In true Latin American style, the 160km bus journey to Cabanaconde – the starting point of our Cañon del Colca adventure – took a lengthy 5 hours…
In true budget traveller style, we neglected to pay the 70 sol fee required to trek around the canyon…
We planned for a four day hike, taking in three towns along the way.
On the first day we headed to Llahuar. The 5 hour hike was mostly downhill as we dropped more than 1,200 metres in altitude. The directions we had weren’t the most informative, with just a a few lines of landmarks noted. The first step told us to pass the bull fighting arena, with little else more than this. To keep things super clear, the bull fighting arena was full of horses…
After having trekked so far downhill, my knees had basically given up on me by the end of the day. I was glad to finally arrive at the hostel that afternoon. We almost immediately headed down to the nearby thermal pools (a little nicer than our rest by the geysers earlier in the day).
As with all the hostels in the canyon, dinner was provided.
We’d gotten into a habit of asking about meals given my preferences against red meat, and my friend, Justin’s, hatred of fish. Here in Llahuar, we were assured we’d be eating a vegetarian meal (delish!). We should have known better…
When our main course of pasta came out, we found it was covered in tuna!!! Fortunately for me, I loveeeeee tuna! But my fish hating friend? He can’t stand it. The poor guy ended up passing his meal over to Jack (my other travel companion) and I, and managed to get an egg to eat instead – definitely not sufficient after all that walking!
It didn’t stop Justin from being the first ready the next morning though (read: every morning). Once Jack and I caught up, we finally started the trek up towards Fure – another 5 hours of walking, 600 metres of altitude regained.
This was the most difficult day for me! Having hiked downhill for so long the previous day, my knees were feeling the pressure, and it didn’t take long for everything else to get sore as we headed uphill!
The three of us, along with two Europeans, were the only foreigners staying in Fure. We spent the evening playing cards, and even attempted to teach some of the local kids the game! I don’t think they’d ever seen playing cards before. Two young boys of around 5 years of age took care of our discarded cards as we played, attempting to have their own game that looked somewhat similar to ours…
Day three took us back down 500 metres to Sangalle – also known as the “Oasis”.
The usual “up and down” walking across the canyon continued, however this time our destination remained in sight.
Just like our first night, Sangalle bought us a relaxing afternoon, with the town apparently built for tourists with a multitude of swimming pools ready for our enjoyment, surrounded by some pretty stunning views.
Arriving into Sangalle meant I was done with hiking. I’d decided to take a mule back to Cabanaconde from here – the best $20 I’ve ever spent!
I can only imagine that this last day was the worst for the two guys. We were aiming for the 9am bus back to Arequipa, and with a hike of 1,200 metres straight up, it was bound to be hard work.
The guys started heading up first thing in the morning, with my group on the mules starting shortly after.
Impressively, Jack beat my mule up, with Justin not far behind us. Both guys managing the trek in less than half the recommended time of three hours!
It was only here that we were finally asked for our tourist ticket – the one we neglected to purchase. And we managed to get out of it once again! Jack told the man we’d left it in our bags at the hostel. With a ‘deposit’ of 10 sols, he arranged to meet us before the midday bus. However, with the excellent timing of the guys, we made our 9am bus as planned!
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