So Clare (Aussie friend) and I headed off on a tour to the Colca Canyon.
We got picked up at about 3h30am because we had a 3h drive before arriving to our first destination for breakfast. We stopped in this little place where we had cheese, olives, bread and tea. Then, we went to the condor lookout. This lookout is in the National Park and it is the best place in the country to see the condors. They are also protected by the park and there are now more than 100 condors in the area. Condors also do not have more than one baby per year, and after that the parents and the baby never separate for 4 years. The “king of the mountain”, lives in a habitat at 3000m of altitude, and can reach 60-70 years old. One fact that Pablo, our guide, told us, which is really crazy, is that condors die by suicide! When they reach the age, they fly high up and free fall into the ground or into something. The condors we saw were flying right over our heads; they came so close it was really impressive! They put up quite a show that’s for sure. Afterwards we got dropped off and started our walk. After about 3-4hs, we arrived in a little place called San Juan de Chuccho for lunch, as well as to spend the night.
After our pancakes (ahahaha lucky us!) we headed off and walked through some of the small communities. Many of them have maybe 15-20 families living there because most of the kids go to secondary school in the city, others have left to find work, and so there are not many people left. Along the way we were shown various plants as well. The adobe plant, which looks like a very big aloe plant, is used in Mexicoto make tequila. Here however, they use it to make cord, or baskets because it is really strong. Another plant he showed us is used to make lipstick and blush. Although we saw one clinic in one of the little towns, the people believe and use plants more than anything to heel any kind of problem.
We also tried the corn drink they have here called chicha, which is like a corn beer, it is fermented and mixed with some spices. The one we had was only in its juice form. I didn’t really like it.
After about 2h-3hs, we arrived in an oasis! The canyon here has the colca river that crosses it, and so there is a little “paradise” of an oasis with flowers, palm trees, houses, swimming pools etc (for tourists now, but before it was where they grew fruits). The vegetation that grows in the canyon because of the river is one of the main differences with the Gran Canyon, USA. As well, there are communities that live here, which in the latter there are none. We spent the afternoon and the night at the oasis and all went to bed early. The next day was going to be the harder one.
We got up at 4 in the morning to hike up the canyon. So far, the hiking had been pretty easy, with not too many uphill parts, or just short ones. This was, according to our guide, a solid 3h-3h30 uphill hike. We left this early to avoid the sun, and also because the rest of the day was going to be spent in other places. So, I put myself the objective of getting up there under 3hs, which I did in 1h55mins! I was really happy. Half way up I met a couple of locals and chatted with them a bit. The man points to me we are going out there, which was where we had stayed the first night. So I asked him, what time will you get there at, he asked me the time, it was6am. And he says to me around8am. WHHHAAATTT! Then I asked him how much time it was to the top from where we were. He says to me, for us, 30 minutes. So I was thinking okay maybe it will take me 45mins-1h or something. As I am going up, I realize it is the steepest part of the trek so far and just kept thinking to myself: what beasts they go up this in 30 minutes! It took me 5o. ahahhaa.
We ended up having breakfast, we did not go to the thermal baths because we were running late and most of us did not wan
t to. Then we went to the highest point, at about 4900m to see the volcanoes. Along the way we saw many vicunas, alpacas and lamas. The vicuna is the most expensive material, it is what you make cashmere with. The alpaca is also a very good and expensive material that is very common here. The lama wool is the cheapest and not the best but it still keeps you warm! Once over 3000m, this is the main economical income for the farmers.
The agriculture here consists mainly of things like barley, wheat, quinoa (3 different varieties), corn (12 different varieties) and potatoes (30 different varieties!!!!)
After lunch, it was time to head back to Arequipa, back to my rowdy hostel full of gringos and partiers, which means the sleep after all this was horrible. Ahaha. Oh well. That’s dorms for you!