Conquering the Colca Canyon

8 years ago I was in France, there was a museum strike for the entire time I was in the city of Paris. This meant that I could not go to Versailles, top of my bucket list, nor the Louvre. When we arrived in Arequipa we wanted to visit the Colca Canyon to see the world's deepest canyon, and the famous flight of the condor. BUT there was a strike, so we waited for 2 days for the situation to clear up. Lucky for us, it did. We managed to get a spot on a 2 day 1 night Colca Canyon trek/tour with Colca Trek, a small group tour. It started with an early morning pick up and a long drive into the valley.

An hour in we stopped and walked for about an hour to a place I can only describe as somewhat similar, in my imagination, to the famous rock formations of Cappadocia, Turkey.

The pillars were so high I had to be pulled up by our guide Sabino. Surveying the world around us we felt like the only humans in the world, such was the vastness that surrounded us.

Perched out on a rock we were shocked to see a mother and baby Vicunya run out on the rock platform before us and then disappear again. These cute animals, similar to Llamas, are unable to be domesticatied yet their wool is the most valuable textile in the world, selling for around $500 per kilo.

Every year the local people humanely corral these animals, sheer them, and release them back to the wild. And we were so fortunate to be so close to them. We then moved on to the highest point of our journey, well over 4000 metres above sea level. Breathing is difficult at this altitude and moving feels like you are stuck in a centrivocal force machine. The highpoint was marked with pillars of small stones, each an offering for a successful journey. Along the way many llamas and alpacas littllered the plains, grazing on the short grass. I particularly loved this black alpaca, who reclined on the ground, seemed unphased by the tourists surrounding him.

We drove through the valley towards the Colca lodge, our home for the night and by far the nicest place we stayed during our time in Peru. Complete with bay windows, hot showers, and a roaring fire.

Before dinner we took and hour hike out to the part where the valley met the canyon, where the wind was at its strongest.

Interesting this cool and strong wind is exactly what attracted the Inca’s to this region, and they used it to store food. Colca in qechuan means storage, so the Colca Canyon is just one big warehouse, used to store the food of the Empire.

After dinner we had time to relax, play chess or gaze at the stars through the telescope at the lodge.

We rose early the next day and piled into the van bound for the Cruz del Condor. We were alone at the viewing platform, and as luck would have it the condors were already out, soaring into the sunlight.

Their enormous 3 metre wingspan was impressive as the glided through the air. We watched them perched on rocks a mere 5 metres away from us. A few hours later we drove past the same spot again but this time there were so many people there you could barely see the road. I would highly recommended an overnight trip if you are serious about seeing the condors without interruption. Next was downhill mountain biking, which is a little misleading because it involved quite a steep uphill climb. Riding a bike is hard enough without having to deal with altitude. I made it, eventually. During our trip through the valley we saw the volcano Chachani, which is an effusive volcano, it was constantly erupting sending great plumes of smoke into the air. Apparently it is a regular occurrence and not something to be concerned about. It sure looked impressive.

This was a trip I had not expected to splash out for but I am so glad I did. My highlights were the great rocks and the lodge.

Stories