We pull in to Arequipa at 5am. In his tired state, Daniel turns to me and asks “what are doing here again?” Surprise! Another hike!
After an incredible 3 weeks in Cusco, we were pretty wrecked and hiked / trekked / anything-using-legs out. So when Daniel asked what we’d be doing in Arequipa, there was no easy way to say “a 3 day hike down and then back up one of the deepest canyons in the world.” Arequipa is a very pretty and quaint little town around 9 hours south-east of Cusco and the hotspot for getting to the Colca Canyon – a canyon that is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and home to the Andean condors.
We’re picked up at 3am for the 3 hour bus ride to our breakfast stop before driving another hour to the Condor’s crossing and then divide into our walking groups. We begin our descent with view of the promise land aka “The Oasis” ie a hostel with a pool at the bottom. You’d think that descending into a canyon would be easy, I mean we’re just going downhill, but it isn’t. The Peruvians are next level walkers so the path is rocky, slippery, often very steep, in the heat and about 20% of it is uphill. We arrive at The Oasis just before lunch on day 2 and celebrate with a lovely swim in the pool.
That evening, Daniel goes on the prowl for walking sticks to help us get through the 3 hour uphill hike the next morning. Our guide tells us that the fastest person made it up in an hour and 45 mins and the slowest in 7 hours. I’m a pretty slow walker so this starts to worry me. The canyon is hot and mildly humid so we get up at 4:30am to begin our hike and it is literally ALL uphill from there. It’s in times like these that you begin regretting choices. No, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I contemplate taking the mule up a few times but my pride doesn’t allow it. After 2 hours and 45 minutes, we make it to the top and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment takes over. We did it!! Almost immediately, we forget about the strenuous walk and focus on the incredible landscape around us. Our last stop is a much needed soak in some hot springs (as hot as 75 degrees celsius) before making our way back to Arequipa.
Yes, it was tough. Yes, I wanted to give up. But damn, it was worth it.