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Colca Canyon - Day 2

Written on: Wednesday November 14th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Colca Canyon, Cabanaconde, Peru 

Author: Julie 


We woke to a bright, clear morning streaming through the small window in our cabin. Our guide Jose knocked on our door informing us breakfast was ready, so we quickly packed for the day and joined the group at the table for pancakes and eggs.  

We were walking by 8 AM and passed a small school with a little concrete soccer pitch. A little girl and boy were passing a ball around but unfortunately, the ball was partially deflated which made playing with it difficult. There were 10 kids who attended this primary school. When they are old enough to be in high school, they attend school in Cabanaconde, staying in dorms during the week and climbing down into the canyon on week-ends to visit their family. We reached the next village within a half hour. All the houses of the village are all built side-by-side in one long line. On entering the village, we passed a house with two llamas tied outside, decorated with red tassles. The owner was outside making the traditional Cabaņa belts with bright colored thread. Kevin and I looked at a few but there was none that we wanted to buy, then he spotted hanging above hats for sale. The Cabaņa women were broad rimmed hat, with the rear folded up. Each is embroidered with intricate patterns with bright colored primary colors. The day before we had been fascinated with the women who had gotten on our bus with their hats, vests, blouses and skirts all embroidered. This was our chance to buy one of the hats. Knowing that she didn?t make much money and this was her only form of income, we didn?t negotiate when she asked the price of 50 soles for the hat. For the remainder of the day, I wore the hat with pride and I?m almost positive every time we met one of the Cabaņa women they smiled at me a little more than the others. Of course, they could have been laughing at me for looking like a dumb gringo but I don?t care, I was really happy to have bought it.  

We walked on to the next village which unlike the other two had a plaza and small church. Jose informed us that the church is only opened on Christmas, Holy Week, for weddings and funerals because they didn?t have a parish priest. The priest from Cabanaconde would only come during those times.  

We continued on and as we ventured further away from the villages, the landscape became quite dry again since there was no irrigation system bringing the water from glacial rivers to the fields. We could see the Colca river below us, disappearing around a bend in the canyon. Our Lonely Planet guidebook and Wikipedia say the deepest canyon is the neighboring Cotohausi canyon at 3600 meters in depth but that record has been disproven since last year. Our guide Jose was part of a Polish expedition last year who ventured deeper into the canyon and recorded depths of 4200 meters. These readings are still not be certified but I?m sure the guidebooks will be updated in the near future. He was with a group Polish rafters who had come 25 years earlier to be the first to raft the Colca river from end to end. To celebrate the 25th anniversary they had come back to raft a portion the river and he was invited along. They all had GPS units and they recorded the next depth records a little further away from where we were. 

No matter what the depth, we had to go down to the next bridge to be able to come out again. We crossed the river and arrived at the little village of Sangualle but more famously known in travel circles as ?The Oasis?. There was a small section of greenery with a pretty waterfall. The owners had built small, rustic shacks and installed a pool to cool off in. When we arrived, all of us couldn?t wait to get out of our sweaty clothes and into our swimsuit for a cool dip. It was much colder than I thought it would be and like usual I was the last one in. None of us last very long and soon we were out sunning ourselves while we waited for our lunch to be ready. Many tour groups stay here for the night, but we had to climb out and stay at a hotel that evening. This was one of the main reasons we had chosen this tour, the groups that stay overnight start climbing out at 3 AM in dark, which can be quite dangerous with all the loose stone on the trail. They are told it?s to experience the sunrise and see the condors in the early morning, but that?s the last thing I would be excited about if I was climbing since those early hours. All I would be thinking is when I would be able to get into my bed. There have been quite a few injuires sustained during the night climbs including a couple of deaths from people being hit in the head with a stone. The closest hospital is in Chivay 3 hours away and the large, well equipped hospital in Arequipa is 5 hours away by car.  

At 2 PM, after a delicious but quite large lunch of pasta in mushroom sauce, we picked up our hiking poles and started the long climb out of the canyon. I found it took forever, I kept thinking we were at the top to only find we were at a false peak and the trail continued on high above us. After more than 3 hours, we finally made it to the top. Kevin and I were one of the last to make it up but that?s because Kevin had found a large garbage bag and was stopping every minute to pick up rubbish that had been thrown away on the trail. It?s very sad to see the mentality or lack thereof in waste management in Peru. It?s very common to see someone drink a bottle of water and once done just throw down on the grown, the same applies for chip bags, cigarettes, anything really they don?t want to carry anymore. All of South America is littered with white plastic bags. There are signs that say let?s keep our city clean, but until it becomes part of their conscious, the garbage bins will remain empty. By the time we got to the top, the bag was full to the brim with lots of water bottles, bags, cookie wrappers, chip wrappers, old batteries, etc. A local man upon meeting us thanked Kevin for helping keep the trail clean.

A quick march through terraced agricultural fields we were back at the hotel where we had lunch the previous day. We all grabbed our room keys and almost ran to our rooms. They had the most amazing hot showers with great pressure, which has been hard to find up to now. The trend has been if you have hot water than there?s no pressure, and vice versa. It?s amazing how the simple things like water pressure come to mean so much to you.


From LeeAnn on Mar 3rd, 2008

Loving the hat Julie. You do make it look good!!