2 day / 1 night trek to the Colca Canyon – which left at 3am! We drove in a minivan for about 6 hours in total with a breakfast stop and a stop at the Condor viewpoint. The famous Condors are from the vulture family and can have a wingspan up to 3.2m. We were at the lookout for about 40mins but didn’t spot any condors, though just as we were pulling away in the van one flew right infront of us – everyone was pretty stoked to have seen one!

Colca Canyon is one of the deepest in the world at 3,270m (more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon). The valley has pre-Inca roots and the ancient terraced farmlands are still maintained by small villages. The changes in scenery throughout our trek here were unreal. We began our descent at 3,300m and we zig-zagged our way 9km downhill and dropped in altitude to 2,200m. Along the way down we found a puppy seeking shade under some rocks – he then processed to follow the group down until the bridge at the bottom.

After a quick break at the bottom we had our first taste of uphill – which is extremely hard even at this altitude. I was out of breath very quickly and had to take it slowly. One girl in our group almost passed out. We stopped at San Juan de Chuccho, a small village (only 15 families reside here and it is inaccessible by road), for lunch where we had alpaca for the first time – not bad! We continued our trek (flat, uphill, downhill) through two more villages before arriving at our accommodation for the night at The Oasis Sangelle – 1,900m. We welcomed a fresh dip in the swimming pool after a long day and had an early night.

Day Two – UPHILL. We started at 5am, it was just light enough to negotiate the rocky pathway. The path up to the top was only 5km but very steep and is meant to take 3 hours. A few people from our group opted to take a mule ride up but there was no way Andrew woud let me take the easy way out! So off we went – with about 100 micro-breaks we made it to the top in 2 and 1/2 hours. It was pretty tough going, and was hard to catch my breath because of the altitude but was such an awesome feeling to get to the top. Perfect training for the Inca Trail!

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