The Hike From Hell...
07.09.2012 - 08.09.2012 22 °C
The Colca Canyon... I know I've been hyping this one up a bit but trust me that what I tell you is no exaggeration. The Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world (averages around 3400m deep) and depending on the information source it is often cited as the deepest. It is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon although its cliffs are not as steep, and it is the third most popular tourist destination in Peru. So, what the heck did we think we were signing up for?
We left Arequipa at 3am to start the drive 3 hours north west to the small town of Chivay where we had breakfast before continuing on towards the Cruz del Condor - a popular tourist stopping spot to get a glimpse of the Andean Condor.
Yep... that is one big ass canyon! At this point we both felt completely up for the challenge (even looking down towards the bottom and knowing we would eventually have to ascend)... we're experienced hikers right? We've conquered some decent climbs/hikes. We were about to meet our maker lol.
Our first hour or so of descent down to the canyon floor was breathtaking (both from the altitude and views lol). The size of the canyon is mind-blowing and there was a pretty diverse flora and fauna (desert, crazy rock formations and oasis' at the bottom of the canyon).
The weather started out perfect in the morning but then it got really hot due to the blistering sun. We dressed according to cool conditions and the sun beating down on our backs made the steep walk down pretty painful at times. What also didn't help matters was the dust (the trail was bone dry and beaten to hell from all the donkeys that transport supplies on it) and because of these conditions we were quickly running low on water. The other thing we were clearly not prepared for was starting off hiking at a decline since all of our previous hiking expeditions have been incline first. The Colca Canyon's steep, dusty decline just beats the hell out of your calves and knees and after about 2 hours of it we wanted nothing more then to reach the bottom and cool off in the river.
Some more views of the hike down...
The view after around 3 hours... this shows you just how steep it was...
So close to the bottom... we could see the bridge and water.
Finally the bottom! We both quickly darted to the river, cooled down and soaked our feet. After only 4 hours of hiking we were tired and our feet were completely blistered (all the downward pressure was on our big toes so they rubbed pretty hard in our shoes).
This best thing to do in that situation is to keep going... lol like we had any other choice... couldn't exactly set up camp at the bottom. And besides, we had another 5 hours of hell to go until we reached our hostel.
Our guide showing us how they use the red dye from the cactus plants to make paint...
Probably the hardest thing about hiking the Colca Canyon were the constant ascents and descents. Example: Once we reached the bottom we had to climb up the other side to reach a village where we stopped for lunch. Then we descended down again to the river and followed it for a while. Then we climbed again to reach another village. Repeat, repeat, repeat lol.
Stopping for a water break at roughly our 3-4 ascent. By this point we were all exhausted. The interesting thing about the villages in the Colca Canyon is there are NO ROADS. This means no vehicles of course... so how the heck do the people get all their supplies and goods in the villages? The answer: they either use donkeys or walk... just like us. This meant that a bottle of water was 3 times the price. Can't imagine building a house... how many donkey trips would that take?
A church in a different village... we told everyone in our group about our up and coming nuptials and they all thought we should practice lol.
Finally!! We had reached a point where we could view the oasis that held our hostel (and it's magical swimming pool).
But to reach it we had to descend to the river and then climb back up to the oasis... do you see what I'm getting at here? Even when we seemed close to the end we were still hours of calf burning hiking away... it was one hell of a mind game. I kept trying to distract myself with the views but it was just so exhausting.
Down to the final bridge...
And don't forget the other psychological factor we had to contend with... the hike back up!! Oh yes... and it was in plain view to see above the oasis.
No chairlift, bus, car or plane to bail us outta this one... just two feet and heartbeat.
At last we reached the oasis and checked into our room. It was basically a thatched shack but it had a queen sized bed that my body was just aching for.
And probably one of the coolest swimming pools I've ever seen...
The hotel grounds were pretty refreshing after the long dusty hike...
We both jumped in bed after our swim to warm up and as you can imagine were out cold in a matter of minutes. Thankfully we woke up in just the nick of time to catch dinner and then go right back to bed lol. It's a pretty sobering thought knowing that we had to be up again at 5am to start climbing out of the hell we had just climbed into with little rest and no breakfast (ya no breakfast... it was at the top of the canyon!!). Not a great thought to have in the back of your mind while going to bed... didn't matter much I guess... we were so dead tired we were out the second we hit the pillow.
The next morning we started the hike just as I said... 5 am and on an empty stomach. Not to be a hater but two people in our group from Spain totally pussed out and rented donkeys to make the trek back out. I really wanted to throw rocks at them as they rode by on their sweat drenched donkeys smiling away lol... bastards.
The hike back out looked the same as the hike down and we were both too cranky to stop and take pictures. My God... what a great relationship team building exercise lol. We both had a few breaking points where we cursed travelling, hiking, mountains etc and whined about wanting to be home lol. It was the hardest thing either of us has had to do in our lifetime... no joke. We were so sore from the day before and tired (3am wake up followed by a 5am)... not to mention hungry. We both knew that when we eventually did reach the top we would be elated and rewarded with a vast feeling of accomplishment. BUT IT TOOK FOREVER lol. Four hours of pure incline later and we arrived!!
Group photo at the top... the donkey pussies were NOT included lol.
I couldn't resist this photo op...
Two little Peruvian girls all dressed up with their llama. I gave them a few soles and snapped away.
Donkeys geared up in town ready to make the long journey down to the villages...
Our tourist bus in town...
After the mornings gruelling hike we still had a long day ahead of us. We made quite a few stops along the way back to Arequipa, the first of which was at a view point to see the vast expanse of terraces inside the canyon.
Our second stop was my favourite... the Chivay hot springs where we were given a hour to soak and relax our throbbing leg muscles.
The last pit-stop of the trip was at a tremendous volcano viewing point... 6000m peaks in every direction.
And that concludes the hiking segment of Blair & Stacey's World Tour... for good lol. We actually laughed afterwards that we would never hike again. Even Machu Picchu we vowed to take the bus lol. But in all seriousness the Colca Canyon was just a super difficult hike and one I would have a hard time convincing myself to undertake again. I think we both again found another new appreciation for the Canadian prairies lol. Don't get me wrong the canyon itself was nothing but spectacular and absolutely worth seeing with your own eyes. Just do yourself a favour and give yourself at least one more day to relax by the pool in the oasis... or cop out and rent a donkey... your choice.