Before I start this post, I’d like to thank the mule that helped me get out of this dreadful canyon.
My first trip to Peru was to the second biggest city in the country – Arequipa. Known for it’s volcanoes, queso helado and green landscapes, La Ciudad Blanca was a pleasant surprise. On arrival, I committed the most touristy mistake anyone could ever make – booking a tour at the first tourism agency you see (at the bus terminal in my case). I bought a 2-day trek to the Colca Canyon (3,270 m of depth, making it one of the deepest canyons in the word – the Grand Canyon is only 1,828m) that was “all inclusive” and classified as “easy” and “perfectly doable in all-star shoes”. The tour also included a one night’s stay in the ‘hiker’s oasis’.After obviously paying the highest price in Arequipa for the sam tour, we soon found out most of what they said was all a big, fat, ugly lie.
The tour began at 3:30am where a mini van picked us up at our hostel. We then drove for 3 hours, arriving at the Colca around 6:30am to have breakfast. After breakfast, we headed to Cruz del Condor, a viewpoint where I got to see around 8 condors flying within the canyon (a very rare sight, apparently). After that, we continued in the minivan to the starting point of the trek.
The first part of the trek consisted of a down-hill walk for 3h30 to arrive at place where we had lunch at approximately 1:30pm. It may not sound too bad from the way I phrased it, but boy of boy that’s where hell began. With the midday blazing sun on your back, dusty and rocky inclined paths to follow and little water, I found the trek incredible difficult. Not to mention I got to the bottom of the canyon with 6 blisters on each feet and most definitely could no longer feel my toes as they hit the top of my shoes so many times. So summing it up, I was dead, and we’d only finished one third of the walking. All I wanted was water, but in the canyon there were very little people selling it and the ones who did would monopolize it for 10 Soles a bottle (which is like €2,70, but considering I was used to buying it for 4 Soles maximum – €1, I was pretty angry- especially because the trek was said to be all inclusive, but none of the meals included any sort of liquid beverage).
After lunch, we hiked through the canyon jungle, with ups, downs and flat paths over all sorts of terrain. Thankfully that part was in the shade, so my blistering sunburn managed to get a little rest. The only thing motivating me to keep moving my feet was the thought of arriving at the ‘oasis’ where we would stay the night. After another 3hours of walking, the last 30 minutes of the trek leading to the oasis was down-hill, so the canyon could just finish mutilating my feet one last time.
Post that 6h30 walk, we finally arrived. All I wanted was to take a dip in the pool, a relaxing shower and fix my blisters up so I’d be ready for the next morning – but oh my bad luck didn’t stop there. Firstly, I jumped in the pool and 5 minutes later the sun disappeared turning the canyon from the sahara into the antarctic. So I ran out of the pool and went to check out the showers, and guess what? No hot water, no sanitation, NO LIGHTS. So that was a no from me and a yes to being stinky until I got back to my hotel the following day. We were then given our rooms – I’d say keys but the rooms hardly had doors to say the least. They were shacks with 4 beds inside, no heating and no electricity. Enjoy the pictures below.
Disclaimer: I‘m not a horrible human being that can’t handle these conditions, I’ve hiked and camped before, but that’s not why I’m complaining. I was angry because we were never told this – we were told to expect something completely different. This was not what we thought we had spent our student budget on.
But back to the story. After walking around with the iPhone lights trying to get into some clean comfortable clothes and care for my poor feet, we were all called up to the main building for dinner – which was spaghetti bolognese with chicken noodle soup as a starter. If you read this blog or know me, you’d know I am a celiac and suffer pretty nasty side effects if I eat gluten. So I had rice and tomato sauce as my only meal in that place – great fuel for another 4 hours of walking the next day. Our guide then came to let us know that he wanted to leave before the other groups and get a head start, so we’d have to be up early – and by early, he meant we’d have to be walking at 4am. Great, another two hours of walking uphill, in the freezing cold, in the pitch black dark, on an empty stomach, using our iPhones as the only light source. How could that ever go wrong?
Going back to the room after the dinner though, was absolutely astonishing. The night sky in the place of pure contact with nature really made the nightmare trip worth it. It looked something like this (my iPhone camera wasn’t the best way to capture it’s incredibleness):
After another 4 hours of hiking and help from a mule (because I am quite unfit and couldn’t finish the 4 hour uphill hike without a little bit of help from a four-legged friend) we’d finally finished, and damn did it feel fantastic.
Don’t let this post discourage you if you want to hike the Colca Canyon, now you know what to expect it can’t be that bad!
/rant over 😉