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Colca Canyon |

We decided to keep up our fitness levels by doing a three day trek in the deepest canyon in the world - Colca Canyon. Its twice as deep as the Grand Canyon supposedly!

Well, I was expecting a long, narrow deep canyon but that was not the case. It has the Colca river running through it. It is really quite wide and lots of people farm in the form of agricultural terraces in it which are pre Hispanic terraces. What a climb it must be on a daily basis to farm the land. Your calf muscles would definitely be toned! Its mental to even think that people live here. In total there are 14 villages in the canyon and each as still kept its traditional culture. The women here dress a little different to those in Cusco in that they wear longer skirts with a brightly embroidered bodice and hat to match. We started our descent from one of the villages, Cabanaconde walking down 1000m to the base of the canyon on our first day. The highest point is 4600m from above the river. Quite high as you can imagine. Even though the vegetation was so green, the path was really dry and dusty so our descent was quite difficult in places as it was slippery. A completely different terrain to that of the Inca Trail. We had some Andean condors in the distance to entertain us as we trekked along. Will tell you all about them in due course.

Anyway, The views were great with lots of vegetation and in parts felt like we were walking through peoples gardens and farms with pigs and mules to greet us as we trekked on. After a final 15 minute hike up a steep hill in the dark by torch we finally made it to a local family home where we were put up for the first night. Basically we were sleeping in a shed, not even made out of concrete but mud blocks with mud and earth on the ground for carpet and the beds kept up by tree trunks and candles for light! Cool!

After a great sleep and a fab breakfast of pancakes and yogurt and rolls, we headed on our way. We passed the local church which only has a mass once a month, when the Priest from Cabanaconde comes to say it. If you get married here, you usually plan it with other couples as the priest has to make a special visit. Now I think you can get a feel for how remote a place I am talking about. There are no roads here in this part so most people use their mules to carry their bits and bobs and walk along the same tracks that we walked. They only leave their villages about once a month to go to Cabanaconde to stock up on supplies and to sell their produce. Bartering still exists here.

We trekked for about 3 hours, passing the many cactus and waterfall before we came to the highlight of our 3 days. An Oasis! Picture this. A pool, surrounded by palm trees with three waterfalls flowing into it with the canyon rising all around us! What a perfect way to relax. Paradise! The sun is really strong here so lots of lotion on for Julie! After relaxing for a few hours, we had to pull ourselves away to climb up to the top of the canyon again. Now that was a struggle. Far tougher than the Inca Trail. Three and a half hours of constant up hill in the scorching sun, with the odd farmer and his mules passing us out. I thought I would never reach the top. Definitely tough but we were rewarded by an amazing sunset as we got to the top. Well worth it. We made our way back to Cabanaconde and just as we were waiting on dinner we passed a butchers with pigs head propped up on the slicer for all to view. We were cracking a few jokes about it when I got this kick from behind. What was it only a sheep being held by the butcher on its way in for the slaughter. What a laugh. That butchers was the only building bar the pub open at 10.30 that night and was also open and 5.30 the next morning. Very bizarre hours!

Anyway, next thing I notice a stall with a stainless steel pot on the boil with a load of wild flowers sticking out of it! It turns out that the lady was selling a herbal drink that would make us strong. Eimear and I just had to have some. A great tonic after our tough trek today. She added a bit of this and that and produced this fab concoction. Really lemony and healthy. I live to tell the tale which is the main thing anyway.

After dinner, we decided to savour the local pub. Well, this was an experience. No sign anywhere. We walked through a double galvanise gate into a another mini street and eventually after hopping over this and that in the dark we follow the music to this door and open it and there it was! What a bar! Basically twice the size of your standard sitting room with a few plastic chairs and 3 tables at one side and the smallest bar counter in the corner with a portable TV, showing music DVDs and that was it.... The music was blaring. There were 2 bar staff on duty with no customers only us. What a laugh. Definately a bar with a difference....

The next day we headed off early to the Cruz del Condors to spot some condors. The Andean Condor is a type of vulture and is HUGE! Its the worlds heaviest flying bird of prey, from 9-11kg in weight and a wing span of 3m and is an endangered species even though they are still hunted by some tribes here. Yes, definitely big size and fly so elegantly! We sat and waited for the weather to get warmer as they rise out of the canyon the warmer it gets. I´ll be an expert on birds by the end of this trip!

After heading back on the bus and passing through a few more villages and great views of the agriculture around us we arrived at the best thermal baths ever. The water arrives at the baths at 85´C so they have to cool it down considerably for us. They were so so clean and used alot by local Peruvians which was great to see. We then sat back and relaxed as we drove back to Arequipa. The scenery was so different outside the canyon. Really mountainous and desert like. The scenery changes so quickly here...

Locations Visited: Cabanaconde

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