After 4 days of bumming around Arequipa, Tim and I decided it was time to go on a little adventure to the Colca Canyon. We toyed with the idea of going solo, but ultimately ended up booking a 3 day, 2 night tour through our hostel.
It all began at an unforgivably early hour (3:00 am) when a van picked us up from the hostel. For the next few hours we dozed in and out of sleep wondering what was in store for us. At about 7:00 am we pulled into a small town and our guide Rafael brought us to a restaurant for some breakfast. We met the 3 other people partaking in the tour. Two of them were from Spain and one from Argentina. This was great news as it meant that we were going to get to practice our Spanish for the next few days.
Our next stop was at Cruz del Condor, a popular lookout point to see condors. We were lucky as there were quite a few flying around. Apparently there hadn’t been any in the last couple days. The views of the canyon were beyond breathtaking. We were only a short distance from were the trekking was about to begin.
The first day of trekking was basically all downhill. We hiked down for about four hours, stopping along the way while Rafael taught us about the canyon, the villages, as well as day to day life. As we were approaching the water flowing at the bottom, it hit me how deep into the canyon we were. I slipped and fell once on the path, but no real harm done. Around lunchtime we arrived into the small village of San Juan de Chucho. We had a delicious lunch (alpaca meat), dinner, and breakfast prepared for us. Since there was no electricity there, everything was cooked over a fire by the lodge owners. We all hung out and shared stories all the while enjoying pristine mountain views. By 8 pm we were ready for bed after a long day.
Day two was the easiest of the three days. We left at 8:30 am and set off on a journey through the canyon for about 3–4 hours. We hiked up to another village, population 35, and then back down to the bottom. As the afternoon heat was coming in we were starting to get pretty hot. Luckily for us, we were headed to an “oasis” at the bottom of the canyon. Our hard work was about to be rewarded with a lovely pool that we could see as we were hiking down. Before we made it down, Rafael pointed out a really steep zig-zaggy path across the canyon. This was the path we were going to take the next day. Uh Oh, I thought, there’s no way I can climb up that mountain. But that was tomorrow’s problem; I tried to avoid thinking about it.
The lodge we stayed at was beautiful. It really did seem like an oasis. Pristine palm trees and a spring water pool with a rugged mountain backdrop, we were definitely in heaven. We had lunch and dinner here, and then once again hung around the property and relaxed until bed time.
When I voiced my concern about the climb back up, I was told that mules can be rented to take you back up for about $25 CAD. “No, yo quiero caminar”. I regretted those words the entire following day. We left the lodge at 5 am and started the strenuous hike back to the top of the canyon. For the next 3 hours and 45 minutes it was nothing but uphill. I had to stop and catch my breath every couple of minutes as the altitude made it even more difficult. The one consolation was that the views were magnificent. The last 20 minutes we’re the most difficult, but I could see the rest of the group sitting at the top cheering me on. If I wasn’t so dehydrated and physically drained, I likely would have cried tears of joy when I finally arrived to the top. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I had just climbed up 1500 meters, and all before even having a cup of coffee.
On the way back to Arequipa we stopped along the way to enjoy a couple more impressive views. After lunch we went to a natural hot spring and soaked our sore muscles for half an hour. I’m sure that if I hadn’t done that I probably wouldn’t have been able to walk today. We continued on our way seeing fields full of llamas, alpacas, and even wild vicunas. At our highest point in the drive we reached an altitude of 5000 meters and the air felt pretty thin. Two hours later, we pulled into the city center, said our goodbyes and went off in our respective directions. It was time for me to go pass out in my bed and reflect upon the 3 amazing days I had just experienced.