13.02.2006 - 15.02.2006
After a week in Arequipa our younger daughter Mia, age 23, arrived with her boyfriend. In a few days, we left for Colca Canyon, said to be twice as deep as Grand Canyon. It is dotted with Indian villages on both sides and high snowed capped volcanos such as Ampato, 6288M.
The bus ride took us through a vicuna reserve, high on the empty Altiplano. We could see a number of these animals which resembled small llamas as we drove past. On the way to Chivay, 3600M, we had to go over a high snow covered pass. Near the top, we heard the brakes squeal and the bus shuddered to a stop. Right in front of us was an enormous boulder that had rolled down onto the road, partially blocking it. Luckily the bus did not go over the cliff, which was not far from the front wheels. Several people got off and tried to help the driver push the rock off the road, but to no avail. After about a half hour of tricky maneuvering the driver managed to get around it, and we were able to continue on our way. Yusef, our daughter's boyfriend, had his eyes wide open in fear and amazement at the vagaries of mountain bus travel in Peru.
We got to Chivay at dusk. From here it was another two hours on a dirt road to Cabanaconde, our destination. To me this was the scary part of the trip, as it was almost dark and misty, with huge drop offs into the canyon. Our driver, seemingly anxious to get home, was in no mood to slow down. We eventually arrived safely, and found our man from the hotel in the main plaza, as promised. He led us a few blocks up a side street to the Posada del Conde. The food was terrible, but the room was not bad.
We got up early and started our trek down the canyon. The trail was steep, but relatively wide and easy to find right at the edge of town. In the morning it was cool, and the mist covered up the canyon bottom to that we could not see the river 3000 feet (900M) below.
Everything was green and lush looking as this was still the rainy season. It took us about three hours to get to El Paradiso, a little “resort” with tiny and primitive thatched roof huts, an open air restaurant, and a beautiful hot spring pool built into the rocks nearby.
We were the only visitors and after a simple spaghetti lunch, spent several hours swimming in the springs and sunbathing.
While we swam, the owners took a video of us which they intended to use as an ad for other gringos.
Our daughter Mia and Yusef
It was a very different climate zone down here, almost tropical, with palm trees, bright flowers, and birds chirping in the trees. The river was below, boiling and roiling in ferocious rapids at the bottom of the gorge.
The huge rock walls were pink and and brown with little vegetation other then a green bush or yucca here and there. It was hard to motivate ourselves to leave Paradiso for the long hike back. At this point, we wished we had brought our packs with us so that we could spend a couple of days here. When we finally started back at 3, it was much hotter than earlier in the day. The going was slow as we continued up, puffing in the thin air as we got higher. It took 4 to 5 hours to make it to the rim.
Outskirts of Cabanaconde, Near Trailhead
Next morning with left for the Mirador, a lookout about half way to Chivay, an important location for spotting Condors.
There was a small crowd of tourists there and several ticket collectors who tried to hit each of us up for a few soles for the priviledge of standing at the top of the gorge to look for birds. We managed to evade them, but the only condors we saw were so far away that they didn't seem impressive. Back in Chivay, we took a collectivo to La Calera , the hot springs outside of town. It looked like a regular swimming pool, but we had it all to ourselves, and after the long hike the day before, was just what we needed to relax. After soaking for a while, we had to run out when a thunderstorm crashed overhead. Then we rode the bus back to Arequipa before setting out for another long ride to Puno.