By: Jas Mitch
Getting in to Arequipa was via the night bus so we were pretty tired in the morning. Grabbing a needed coffee, we ran into some fellow Aussies who we would keep running into thoughout our time here.
Despite coming to the region for the Colca Canyon we found Arequipa a great place to visit in its own right. Amazing plaza, great buildings and a laid back attitude. Also in the plaza we encountered somewhat a “battle of the bands” competition.
Colca Canyon is fairly straightforward to attempt on your own, so Jas and I just took the bus over and stayed the night in Cabanaconde before the trek.
As a rule we generally ignore touts approaching us as we got off the bus and we ignored them this time too but it was a bit of a mistake here since that was the way you are supposed to get a permit to the park (we assumed there was ticket checking office on the way in). However the whole thing worked out okay since we ran into some Argentinian tourists who unfortunately had an injury and sold us their tickets. It was good for us since Argentinians pay half the price us gringos have to pay so we got in at a good price.
Heading off we got out at about 7 and got some instructions on how to get to the start of the trail – which is good since it was a bit tricky to find.
Since you are decending about a kilometer, getting in was easy on the oxygen but a killer on the legs. Beautiful all the way down, checking out the cliff formations, cacti and the river.
Once we crossed the river we took the a bit of an uphill section to a village where we had a couple (albeit expensive) well needed cold drinks.
Heading on we wound our way along the canyon past a couple local farming villages. This part of the track is not well signposted, so we just asked locals we saw whether we were on the right track.
On the way around it is very dry, so when we reached the Oasis it was definitely a spectacular sight – a definite Oasis in the canyon with Palm trees, green grass, colourful flowers and running clear water.
Accommodation down there was pretty basic but the place we stayed actually had an amazing hot shower and pool. At this point we were pretty exhausted so it was a great place to relax for the night.
Once you go in to the Canyon, you gotta get out – and it is one intense hike out! Departing at 4.30 is a good way to catch sunrise through the canyon and make it out before the sun hits you.
We made it out in about 2 and a half hours and it was a big relief to be at the top – especially since there was a lady at the top selling nice cold powerade.
Once we got back to Cabanaconde we ran into the Aussies again who had just been to the condor viewpoint. Being crazy, Jas and I decided to keep hiking to the viewpoint and try to make it back before the bus back to Arequipa. Unfortunately we did not see a condor but we did manage to catch the first bus back at 9.30am.