The trip to Colca Canyon started and ended on a very low note, but the middle was really quite pleasant. To begin, we had to catch a ride in a small sprinter van that had no room for the people it was ferrying and absolutely no room for our bags. To make matters worse, my seat was broken and set at either an aggressive forward pitch or a normal decline. Seeing as how it was 3 AM, I opted for the decline and was greeted by the German behind me going “OW OW OW OHH OHHHH OOOOOH OWWWW.” Come off it, Hans, it is a plush seat that is touching your legs, not a knife. The remainder of the bus ride was less than great but we coped.
On the way up, we stopped at a viewpoint to get a glimpse of just how massive the canyon is along with some action shots of Andean Condors. These beasts have a wingspan of nearly 7-feet and take advantage of the updrafts from the canyon and effortlessly glide around looking for prey. That was about the only fauna we saw on the trip sans street dogs and donkeys.
This trek was a new experience for both of us in that starting the trip by descending is different than seeing your objective above your head and knowing where you are (for the most part). Apparently, topographic maps are not a thing in Peru so we relied on an artistic representation of the geography and realized shortly in that it was not to scale. We did know that we had 9.5 kilometers to go and a little over 1,000 meters, which is something like 6ish miles and a little over three-thousand feet. Our bags were not light, the air was quite thin, and we are not in our fighting condition so this was a bit of an undertaking.
The vistas were nothing short of incredible. It is apparently the second deepest canyon in the world but that is likely based off of the tallest peak and the lowest spot in the valley since we went from head-to-toe and did not cover twice the elevation of the Grand Canyon. Despite not having a pronounced lip, it was clearly very deep and was a menacing task. We opted to do the less conventional route to “Llauar,” a pretty little spot on the river with thermal baths rather than the other routes that undoubtedly would have been littered with tourists; We have nothing against tourists but have been craving authenticity and peace-and-quiet.
About two-thirds of the way down, a massive thunderstorm rolled through. I am not entirely familiar with that phenomenon and got spooked, mainly because I didn’t want to suffer from the pain of losing Jean to a lightning strike and having to get yelled at by her dad for leading her into danger. We found a cave and took cover, but I looked like a huge pussy and will have to do some manly things to make Jean trust me again.
We stayed at a family owned and operated lodge at the bottom of the canyon and were treated to some hot thermal baths. Before leaving Seattle we upgraded all of our outdoor gear to high-end, ultralight stuff from REI and finally got to use them and camped on a soft patch of grass. The lodge, a cobbled together shack perilously perched on a steep hill, offered prix-fixed vegetarian meals and beer. Rather than hiking to another town in the valley, we opted to rest for a full day and enjoy their offerings and play cards.
The hike out was a slog. We started with 4 stray dogs who stayed with us for about half of the trek out but ultimately lost three of them. The dog who stayed with us the entire way had slept right outside our tent both nights, apparently guarding us. He was black-and-tan and had the dirtiest ass I have ever seen, which is probably due to the fact that the only water I saw him drink was undoubtedly 90% donkey urine. We called him “Soldero” for “soldier” and gave him a can of tuna at the top.
The ride home was on a public bus, kind of like a Greyhound but somehow not quite as shitty. Just miles from home, I knew that I was sick and told Jean we needed to get off and she complied. Long story short, I ended up throwing up profusely from the window of the cab on a busy street while Jean tried like the dickens to get him to pull over. The volume and velocity were impressive and I wish Jean could’ve snapped some pictures of the audience. This was a little over a week ago and I am just now feeling like I am not going to die.
So, that’s Colca Canyon and why I haven’t been blogging.