The Colca Canyon

Posted: June 11, 2013 in Peru, South America

After a very comfortable overnight bus ride from Cusco to Arequipa, we bought a ticket to Cabanaconde, a tiny little town in the Colca Canyon, a Peruvian hot spot for Andean Condors and great hiking in the second deepest canyon in the world (for those that are wondering, the deepest is Cotahuasi, also in Peru).  We hopped on, excited to get to our final destination after 36 hours of travelling.  Little did we know how badly the next few hours would go!

The drive started off innocuously enough, with the driver cruising through the outskirts of Arequipa.  As we headed further from town, the Son of Satan (sorry, the bus driver) decided that it was important that we tested out all facets of the 20-year-old plus bus, and started to perform manoeuvres that I have also performed (albeit in a race ready, small car).  To make this more exciting, we were descending into one of the world’s deepest canyons, with the margin for error being unforgiving, to say the least.

After an exciting descent from 4,900+ metres to the largest town in the Canyon, the best it seemed was yet to come.  It was obvious that the Son of Satan had been given a large drink of Pisco, and instructions that a new land speed record needed to be set in the Canyon.  This was truly exciting, my highlight being when we came around a blind corner, with nothing but a 1000m plus drop off to our right hand side, and were faced with a slow-moving lorry coming in the other direction.  It is difficult to describe the feeling of a fully laden, old bus locking up all four wheels on loose gravel, and sliding toward inexorable death.  For those that have had the pleasure, I salute you, but at 37 years of age, it is just not fun anymore!

After surviving another 30 minutes or so, a new twist to the joy was added, as the Son of Satan accelerated(!) on to the dirt road(!).  Where did the asphalt go????

Another ten minutes of this (including a run through an unlit natural tunnel where any oncoming traffic would have had all 54 passengers dead), and I had decided that enough was perhaps enough.  We hopped off, after I let the Son of Satan know what I thought of his driving skills.  This was the view we were afforded:

Good to be alive!

Good to be alive!

A walk that we had planned to do in the next couple of days, from the most popular Condor viewing spot to Cabanaconde, was brought forward.  15km later, whilst enjoying a beautiful hike, we arrived 38 hours after leaving Puno to a beautiful little hotel in Cabanaconde.

We spent a pretty chilled next couple of days in and around town, I think my heart rate even dropped below 200bpm on day three….

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Inspired scenery, a good cold beer, and great eats, made Cabanaconde well worth the excitement of approach.  We wrangled our way on to a tourist bus on the way back to Arequipa, normally against all my principles of travel, in this case welcomed as we eased out of the death trap 🙂  The views were astounding (and much better at less than 150km/hr).

Incan terraces

Incan terraces

Mirella even found a new friend on the way back to Arequipa.

Is there something on my hat?

What, is there something on my hat?

We ended the trip at the highest point we have ever been….

Volcano city...

Volcano city…

Who, me?

Who, me?

Not a bad view

Not a bad view

need more oxygen!

need more oxygen!

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