The colca canyon is the deepest valley in the world and is located near Arequipa, the second biggest city in Peru. Timon and me decided to take a 3 day, 2 night tour in the Colca Canyon. Apparently it is possible to do this trek on your own but we decided to book it through a tour in our hostel. This saved us a lot of energy as we did not have to do all the research of hiking the Colca canyon alone. In the end the price would be almost the same or even more expensive. The only difference would be our walking pase and freedom.
We set our alarm clock at 2:50 am because we would be picked up at our hostel between 3 and 3:30. We got into the minivan that would pick up more people around the city and after it would take 3-4 hours before we would arrive in the city of Chivay to eat our breakfast. Which was quite shitty, just 2 small breads and we had to pay extra for eggs. Lucky for us, we brought snacks.
After our breakfast we got back into our minivan that drove us to a viewpoint where we could see Condors. Condors are a type of bird found in the colca canyon, their wing span can reach for about 3 meters long and they belong among the big birds in the world. The viewpoint also provided us with a nice view of the canyon. From here we got back into the van and drove to our starting point of the hike, however before we would arrive the driver first had to change the tire for reasons unknown, ah well, at least we could enjoy the scenery and take some pictures.
When we arrived to the starting point we first got our sunscreen out of our bags as it started to get quite warm already (it was 9:30 am), a totally different climate
then our salkantay trek. The area was quite dry and dusty with intense sun.
The start of the hike was pretty easy as we would decent into the valley of the Colca where different villages are located. The total amount of walking for the first day was about 4 hours. A long the decent we met an old woman with a mule who lived in the valley. The mule was carrying her groceries, water and a living chicken and she told us she would do this hike for groceries about 3 times a week because supplies in the valley are limited and harder to reach by car. We also met a few Spanish travelers a long the way and with whom we could practice our Spanish. I find it so enjoyable to be able to communicate with local people and that I can use Spanish in most latin countries.
The views of the Colca is quite impressive however after trekking through Salkantay i probably got a little spoiled with the amazing views. Not to mention the hard sunlight and shadows made it much harder to capture good photos. After about 4 hours downhill walking we arrived at the bottom of the valley where
we had to walk a little bit more for our first camp where we received our lunch and in the evening our dinner, yes this was everything for day 1 apart from the 5 min uphill hike. I was a little worried how lunch would be (because breakfast wasn’t great) but it was quite good. A nice Peruvian soup a long with rice, alpaca meat and fries. Alpaca is an animal close/similar to an llama. After lunch we where free to do what we wanted as we would stay here for the night and have dinner. Doing the 3 day tour means a lot more relaxing and an easier hike because the 2 day tour would continue walking for another 3.5 hours after lunch before they would reach their destination. Also we did not have to sleep in tents as they would have little huts with beds and enough blankets in the Colca canyon. So I did not have to worry about cold nights although the houses aren’t very isolated.
I decided to walk around a little and enjoy a nice warm shower and talked a little bit with the other people on our tour until we would receive our dinner at 7pm.
On the second day we woke up at 7:15 am and received our breakfast consisting of pancakes with banana and a caramel cream on top a long with a nice hot tea or coffee powder (which is kind of the only coffee they serve in most of Peru).
Today we would walk through the valley a long different kind of resources which are farmed by locals. Appearently the cactus in the area contain a parasite that is used for ingredients in make up and garments because of the red color produced by these parasites. The red color looked a lot like blood actually!
The total walking time for today would be around 3-4 hours as our guide showed us
different things and explained about the local culture in the valley. Around the afternoon we arrived to our second camp with a pool, yes very luxurious, which I wasn’t expecting at all. Here we slept in little houses with beds like the first night however in this camp we had the opportunity to socialize with people from different tour groups which i really enjoyed. Playing board games and sharing travel stories is a good way to spend the afternoon and evening. We also enjoyed the pool while there was still sun available because the sun disappears behind the mountains quite fast (around 3pm).
During our dinner we would receive our briefing for tomorrow where we
would have to hike all the way up the mountain out of the valley. Our guide wanted us to wake up at 3:50am and leave at 4 am in the morning without any breakfast so most of our group was quite surprised about the time not to mention not receiving any breakfast before a ‘4 hour’ hike up the mountain. During our Salkantay trip we met a Brazilian who did the Colca Canyon trek before and said the last day was pretty tough as it’s about 1km up hill. We decided to prepare ourself with buying some bananas and going to bed earlier.
We woke up at 4 without any problems, I guess our bodies were still used to waking up early after the Salkantay trek. We got a pretty good rest so we were full of energy to start our hike at 4 am. Ofcourse here we had to wait on our Peruvian family, including a 7 year old kid, who were part of our tour. At 4:20 am we were complete and ready to leave, Timon and I ate a banana and decided not to stop only when necessary for quick drink or when we had to let mules pass. There was an option to rent a mule that would bring you up the mountain instead of walking.
At 4:30 am it was still dark and the sky was full of stars which was amazing to see as the sky was very clear and there is no big city located close by which ment no light pollution. Another good thing of walking at this hour was the fact that we did not have to walk in the burning sun. Also we got to see another sunrise while walking up the mountain, our first sunrise was in the minivan from Arequipa to the Colca Canyon.
After 2 hours of walking we arrived at the top where we had to wait for more then an hour for our group to arrive. For both of us the hike was pretty easy compared to the Salkantay trek. Our group was one of the first to leave the camp in the valley and other groups would leave at 5 am so the night before we wanted to switch groups so we could sleep longer and also because the other group was more fun (we had 3 germans and 1 swiss that spoke only german and weren’t really interested in other people expect for the swiss guy). Not to mention we would still have passed our group if we started hiking an hour later as the group that we wanted to join arrived at the same time with the rest of our group. At least we enjoyed the view and waited for the sunshine to appear over the mountains to give us comfort.
After everyone arrived on the top we moved on to our breakfast, bread with eggs was on the menu for today which wasn’t tobad.
After the morning we were pretty much done with walking as we would mostly move by car to different viewpoints, hot springs and lunch.
We met 2 English guys that were doing a 1 day tour of the Colca canyon and joined our group. They already traveled for a few months so it was perfect to share some advices and to have a laugh during the day. Around 6 o’clock we arrived in the city of Arequipa and said goodbye to everyone.
The Colca Canyon was a good addition to our travels as it is nice to spend time in the nature. However we both would have liked to have a more active trip, so a 2 day tour would have been better for us and more demanding as we would have walked more hours the first day. In general this is a trip which is more relaxed and with comfort as you sleep in little huts and have facilities like a hot shower and even a swimming pool (for a second day).