At 10,725 feet deep, Colca Canyon in Peru is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and pretty darn spectacular. Nate and I enjoyed a three-day trek into and out of the canyon with an amazing group. …And we’re not the types to book tours with groups. We’d much rather set out on our own, like we did in Torres del Paine, Chile on our ten-day hike and on the Salcantay Trial to Machu Picchu a few days ago. We love being in complete control of our plans and our pace. And we love the challenge and pride we feel at carrying all our equipment and cooking for ourselves. We’ve witnessed a few tours where all that fun is taken away – porters carry everything and all your meals are expertly cooked for you. For us, that takes the fun right out of it.
However, we were feeling stressed in planning for our upcoming solo Salcantay Trek (very few people do this without a guide and there’s not a ton of information out there), and because plans to volunteer at a local school fell through, we began planning for Colca Canyon with little advance. So we decided to book a tour. There weren’t any porters because we stayed at rural lodges. And the tours were relatively cheap to Colca Canyon. If we didn’t like our group, we figured, there were only three days we had to endure it.
We ended up with the best. group. ever.
And the best views ever.
The first night we stayed at a tiny, rural farm with some guest houses. I heard some chirping nearby and figured the little shed I saw was filled with chicks. Wrong.
Filled with guinea pigs. Not for our dinner, but for someone’s dinner for sure.
There was also a ton of fruit on the property, which our thoughtful guide Roger picked for us and taught us how to eat.
There was also a crazy blue and green eyed cat, which doesn’t have much to do with anything but we wanted you to see him.
Along the way on our second day, Roger taught us all about the local plants and their medicinal uses.
Eucalyptus was brought from Australia and has been very useful in preventing soil erosion in hilly areas since it has such strong and deep roots. It’s also awesome as a tea! We also saw a lot of agave, which is used to make tequila and rope because of it’s strong fibers. Some of the cactuses have parasites that have been used to dye clothing for centuries… and the faces of touristas.
Nate and I bought some sancayo (cactus fruit) from a man along the way and enjoyed it once we arrived at our second night’s lodging.
We also got to see the full moon rise while we were eating dinner and then sink below the horizon the next morning around 5am when we were hiking. Incredible timing and an incredible gift.
Colca Canyon and the surrounding Colca Valley is a stunning place. The valley is a never-ending patchwork of farms that grow quinoa, potatoes, and other vegetables. Our last day, we hiked up the entire canyon starting at 4:45am so we got to enjoy some great views from the top of the canyon for most of the day.
Another stop on the long way home was a little town to try some sancayo alcoholic beverages (at 11:00am), buy some local crafts and handmade clothes, and, of course, pose with a local bird of prey.
We ended our expedition in some natural hot springs, letting our bodies recuperate from the torture we just put them through! After a few hours’ drive were back in Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, where we began our journey. And because we couldn’t bear the thought of an evening a part from our awesome group, we made plans to go out together that night.
Little did we know, upon arriving back in Arequipa the water to the whole city would be shut off for 48 hours. No running water. Anywhere. So after a few days of not showering, we got a few more days of not showering. Which was rough. But at least we were all in the same boat.