With real life to face on the horizon, it's hard not to start seeing everything as a 'last'. Our last night bus, our last city, our last meal, our last ancient ruins...it could go on forever!
Not only have I done lots of lasts in our few days in Mexico, but in the last few months I've checked off a lot of superlatives. The best, the biggest, the highest and today I'm going to share our experience of the deepest. Colca Canyon in Peru is the deepest canyon in the world.
We left the sickness behind us (for a while) in Puno, and caught a mini bus to Chivay. I would highly recommend the bus company we took from Puno to Chivay. It was called 4M Express, turned out to be cheaper than other bus services from the station, will pick you up from your hotel and throws in a packed lunch for you too! Not bad. There were some amazing views through the national park on the way and the driver kindly stopped to let us grab some pictures.
We had a few minutes in Chivay to grab a cup of coffee before we had to take the most hectic bus we've EVER taken to Cabanaconde, a tiny town on the edge of the canyon. The only advice I can give about the bus between Chivay and Cabanaconde is to be there early, we waited 2 hours in the pouring rain. If you start a queue, don't expect the locals to take any heed of it as soon as the bus actually pulls up and be prepared to RUN for the door! Old, decrepid doesn't give you a free ticket to a seat either. In hindsight it was actually a very funny experience.
When we got to Cabanaconde we settled into the hostel Pachamama for the night. This was a really nice hostel, decently priced and the restaurant did AMAZING pizzas. Got to carb load for the hike the next day!
As we were on a tight schedule we decided to take the short route, the 2 hour descent to the Oasis, spend the night there and then take the same path up the next day. I am in no way an experienced hiker, and I would say my level of fitness is average, so this was perfect for me. The walk down actually turned out to be physically harder as I have terrible knees thanks to my Roller Derby days and constantly walking down hill was quite hard. The way up was more of a mental challenge, which Nick helped by using chocolate to motivate me! Cañonazo to the rescue. If you ever find yourself in Bolivia or Peru I really think you should treat yourself to one of these chocolate bars!
The views on the way down were absolutely stunning from the beginning. We had to walk through farmers' fields to get to the start of the trek. They were so green and completely contrasted with the dry rock we had to climb down. The sun was shining, the river was gushing below us and every now and then we would catch a glimpse of the Oasis sat right at the bottom. It's green palms blowing in the breeze and the blue water of the pools kept sparkling, and sometimes this was the only thing that would keep me going!
The Oasis at the bottom was such a nice reward. We stayed at the hostel called Paradise. We pre paid before at Pachamama, but we found out we paid a substantial amount more by doing this, so it is better just to turn up. We had a lovely cabin to ourselves, the owner, Gladdis cooked us lunch when we arrived and we spent the afternoon swimming and sunning ourselves. There is no electricity down there so it's important to take a torch, as the sun sets on the canyon around 7pm, and after that there is no light. It was fun to sit around the dining room with everyone making their own entertainment by candlelight. Followed by a nice early night to rest ready for the morning's climb!
The way back to the top was hot and sweaty but we were blessed with cloudy weather and a light shower to cool us down. It felt like we were never making any progress, as I had markers that I remembered on the way down, then all of a sudden we were on a flat and the ranger was welcoming us back to the top. I have to admit I did feel pretty smug with myself!
If you decide to trek the canyon too, here are some little bits of advice I would give:
- Definitely do it! It was one of my favourite things that we did in Peru.
- Leave early to beat the hot sun, I would have really struggled on the way back if the sun had been beating down on us.
- Take a torch if you're going to stay in the Oasis as there is no electricity after sun down.
- If you're travelling from Chivay to Cabanaconde, get to the bus station early and be prepared to get jostled a little!