Colca Canyon Adventure
And just like that, we were standing at the town square in Cabanaconde watching our tour group drive away. Martin and I looked at each other. What did we just do?
Stunned and excited, I suddenly realized how much I had grown in confidence since the beginning of our travel adventure nine months ago. Despite the plethora of unknowns stretched before me, I felt excited, not anxious. I was sure that whatever would happen in the next few days that I could handle it and maybe even have some fun in the process.
We had just finished the first of three legs of our Colca Canyon Adventure.
For the first leg, we took a 1.5 day tour with Colca Trek Tour Company. Cristian, our guide, and Sir Freddy, our driver, had made the past 1.5 days one of the best tours I have been on.
The Colca Canyon begins about 3.5 hours northwest of Arequipa (yes, I’m still in Peru), but along the way are many interesting things to see. We stopped to experience them all.
The Rock Forest
They have the softest fiber in the world!
Alpaca and Llamas
They are like rabbit-sized chinchillas.
Miradors (view points) at dizzying altitudes.
The second largest bird in the world!
These ledges were build hundreds of years ago and still create microclimates enabling crops to grow at high altitudes.
Our small group of five got along great. While I was sad to leave them on the second day, I was excited to being the second leg of our journey.
For three days we hiked in the Colca Canyon.
The hike reminded me of our Appalachian Trail hike eight months ago, and I wished I had my trekking poles. The Colca Canyon was easier because we stayed at bungalows that cooked us meals. But it was harder because of the steep terrain.
Colca Canyon is 3,400 meters deep. It is the largest canyon in the world (or the second largest to Cotahuasi Canyon – also in Peru – depending on your sources). Comparatively, the Sumidero Canyon in Mexico is 1,000 meters deep and the Grand Canyon in Arizona is 1,800 meters deep.
Cristian’s aunt Gloria has a hostel in San Juan de Chuccho, our first day’s stop, and she met us at the bridge and guided us the last 30 minutes. Most people we met were on a guided tour hike. I was constantly thankful that we decided to hike the canyon on our own. Finding the path was relatively easy, and we got to create our own pace. A few months ago, hiking in the middle of nowhere in Peru would have terrified me. Now, it was exhilarating.
On the third day in the canyon, we got up at dawn and hiked 2.5 hours up. The early start afforded us with shade as we climbed.
The final leg of our Colca Canyon Adventure began on the 9 a.m. bus from Cabanaconde to Chivay.
Months ago, I would have opted for the direct bus to Arequipa. Instead, we stopped in Chivay and took a taxi to La Calera, the hot springs a few kilometers out of town. We were a few hours ahead of the typical bus tour schedule, so we had the place to ourselves.
Back in Chivay, Martin helped a street vendor push his cart up the hill, and we ate lunch in the market. We eventually found our way back to the bus station and back to Arequipa by sundown.
While Guatemala will always have a special place in my heart, it has been in Peru that I have discovered a comfortable ease in my travel pace and method. We have three more weeks in Peru; Nazca and the Amazon Rainforest are on the itinerary.
Who knows what else I will discover about myself in that time!