After a wonderful stay in Cusco it was time to get a move on. Our next stop was Arequipa, also known as the “White City” because of its beautiful white architecture. One of the main sights to see from Arequipa is the Colca Canyon. It’s the second deepest canyon in the world and twice as deep as the Grand Canyon! Ryan and I decided that we hadn’t walked enough so we signed up for a two day hike to see what the Colca Canyon was made of.
The first day we were picked up from our hostel very early at 3:00 in the morning. It was still dark outside and the streets were quiet. We climbed into the bus dragging our tired butts and as the car started moving we both fell back asleep, periodically waking up as more tourists got on. By the time we arrived at our first destination it was light out and everyone on the bus who had fallen back asleep was now waking up.
Our first stop was at a quaint little restaurant to eat some breakfast. It was very simple, just some buns, jam and some mystery meat that only the brave tried. Oh, and olives! Delicious, delicious breakfast olives. Once we filled up on bread, we were off to ‘Cruz del Condor’ a beautiful viewpoint to see the magnitude of the canyon and watch the amazing Condor it all its glory. The Condor is an important symbol in the Andean culture and is one of the worlds largest flying birds. We arrived at the canyon and were pleasantly surprised to see a number of Condors soaring through the sky. It was absolutely breathtaking to watch.
After getting acquainted with the Condors we drove to Cabanaconde where we began our trek down the Canyon. Now, since Rye and I had walked for four days to Machu Picchu, we thought this two day trek would be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, we were wrong.
The first three hours were spent walking switchbacks down the Canyon on rocky, unsteady gravel paths. We had to be very careful and we both still slipped out a few times. We quickly realized that going down on gravel like that is very hard on the knees and at about 10 min from the bottom my right knee completely gave out. It’s funny because I was so concerned about Ryan’s knees that I had completely neglected my own. I have never felt such pain before. It was like I was being stabbed in the side of the knee with a knife. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t bend it and all I could think was that we had another day and a half of hiking to do. Rye helped me the rest of the way down where we sat on some rocks and assessed the situation. Out of nowhere, a guy came over offering me his tensor bandage and some numbing cream. At this point I was in so much pain, I could not have been more grateful. It’s kindness like that, that gives you faith in humanity and makes you want to be a better person.
*Hot tip- always bring a tensor bandage when hiking, whether you think you’ll need it or not.
After the numbing cream kicked in, I was ready to carefully continue the hike. I never thought I would say this but thankfully it was uphill! After 30 min we reached our lunch destination in San Juan and enjoyed some alpaca and rice and some relaxation in the sun.
We continued on and hiked through the depths of the Canyon walking through two small villages towards our home for the night in the appropriately named ‘Oasis Sangalle’ located at the deepest part of the Canyon. Surrounded by little to no plant life, the Oasis is a very small area that has flourished with greenery, because of a huge natural spring waterfall. After a long day of hiking we were happy to arrive at our destination and drink a Pisco Sour. For dinner they served spaghetti and homemade tomato sauce…yummm! Our rooms were very simple with just two beds and no electricity so our flashlights came in very handy. We went to bed early to prepare for the next day.
We began our hike at 5:00 am and this day was all up hill. Back up the Canyon we go, walking switchbacks uphill for 3 hours. For some reason, they think it’s a good idea not to serve us breakfast before this uphill battle. Instead they give it to us after we’re done as a “reward”. I’m not gonna lie, this made me a little angry about 2 hours in. We had snacks of course, but a full meal would have been nice before walking up a Canyon….I’m just sayin!
*Hot tip- always, always, always bring snacks and water when hiking whether you’re told to or not.
Thankfully, both of our legs were working okay and we finally made it to the top, breaking frequently along the way. We waited at the top for the rest of our group and enjoyed the view which was absolutely beautiful and definitely made the grueling hike worth it. Once the rest of our group joined us, we walked another 10 min to our breakfast destination where we had some well deserved eggs…woohoo, protein!
After breakfast we were then whisked away by bus to enjoy some other beautiful viewpoints of the Canyon and finish our day in some hot springs. We spent an hour soaking our sore muscles before we all climbed back in the bus to grab some lunch and then head back to our hostel in Arequipa.
Overall the trek was absolutely beautiful and much more difficult then we anticipated. It just goes to show, always be prepared for every scenario. Especially when you’re trekking down and then up a Canyon.