I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Colca Canyon, Peru

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Condors are ugly looking. Parental discretion is advised when viewing.

el Misti in the background in Arequipa

I did not start off well that first morning of my trek in the Colca Canyon. We had a 3 hour bus ride from Arequipa to the Canyon and I had too much pork (I know not possible right?) and booze in my system and 20 minutes into the ride, I had to pee, really bad. Oh yeah, it is 3:30 in the morning. I can do without that experience again. The Colca Canyon is located in the South of Peru whereas the ever popular Inca Trail and Cusco, is in the north. It is one of the deepest Canyons in the world so Grand Canyon, you are on notice, you have to step it up. The Colca Canyon is also home to many villages too as well as the Andean Condors. The Condors are the thing that busloads of people with SLR cameras and fanny packs come to see to get that one shot of the Condors. They are apparently endangered and have a huge wingspan and I admire its majestic qualities and all, but it is an ugly bird. We were lucky, going in late March which is usually a bad time to see the Condors but we were able to get a few shots of a couple flying around. Also while we were going back to Arequipa after the trek, another few by and I never seen people jump out of a van so quickly that was not on fire. Also, do not start shouting Condor at these tourist stop points, people do not appreciate it and apparently anger German tourist greatly as I found out. 

The trip starts out in Arequipa, where depending on whom you booked your trek with; you are picked up around 3am with others and driven to the Colca Canyon. With a stop for breakfast and Condor picture taking, we stopped literally in the middle of an empty road and that was the start point. Our guide Roy, was apparently not on the same bus as us and we had to wait for a good 10 minutes before he arrived, other than the awkward waiting around with two Frenchies that did not speak much English, Roy was a great guide. Roy was pointing out things about the Canyon and the plants and vegetation. He talked about the towns in the Canyon as well as how peopled lived there. 

The Canyon itself is beautiful and massive in which the cloud hovers in the Canyon walls. There is a mix of terrain from rich, fertile ground to dry cactus breeding desert. The people in the canyon are friendly as well as the kiddies who apparently after the 5th or 6th grade have to make the commute and stay in Cabanaconde for school. Coming home for the weekend is a bit harder when you have to climb in and out of the Canyon. There is this Oasis called the Sengalle in the Canyon that has pools that you can kind of relax and cool in. The water is from the mountains and besides the random waifs of mule shit, it is nice and refreshing to jump into. 

Sengalle- random swim hole and green stuff
The trek itself is a challenge and anyone that tells you otherwise is a liar or Ivan Drago. But again, a relative fit individual should have no problem in doing this trek. The only difficult part is the last day, getting out of the Canyon which is just a long way up. There is a bit of an altitude adjustment, it is about 3,000 meters so you need to watch out for that. Coca tea really does help and though it taste just as good as it looks: dead leaves. The taste is actually not that bad and it grows on you and the addition of sugar helps too. 

After the climb out of the Canyon, you do a bit of sightseeing and stop at a few touristy spots. I really say touristy because at one place, they were making pisco sours for the Gringos. There is also a stop at a hot springs but my group had no interest in it but others in our collective  bus did so be prepared to sit around for an hour.

Tips and Run down of the Trek:

1.       You can do this solo without a guide. But if you choose to go with a guide there are multiple tour companies that offer a trek in the Canyon. I went with Colonial Tours and I paid 160 Soles for a three day trek. You can do this trek in 2 days or if you want to go hardcore, do it in one. The three day is still a challenge and lets you linger and check out the towns in the Canyon in my opinion but to each their own.
2.       The trail is very Gringo friendly in which is nicely laid out and you have to be kind of dumb to get lost. Not much mud, but a lot of loose gravel and rocks.
3.       The canyon gets real cold at night and pretty hot during the day so pack accordingly.
4.       Similar to well, any trek a headlamp is a nice thing to have as there is no electricity
5.       You have the option of getting a mule to ride out of the canyon. Don’t. Everyone will laugh at you and call you a little bitch behind your back or to your face in multiple languages. Also if you are an American, don’t make us look bad.
6.       Food was okay. Lunch and dinner was soup and a plate of food. Nothing special, but not inedible, food to keep you going, I suggest snacks. Also, the last day you are horded to a Tourista Comida and have to eat at this all you can eat buffect place. You really have no choice, because there are no other food options around and you are 3 hrs out from Arequipa. It is 20 soles and the food kind of sucks. Lots of unknown fried stuff and watery stew thing and a disgusting rocoto relleno. Suggest loading up on the veggies and salad because they are made for Gringos and safe for Gringo stomachs.
7.       Went in late March, the weather was fine and rained one night for about an hour. Other than hearing land/rock sliding in the Canyon, thankfully on the other side of the Canyon it was fine.

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