The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 22-23 - Colca Canyon

The following takes place fro December 19 to December 20, 2010

Quick! Pop quiz! How many times deeper is the Colca Canyon compared to the Grand Canyon?

IMG_0581At least two times deeper.

While the Grand Canyon is spectacular in itself for it’s nearly vertical walls, the sheer depth of the Colca Canyon, and the relative ease of making your way down to the bottom makes this one of the most rewarding and tiring experiences of this trip thus far.

The journey started insanely early. 3am. That was when Patrick(a gent from Melbourne) and I got picked up by the tourist bus for the three and a half hour drive to Chivay. For the most part I slept on the way as I was still way too damn tired. The only uncomfortable portion was when the bus reached over 4000 meters above sea level. A slight headache and a feeling of wanting to throw up greeted me.

That did not last too long though as we made our way back down into the valley and the small city of Chivay where we had breakfast with tea made from coca leaves, the same plant used to make cocaine. It is used in the high altitudes for it’s ability to counteract the effects of altitude sickness. It’s got a different taste, that’s for sure. 

After breakfast it was back on the bus to wind our way on the cliffside road towards the canyon itself. Our first stop though was at the Cruz del Condor lookout point. With the bottom of the canyon at this point being so far down, it is a bit nerve wracking walking along the paths searching the sky for the elusive Condor. I did see one briefly but I couldn’t get my camera up in time. IMG_0570IMG_0595

Then it was time. Once again, back on the bus, and within an hour, we were dropped off at the start of the trail. There were four of us in the two day trek group. Myself, Patrick, and a couple from Belgium, Celine and Philip. Our guide for the two days, Renny, immediately took off.

I honestly had no idea what I was in for. I have my hiking boots on, but I had never actually used them in mountain environments before, let alone volcanic mountains. Keep this in mind.

This first part of the trek was completely downhill for about 3 hours. Down just over a kilometer. Half an hour into the trek, I started to notice a peculiar thing. The volcanic rock was ripping up my shoes. This was not a good sign. I ignored it and kept going, stopping briefly only for a water break and to take some pictures.IMG_0599IMG_0601





By the time we had reached the river at the bottom, my right shoe was completely toast. Renny improvised and cut a water bottle to use as a makeshift sole. It would have to work. After all, it was still another four hour hike up and downhill to where we would be stopping for the night. IMG_0608

We did stop briefly for lunch in a tiny tiny town within the canyon. The lunch was amazing, but I was so tired already that I hardly ate a thing. Much to my dismay, the rest stop was cut short so we could get back on the trail in order to make it to the Oasis by supper time. I was a bit slower on this portion as my shoe would not let me just step anywhere. I had to choose my footing very carefully.

IMG_0619Finally, after over seven hours of trekking, we were at the Oasis, a collection of small huts with beds, and a wonderful swimming pool that I took great advantage of. That night at supper, however, I had to make a decision. IMG_0622

Because of my shoes, Renny was concerned with how long it would take me to get to the top, as well as the damage I could possibly cause to my feet. As there were a limited number of buses back to Arequipa, he was worried I would not get up to the top(over a kilometer) in time to catch the last bus. My options were A) Try it anyways and if i miss the tourist bus, fork out the money to take local transportation back to Arequipa; or B)Take a mule up to the top. As my decision would also affect the other three in the group(If I walked, they would have to wait for me every so often so if I miss the bus, they miss the bus) I bit the bullet and opted for the mule.

The next morning, feeling defeated and disappointed in myself for failing to do the full trek, I joined up with the five other trekkers who were taking the mules up to the top. There aren’t really any pictures from this portion as I was too terrified to let go of the saddle to use my camera. It’s one thing to walk along a path with one side being just a sheer drop to the canyon floor below. It’s another when you’re not really in control of what’s taking you up. That’s how I felt. There were many times, rounding a corner, that the animals body hid the edge of the path so all I saw was. . . DOWN.

My poor hands were so stiff from holding on so tightly. I remember thinking many times over, “They do this all the time. They’re perfectly capable. I won’t fall. Oh, please don’t let me fall.”

Thankfully, we made it to the top unscathed and I rejoined Patrick, Celine, and Philip for breakfast before we went our separate ways back to Arequipa.
The mule ride certainly made for a different experience and maybe the next time I do something like this, I won’t be so scared to let go of one hand in order to take some pictures.

But I doubt that.IMG_0636


  1. What an experience! We did a horseback ride along steep cliffs like that and I envisioned my dramatic death about 15 times. I'll bet your hands aren't the only thing that's sore today! :) Thanks for sharing.

  2. WOW! Cool adventure! Too bad it didn't turn out the way you had hoped. Pictures are amazing. Glad you included one of your shoes. Crazy that they got shredded like that. So awesome that you got to do the earthcache there! Only one of 65 geocachers even though its been published for over 2 years. How cool is that? Is it really a 2.5 terrain rating? I don't think it compares to a SK 2.5. LOL. Keep the adventures coming :)

  3. Most definitely it does not compare to a SK 2.5. Although, getting to the point where the earthcache is is pretty easy considering the bus drops us off 150 meters from the coordinates. I think it's mainly the steep stairs and the altitude that makes the terrain difficult. Plus, if you're scared of heights. . . .

    @Betsy - yeah, more than my hands were sore after. The whole envisioning of a dramatic death is what kept me hanging on so tight. . . and yelping in a high pitched squeel whenever the mule decided to speed up around a corner and up a steep set of rocks.

  4. OMG - three hours to shred new shoes. I can't imagine. I can imagine the donkey ride though and I don't envy you that one.

  5. It sounds like all that working out you did this last year finally paid off. That is quite the trek! I can't believe you have to go shoe shopping...again. Didn't anyone else on the hike have the same problem? What a great little oasis to have at the bottom of the canyon. It looks so out of place with the canyon walls up against it. I don't envy you taking that mule ride, though. My sister lived at the Grand Canyon and she would tell me stories about those mules. Sounds a little scary! I can't wait to hear about your next adventure!

  6. OMG Corey, that sucks about your shoes. I'm also curious about the other people's shoes. Why were yours so affected?

    You gotta tell us though, was the view worth it? :)

  7. @Cheryl - I don't know if my working out really paid off that much. I was out of breath and my legs were so sore after. They still are even today.

    @Allison - YAY! You figured out how to comment! I miss dancing with you! Whenever that Divine Brown song comes on my iPod I think of us West Coasting. And about my shoes. . . they were a gift from my dad. Methinks he cheaped out a bit and got Walmart or similar brand. You get what you paid for, except I'm the one paying for it.

    The view was totally worth it though. Good introduction for the Inca trek if I can get on it.

    Oh, and my new shoes: cost me C$56. If I bought them in Canada they would've cost C$135. And these should last.

  8. that sounded like it was a lot of fun, the pics as well were amazing, glad u are having blast sweety, kinda sucks your boots died on u like that but glad there was a second way for u up, miss you lots, hugs from the frozen lands called saskatoon