The Deepest Canyon in the World
Colca Canyon is said to be the world’s deepest canyon. I had never even heard of it before entering Peru, but apparently more 120,000 tourists visit this canyon each year. Reaching a maximum depth of 13,650ft, it is roughly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, so when I was presented with the opportunity to hike to the bottom, I jumped at it…obviously.
Guided treks are somewhat of a new concept for me. This is the first time I have been alone wanting to go for an overnight hike, and the thought of being solo on the trail for days did not sound appealing. I didn’t need to do this hike guided, but I decided to book the 2-day trek for the ease and comfort of being in a group. (Tip: The more standard trek offer is for 3 days, but you really only need two – unless you have time to kill and a very good book to finish). So there I was at 3am, waiting for a bus to bring me to the deepest canyon in the world.
Around 7 in the morning, we stopped to have a typical South American breakfast of bread and jam before driving another hour to our trailhead. Along the way we stopped again to watch the Andean Condors (huge birds) swoop over head and down into the canyon valley.
Unfortunately, I don’t have much to say about the hiking of Colca Canyon. It was hot, dry and dusty. First we went down, then across through some villages, then switch-backed our way up the next day. Going back up was definitely the hard part and harder than the Inca Trail I hear, thank god. — Another amazing thing about South America is that almost anytime you find yourself thinking, “man, I could really go for a banana or some chocolate right now,” there is a little Cholita on street selling chocolate and bananas. — They didn’t give us breakfast before our 5am 4,000 foot ascent, so when I reached the crest of the canyon at 7:15 and saw a Cholita sitting at the top with a spread of cookies and fruit, I could have cried for joy.
What I will remember about this trek, however, is the Oasis. See that patch of green in the desert? That’s the Oasis. A small collection of mini resorts along the Colca River, complete with pool, bar and volleyball court. Completely random, but completely brilliant. After eight hours of tiresome hiking and inhaling enough dust to lose a lung, arriving at the Oasis felt like a miracle. A dip in the pool and a couple of rum drinks later, we were all feeling good after the long strenuous day in the canyon.
The hike ended the second morning with a stroll through some terraced corn fields, up to the town of Cabanacolca. There we had a proper breakfast (bread, jam and eggs), before carrying on to the hot springs, where we were given an hour to jump between five different naturally heated pools, each piping hot to a different degree.
Getting back on our bus, I was sore from the hike, but relaxed from the pools. When we arrived into Arequipa, I said goodbye to the friends I had made on the hike and quickly re-packed my bags. By 7pm that night I was headed for the coast. With some pampering by the nicest bus service I have ever experienced, Cruz del Sur, I was finally on my way to Paracas.