Thursday, July 10, 2008

Colca Canyon

The nearest attraction to Arequipa is the well-publicized Colca Canyon. It is supposedly one of the deepest canyons on Earth (just behind the Cotahuasi canyon near-by the peruvians say), although we did not find it that impressive or that deep.

It takes around 4 hours to get to the village of Chivay by bus, in the middle of the canyon. It is a big hole of nothing, so it is worth continuing to the last accessible by road village in the canyon, Cabanaconde. Not that there is much more to do in this village, but at least most of the hikes start here. It is also the closest point to the main attraction in the canyon, condor watching.

Peruvians have been quick to understand the appeal of the condors, and there is thus a 35 sol per person fee collected at Cruz del Condor, the condor Mirador, from which one can see condors going on their early food pursuits from around 8 30 to 10am. Being poor and rebellious, we decided to snap a couple of pictures and sternly refused to pay the fee.

The next objective has been to go down the canyon, around 1000 meters down to the river and around to the villages on the other side. The surprise came when, after 4 hours of descent, at the bridge crossing to the other side of the canyon, an official asked us about our 35 sol tickets...Did i mention we only had enough soles for our return bus ticket? Anyway, we refused again (this payment was mentioned only for condor viewing in all our guides, and not for trekking), and could henceforth not cross the bridge. We saw another pass down the river, which we followed putting our adventurers´sombreros on. After some exploring, we finally found this make-shift bridge and bravely crossed it:

The rest of the hike went on more like planned, and we reached the Paraiso oasis we were aiming for at the end of the day. Camping there was expensive (7 soles per tent!), but hey, this is a tourist paradise, so there. At least there was this likable alpaca rambling around our tent all night and letting us snap a few pictures of its lovely furry self:

Overall, we found Colca Canyon a bit over hyped. Oh, the last adventure, while sleeping in Cabanaconde´s hotel, Renaud woke me up in the middle of the night saying there was an earthquake. I hardly believed him, although our bed did seem to move just a little bit. And finally, here it is - the 6 earthquake in southern Peru...

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