World’s (Second) Deepest Canyon

Colca Canyon is 170 meters short of being the world’s deepest canyon, which in canyon terms are nothing 🙂 Visiting on a day trip from Arequipa it was one long outing, but well worth it. You get stunning scenery, small villages, some wildlife, to defrost in hot springs, delicious food, a lesson on dressing and altitude sickness, and new friends. Here goes!

At 02.30 at the night I found myself waiting in the hotel’s entryway for the tour bus to arrive. Starting to realise that the clothes I had chosen for the day was too much on the thinner side… Soon enough the tour guide, who’s name turned out to be Alesund, after a town in Norway, which his father had visited once a long, long time ago, turned up. When I got to the minibus I realised, happily, that it was not just me who had totally missed on attire. Most memorable was the girl in short denim shorts. The only ones who had gotten it right, was to New York guys who had brought their parkas. After settling in and starting on our 3 1/2 hours ride to Chivay, in pitch black, only seeing the headlights of a car or two on the way, it became all about not freezing to death. In my linen trousers, t-shirt and hoodie, and the blanket we were handed, I emptied my bag of everything that could function as “clothing”, my socks in my sandals (socks in sandals is one thing that never happens, basically can’t stand it, on anyone), my bath towel to use for the planned hot spring visit, a scarf that I for some unknown reason had brought with me. I looked like a freaking Christmas tree, and a bad one at that. Next was trying to get some sleep. I remember “waking up”, looking out the window, and realising it was ice on the inside of the window and snow outside. OMG! At one point a woman onboard started getting breathing problems, and we had to stop for her to get some oxygen. At that point you get very aware that it is hard to breath, and how thin the air is, and try not to panic. With the “comforting” words “we will ascend just a little more, then we will be at the highest point, and then we will begin descending”, ringing in your ears. In the middle of the whole thing, we suddenly stopped. Time to get out and buy national park entry passes. In the middle of the night! No one wanted to get out of the bus! Luckily one of the NYC guys offered to buy the ticket for me. Only to turn out we were “denied” buying tickets there.

After a long, cold drive we arrived in Chivay early in the morning. Barely awake we were ushered into a hostel for breakfast. Warm tea has never been this good! And I am a tea drinker 🙂 After filling up and warming up, a little bit, we were off again. Trying to make it to Cruz del Condor before the masses would decent upon the place. On the way we passed through a small village were we had a look at the town’s Baroque church, in front of which a group of people were dancing. Now I understand the unknown number of layers of colourful clothing they are sporting. After 50 km or so we finally arrived at the condor viewpoint, where you get to witness Andean condors soar up from the depths of the canyon. Sometimes they actually got very close to the flocks of tourists, still a lot of people even though we tried to get there early, like everybody else. From here we started on our return back to Arequipa, with a few stops on the way. At the hot spring pools (La Calera) in Chivay. Veeeery nice to sink into the hot waters after freezing the whole morning. Was advised to not stay in too long. Didn’t think it would matter, but started to feel unwell after a while, so, yes, good advice! Had lunch in Chivay as well. Delicious food. Ate alpaca… Not proud of that, because they’re so cute 😦 Tried to eat as little as possible 🙂 Unfortunately I have to admit it was exquisite!! Ended our lunch break with a quick walk around town. Last stop was at the area’s highest point, at Patapampa, at 4.910 masl, with a view of the volcanic range, with active volcanos blowing out smoke.

After a long day out and about, an English couple I met on the tour, who was staying at the same hostel as me, invited me to end the day with sodas and beer in the hostel’s relaxing backyard garden. To my surprise, when checking out the next morning, I had a message waiting for me in the reception. The lady had left a note saying to contact her once I got to Cusco, if I wanted to hang out, as her husband was going to hike to Machu Picchu, and she would be left on her own in Cusco. As said as done 🙂


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