Cañon del Colca
The Colca Canyon (or Cañon del Colca) is one of the world's deepest canyons, located just north of Arequipa. With its steep walls, its terraced farms, its remote mountainside villages, and its rich plant and animal life, it is an amazingly beautiful place. It's most famous for its wild condors, which can be seen soaring through the canyon early in the morning. I hiked through the canyon on a three-day trip.
One of many stunning views from within the canyon.
After our group was done seeing the condors at Cruz Del Condor this morning, our bus continued on to the town of Chivay, where we treated ourselves to a divine visit at the hot springs there. Unlike the so-called hot springs at the oasis (in the Cañon del Colca itself), these springs really are hot. Proper thermal temperature of about 40°C. And really nicely done, too, with the water fed into very clean, tiled swimming pools, and with lockers and hot showers as well. Just what we needed, to soothe those aching muscles, after a demanding three-day hike.
It's what going to Arequipa, and to the Cañon del Colca, is all about. The famous, mighty condors, who can be seen soaring hundreds of metres above the canyon's floor — gliding effortlessly on thermal wind currents — from the lookout of Cruz Del Condor. After hiking out of the canyon this morning, our group got a bus from Cabanaconde to Cruz Del Condor, where we were just in time to see the flight of the condors.
Our stay in the oasis in the Cañon del Colca last night was a short one; because this morning we got up at 2am, in order to complete the three-hour hike out of the canyon before sunrise. It was steep, it was dark, and it was cold. But it was a good slog we put in; and it meant that we were able to get to Cruz Del Condor, just in time to see the condors fly.
When we finished our hiking for the day — this being our second day in the Cañon del Colca — we arrived at a little tourist retreat at the bottom of the canyon, called "the oasis". The place claims to have "hot thermal baths": but sadly, it doesn't quite live up to this claim; the palm-encircled pools in this place aren't much more than a chilly 23°C or so. However, it's still a beautiful place, and a great location for relaxing and getting some serenity before hiking like mad, back out of the canyon.
At one of the villages that we stopped in, during this morning's hike through the Cañon del Colca, we found the famous "museum of local life", which is run by a charming and extravagently-dressed Quechuan lady called Victoria. Most people in the village only speak Quechua, but Victoria also speaks Spanish, in order to communicate with her gringo visitors. She gave us a cute and interesting tour of her little museum, which is just one room in her house, that she's filled with the little artefacts of daily life around here. She's one hell of an entrepeneur.
Our second day doing the Cañon del Colca hike was spent entirely within the bowels of the canyon. We started from the little village hospedaje that we slept in last night, and hiked all morning until we reached the oasis, stopping along the way at Victoria's museum. As with yesterday morning's hike, the walking this morning was quite pleasant, and the scenery was simply to die for.
Roy was our guide on our three-day hike in the Cañon del Colca, and he's one of the funniest and craziest guides I've had so far on my trip. Every time we asked him how much hiking we have left for the day, he'd say something like: "nueve horas mas" ("nine hours more"). Sometimes it was hard to tell whether he was joking, or being serious. But we all loved his humour, and he did a great job of leading us through the canyon, and of then helping us get safely back into Arequipa at the end of the trip.
This morning, we began our three-day hike into the Colca Canyon (Cañon del Colca). Our group of six — myself, Chris, Sarah, Dan, Jean-Claude, and Marie, plus our guide Roy — left Arequipa in the wee hours of the morning by bus; and then it was downhill, all the way to lunch.