Colca Canyon, Peru: Trekking in the second deepest Canyon in the world
January 1, 1970
First of all, I’ve never been a “trekking” person. I love adventures (yes) I love travels (of course) but I’ve never been the kind of person who loves to suffer and to feel pain while walking for hours in difficult or extreme conditions, under the warmest sun or during the darkest night. Well, I had to rethink my position. It’s definitely something that it’s worth it.
The trekking to which I’m referring to is one of the most spectacular of the entire world: the Colca Canyon, located in the South of Peru, is the second deepest Canyon in the world. Most of the people could think that the first, the deepest at all, is the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Well, actually this is the third on the ranking. Both the first (Cotahuasi Canyon) and the second (Colca) are located in Peru, so it would be really a shame to NOT experience one of this trekking if you’re travelling across this country.
I’m currently living in Peru, during the week I work for a No-profit organization based in Lima, but during the weekend I enjoy my free time to discover the amazing places that we can find around, really wonders of nature. Last weekend I had this incredible experience all by myself, during a personal four days lonely trip in the South of Peru, taking advantage of a long weekend for a period of Peruvian celebrations, called “Fiestas Patrias”. Which is the best way to celebrate? Do something that you’ve never done before!
1 DAY: LIMA – AREQUIPA BY BUS
I started my trip leaving Lima, the city where I’m currently living, taking a bus for Arequipa, the closest city to the Colca Canyon. The trip takes 16 hours of BUS: here in Peru the transportation system is not one of the best of the world, the trains are almost inexistent and the cheapest (but sometimes the only) way to move is by bus. A 16 hours trip sitting on a bus is not so easy to do, I really recommend you to take in consideration a little more expensive bus but with some more services: food, toilet, possibility to completely recline the seat, movie and in general more comfortable conditions. The best way is to travel by night: I took the bus at 10pm and I’ve arrived in Arequipa the day after, I had dinner, breakfast and lunch at the bus (not included, I had chosen the most economic seat so I just brought food, water and snacks for all the duration of the trip). The only stop we had was in the desert, in the middle of nowhere, where a smallcoffee shop/restaurant was located and (of course) it was too much expensive to have been taking in consideration.
AREQUIPA: THE WHITE CITY
I arrived in Arequipa in the afternoon; a friend came to pick me up and he took me to the city center. The city is called “La ciudad Blanca -The White City”, because pretty much all of its architecture follow this color: buildings, houses, churches, monuments, everything has a touch of white and the general atmosphere is so peaceful, quiet and chanted.
I didn’t have so much time to dedicate for tourism and discover the city: the most important thing to do at this point was find the best way to reach the Colca Canyon without spending a lot of money. Usually I don’t choose to get an organized tour when I’m travelling, but this time all the people that I’ve met gave me the same advice. So I found the travel agency with the best offer for me and I took my ticket: 2 days of trekking in the Colca Canyon, with breakfast, lunch, dinner and transfers included, for 100 PEN (30$ US). A really good price!
I also didn’t have to pay for a room for the night, because my friend is a painter and he offers to let me sleep in his painting studio for free because he actually didn’t have a room for me… but backpackers know how to solve the “bed” situation, so no problem: here a perfect example of “floorsurfing” that makes the entire trip even better!
DAY 2: TREKKING IN THE COLCA
(AND A NATURAL RESORT AT A BOTTOM OF THE CANYON)
I couldn’t sleep so much anyway, because the tour began at 3.00 am: we’ve met at the Plaza des Armas of Arequipa and took a minivan for 6 hours to reach Chivay, a little village in the mountains, very typical and folkloristic. Then we’ve been divided into two groups: Peruvian and Latin American people and, to the other side, European, American and Australian ones. This second group, mine, was the one of the “Gringos”, as we’ve been called by Latin Americans. There were Spanish, Dutch and German couples, a French family with 2 young ladies (maybe 16-17 years old) and a group of New Zeeland surfers… and then, me. The forever alone one. But who cares? I really enjoy travel by myself and I think this is definitely the best way to know great people from all over the world, as a matter of fact I thought it was really a nice group of people to go trekking with, funny and joyful.
We started our trekking under the first sun in the morning, but it began warmer very fast. Walking through the canyon means that the air is more rarefied, breathe is a little bit complicated and the landscape around is full of cactus, sand and a huge and immense wasteland. I don’t know why, but it’s really impressive. The group didn’t walk very compact, so many times there was no one except you, the nature and the road behind and ahead. We walked 3 hours, and then we stopped for lunch and take a break in a little village at the bottom of the Canyon. It seemed like a resort, but in the middle of the land: a natural swimming-pool, very cute little houses, an amazing local couple that offered us the lunch composed by rice, soup, potatoes and meat. Everyone in Peru use to eat the same food almost every day, but after the climb under the hottest sun, every kind of food seems to be the best and tastiest in the world!
It took another 3 hours of trekking to reach the place where we’ve planned to stay for the night, hosting by some families who live there, without lights, hot water or any comforts… it was a really good experience. We only had to enjoy the company of ourselves, sharing time and dinner with completely strangers, but at that moment we felt like we knew since forever.
DAY 3: TREKKING BY NIGH
I shared a room with another girl and we’ve start to walk again at 4.30 AM in the completely darkness of the night. I didn’t have a flashlight and I really recommend you to bring one, I only could use the light of my phone but walking through dangerous paths and crossing rivers without seeing anything is not so good, trust me!
The entire trekking by night is really hard, but the view at the end of the trail will compensate for all the efforts. The simple fact of reaching the top of the canyon at the same moment of the sunrise is spectacular; a photo can’t explain the feelings of that moment. I swear, I cried.