Would be world traveler – Colca Cañon

In the summer of 2012, Husband and I went on a trip to Peru. It was our first time visiting South-America and we were not disappointed.

We journeyed from Lima to the jungle.

On the way, we found ourselves in the Colca Cañon. With a depth of approx. 3200 m (10700 ft.), it’s twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in North America and abolutely beautiful. The Colca valley is a colorful Andean valley, ideal for spotting condors, vulture like birds with a wingspan of easily 2 meters! If you’re lucky you can also spot the giant hummingbird, though they’re a bit harder to find.

We headed towards the  Colca Cañon from Arequipa in a run down minivan, a roadtrip of about 200 kilometers, passing beautiful scenery of mountains and volcanoes. For our first stop at the foot of the ‘Chachani’ volcano, we ascended up to 1600 m! We made a sanitary stop at a lonely café, 3900 meter above sea level.  Thankfully they served beneficial ‘triple tea’ (with coca, chachacoma and muña). We also chocked our guide, by explaining just how low above sea level Belgium is located.

 

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A little further we were able to spot vicuña’s. Belonging to the alpaca family, these are the wild variant and are rare these days. They have the softest wool, so naturally they are popular amongst poachers. In Peru though, I believe, they are protected.

 

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On this roadtrip to the Colca cañon, we would also be passing the highest point of our entire journey. The van made a small stop at 4900 meters above sea level, at the viewpoint ‘Patapampa’. Except for the bit of ‘pressure headache’ Husband suffered, we took it well. As long as we moved slowly end didn’t bend over too much!

 

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Eventually, we arrived in Chivay, a town in the Colca valley, 3600 meters above sea level. We were able to freshen up in our hotel, before we took a swim in the local thermal baths. A natural warm water source, La Calera, is used to fill up two or three large outside pools. The source itself is too hot of course, but the pools have a nice temperature of 39° C, hot enough for even Husband to take a swim! After this moment of relaxation, we enjoyed an evening meal in the town and drank a Colca sour, the local version of the ever popular Pisco Sour.

Our hotel:

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Chivay:

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The thermal baths:

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After a short night, we headed towards the actual valley at 6 in the morning. Off to see condors at the well known Cruz del Condor.

The little van took so many dangerous turns, but luckily the views were amazing so we were distracted. Upon our arrival at the Cruz del Condor, there were no condors to be seen. We were patient though and after a while, they started showing themselves: enormous birds, floating by us. Very difficult to take pictures, but so worth seeing.

 

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A hike along the rim of the cañon followed, to admire the fauna and flora. We felt really lucky when more condors showed up and even a humming bird made an appearance! The hike took us past rocks and fields and especially cacti. One cactus in particular carried a fruit, popular in the cañon. This fruit, the sancayo, looks a little like kiwi in the inside but tastes very sour. I ventured a taste and found it rather yummy! It’s this fruit that is used to make the  Colca sour cocktail.

 

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Sancaya:

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At the end of our  short hike (we were really sorry we hadn’t planned for a three day hike), we found ourselves at another viewpoint. Here, you have a breathtaking view of the valley. Our visit was not at the greenest moment of the valley, but the view still took my breath away. And it still does, looking at the pictures. I’m so in love with this place, I hope to revisit it someday.

 

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One word: ‘wauw!’

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If this cañon was not on your bucket list before, I hope it is now…

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