Thursday, 3 March 2011

Colca Canyon

Wow, yet another early start catching a taxi down to the hotel of my friend Hans where I waited half an hour for a tourist bus to collect me. I had bought a space on the bus but not the tour as I felt this was a reasonable option to walk unguided.  Having said that, I was the only walker I met without a guide! The ride to Cabanaconde was punctuated with a short stop for breakfast at the larger town of Chivay and I got to know a few of the other travellers, mostly Germans and all passing through Arequipa on longer journeys.

Shortly before we arrived at Cabanaconde most of the others alighted the bus for a 2 or 3 day treck. It was pretty cloudy, not ideal conditions and I was glad of a rest and some reviving tea at my hostal, Pachamama. This is backpackers style of hostal but better than basic conditions and I was shown to a spacious but poorly light room with 3 beds to myself.

I elected for a shortish circular and local walk and found a path that fed down a by the side of a small river and a valley full of farms. 

After some time I came to the river and the end of the path but was directed across the 'pampa' towards one of the paths that fed in a Westerly direction down into the Canyon or back up to Caberconde. On meeting the other path the canyon first came into full view and it was truly impressive but somewhat obscured by cloud. 

As I returned to hostal it began to rain heavily so I elected for a siesta under 4 heavy blankets, and even then I was pretty cold. I had a quiet meal with pizzas cooked over a wood burning oven and due to the night chill and continuing rain I slept with most of my clothes.

The next day it was bright and clear and I set off for my walk down into the valley. It was so impressive that this took some time snapping many photos. The views of the canyon and the plant life was truly impressive.

Near the bottom I teamed up with a campacino and his son each carrying on his back a heavy load of roof sections and leading some donkeys. They showed me to the suspension bridge at the bottom of the canyon and told me that it had been constructed over 2 years with all of the parts being carried 3,500 feet into the valley. I stopped and rested in their small but pretty village of St Juan de Puchu and had a reviving and healthy lunch of soup and alpaca at their hostal.

I left them at about 1pm for the return climb which was hard, taking 2 ¾ hours to the road arriving back at Cabanaconde in time for the return of the rain. On the way down I had seen one solitary condor sweeping along the side of the cliff and on coming up I was frightened by a snake of more than 2 feet in length speeding by me at an impossible rate. 

The next day I took the tourist bus back. At Chivay we stopped for some hot thermal baths and dipped in the sulphur scented water of 39 degrees before heading back over the high pass to see llamas grazing in the hills. Allthogether this was a great trip and the Canyon could certainly offer 5 or 6 days of interest to the dedicated walker.

No comments: