Thursday 9th -Saturday 11th August Cañon del Colca
6am pick up this morning and we were heading by private car to the second deepest canyon in the world, The Cañon del Colca, about a 5 hour drive away even higher up into the mountains. We had the private car and driver though so that we could stop off where we liked for Nick to spot some of the birds endemic to the region. The scenery around was amazing, with views of El Misti volcano and the iced capped mountains around, and as we got higher and higher, the views became more and more stunning – with the desolate landscape stretching out before us. We were able to see llamas, alpacas and the rare vicuñas in the pastures as midday approached, they were looking for water in the small lakes that had been frozen overnight and thawed in the bright sun of the day. Still it was pretty cold, particularly at about 4900m where we stopped for Nick to find a rare bird that can only be seen in that particular part of the world at altitude. I felt a bit of pressure in my head from the altitude and everything was super dry, particularly my mouth and nose! We made a stop at the Los Andes Mirador – where we were able to see about six of the surrounding volcanoes of the region. It´s amazing to think that so many volcanoes exist in such a relatively small area – and their heights are huge too with many over 6000m in height.
We stopped off at the Mirador de Condors and got some great first views over the canyon but unfortunately didn´t see any Condors as it was a little bit late in the day for them. Finally we arrived at the town of Cabanaconde where we were able to leave our big packs and set off with our small ones down into the canyon. The first day hike was about 4 hours and we didn´t set off until about 3pm which had the locals slightly worried! We did hike the last bit in the dark but arrived at our accommodation –Llahaur lodge at 7pm just in time for dinner and a pisco sour! The walk down was lovely as the sun set behind the walls of the canyon. We descended about 1km and I was a little bit worried about getting back up to the top – but that was a problem for the following day.
We found out that the lodge had a lovely hot springs so we had a pre-beakfast soak in the springs before heading out on our second day of walking. I was feeling a lot better today, more accustomed to the altitude and enjoyed the hike back up the other side of the canyon to a viewpoint and then back down into the canyon to our stop for the night at a place called the Oasis! The place had a pool so we were able to enjoy the last of the day´s sun while having a swim and reading a book, some rare downtime on the trip! We had a nice communal dinner and then early to bed as we needed to begin climbing up the steep track back to Cabanaconde by 5am to make our 9am shuttle back to Chivay and then on to Puno.
We were up and walking by 5am. At first it was really dark, but soon the sun started to rise over the canyon and we could see the massive walking task that was ahead of us – 1km of elevation gain over 3 hours of walking! It wasn´t as steep as I´d expected though – the track from the other side of the canyon looked impossibly steep, and once I got into a rhythm the going was pretty straightforward. The changing scenery was also stunning as the sun rose and helped to keep my mind off the pain! In no time at all we were at the top enjoying the view and a well deserved hot chocolate! We didn´t have a lot of time to rest though, we had our bus to catch to Chivay at 9am – so we made it back to our luggage with only time for a quick change of clothes and it was on to the tourist shuttle to Chivay where we would make our connection with another tourist bus that would take us to Puno. The first shuttle stopped off at a mirador and then some hotsprings that were totally overcrowded. We decided to have a swim in the river instead which was much more refreshing and free! We then had lunch at a tourist buffet restaurant before being ushered onto a larger bus that would take us to Puno, making a couple of stops, once again at the Mirador de los andes – where this time we were able to see the volcano Sabancaya erupting in the distance which was awesome! We also drove by a lake where we could see some flamingos in the distance and stopped for a snack at a place where Nick was bitten by a dog – which meant that he needed to head to the hospital in Puno to get some vaccinations against rabies.