Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Cuzco to Arequipa
This was another overnight deal. Prices change by the minute. We first checked when we arrived in Cuzco and got a price range from 50-110 soles depending on company and class. We got to the station at 6.30pm and immediately found a bus for 25 soles (economic) or 40 soles (negotiated to 35 soles each for 2 people) for more comfortable cama (bed). We didn’t bother looking further and took the 35 sole option.
We got creative and took a combi to Plaza de Armas (0.75 soles / $0.30) instead of a taxi that range 10-15 soles for white skinned tourists. We walked about one street and found two hospedajes next door to each other with rooms for 30 soles ($10.80) including wifi and solar hot water. We chose Hospedaje Espinoza and maybe got unlucky but they seemed to like having some noisy nights in the courtyard, bring ear plugs.
Arequipa to Cabanaconde
The main reason for a stop in Arequipa was to do Colca Canyon. Think of it like the Grand Canyon, but in all honesty, not as impressive. It is famed for being one of the deepest in the world, but I don’t see how the maths works out and need more research or guidance. The portal town on top of Cabanaconde is 3,287m and the Oasis town on the bottom of Sangalle is around 2,260m. A simple calculation offers only a 1,027m drop. The major hiking routes certainly don’t seem to be touching the claimed maximum depth of 4,160m on wikitravel.
We took the 11.45am bus from Arequipa (it actually left at 12.15pm). It cost 17 soles ($6) each for the 6 hour trip.
In Cabanaconde we were greeted at the bus by the owner of Hostel Villa Pastor who offered a room for 30 soles including breakfast, wifi, hot water. It was located a 2 minute walk away on the Plaza and we didn’t waste much time thinking about it.
We found dinner again on the Plaza for 6 soles each at a friendly local eatery.
Cruz del Condor
This is on all the scheduled tours and is worth the effort. Take the 7am departing bus going back to Arequipa and pay 1 sole ($0.30) each to get to the viewpoint in about 30 minutes. Condors are most active from 7am-10am when the conditions for flying are best. The number of tourists here is truly astonishing and for us a number of loud mouthed people who couldn’t simple sit and watch these majestic animals in flight even when asked politely to be “tranquilo”.
We got lucky though with a number of Condors coming out for the show and gracing us with their presence. These creatures really are stunning. Wing spans upwards of 3 metres and just gliding through the air. When you watch them closely it’s amazing just the subtle changes in wing angle makes them climb, dive or turn.
What route to take?
We caught the 9.30am bus back to Cabanaconde and got on with the hike as quickly as possible to try and beat the heat.
We’d tried to choose a slightly off the tourist trail trek from what we read by going through Llahuar and up to Fure before coming back through the tourist saturated Oasis of Sangalle. Most tours seem to go through Cabanaconde -> San Juan de Chuccho -> Sangalle -> Cabanaconde in 3 days and 2 nights.
Cabanaconde to Llahuar (August 20, 2014)
[10.6km] [Elevation 3,280m -> 2,100m]
Our first point of interest was Mirador Achachiwa and a view down into the Canyon.
This set the scene for the day as we could pretty much see our end point and most of the trail. The hiking was hot as there was nearly no shade left by the time we’d started. Thankfully most of it was downwards hiking, but this presented its own challenges of loose ground and slipping. It took us nearly 3 hours to get down to the base and river with a bridge crossing. From here it was slightly uphill and just over 30 more minutes as we reached the Llahuar Lodge at nearly 2pm.
Since we were late, they weren’t serving lunch so we fell back on our bread and tuna for sustenance.
Accommodation would cost us 20 soles ($7.15) each including access to the hot springs. We knew about the hot springs here before arriving and were surprised at how good they were. The only people were the guests of the hostel adding up to maybe 10 people in total.
The place itself was well setup with a nice bar and restaurant area with some books and games to pass the time. Dinner cost 10 soles each and was typical Peruvian except it was vegetarian.
Llahuar to Fure – including Huaruro waterfall (August 21, 2014)
[13km] [Elevation 2,100m -> 2,900m]
The next day we were up early and on the trail by 6.30am with the aim of beating the sun. The estimated hiking times always seemed exaggerated but we were never sure. We made it to Fure in 2 hours 45 minutes including several rest stops. This had surprised us as it was suggested at somewhere around 4 hours or more.
Arriving into town it was very quiet. We would later find out that there are only 30 people living there and most of them work on the land during the day.
From what we can tell, there are two hospedajes in town. Costs were 15 soles per person plus 10 soles for a meal per person. We decided on a nice family run one and were very well looked after.
The extra optional hike here is to the Huaruro waterfall. This is about another 1 hour hike uphill but with good views of the area and no other tourists in sight.
We would have most of the afternoon to ourselves to enjoy some peace and quiet and just unwind.
Fure to Sangalle (August 22, 2014)
[10.4km] [Elevation 2,900m -> 2,270m]
We would again start early and be on the trail by around 6.15am. We wanted to beat the sun but also make the most of the time in the Oasis and at a swimming pool while the sun was out.
Some major roadworks in the canyon had been creating a lot of dust in the canyon in the days we had been there.
There is also some really impressive and big terracing up on top of the canyon near to the Oasis.
In under 2 hours of hiking we could see our final destination for the day. The only problem was that we didn’t know where the trail down actually started. In the end we know we missed the first turnoff but then found a second, but quite tricky entry towards a path.
It would take us another 1 hour 15 minutes to reach the first hostal at the bottom.
From what we can tell there are 5 different properties in the Oasis all offering much the same for roughly the same price. We were trying to stay away from where the big travel groups were staying, but had to guess at where that might be.
We settled on Paraiso Palmeras Lodge for 30 soles ($10.80) a night per room and a nice and semi shaded pool area with some hammocks. Meals cost 15 soles, but we skipped eating there.
We were in our swimming clothes by 10.30am and had the rest of the day to do whatever we wanted. Toby used much of this time trying to plan our next steps in Peru and Bolivia and working on his white sun tan without trying to scare the other guests. In the end 1 group of 10 people arrived just after lunch and another similar sized group arrived around 5pm. Thankfully it didn’t end up in a party crazy tourist night as we had to be up by 5am.
Sangalle to Arequipa (August 23, 2014)
[3.8km] [Elevation 2,270m -> 3,280m]
Alarms set for 4.45am and just a bit of time to pack our gear and eat a granola bar for breakfast. Other tour groups were already on their way up as seen by the white headlamps. We left around 5.15am and were soon overtaking people. It wasn’t a race but we wanted to be up before the 9am bus departed and hopefully get some breakfast before that. Toby’s competitive spirit was kicking in and impatience was rising as slow movers chose not to make way for us. Rodora had mountains of energy and was charging up the side of the canyon.
Lights were turned off quickly as the sun took over the darkness as early as 5.30am. Layers were then being shed as the temperature rose and the effort to climb got us hot and sweaty.
The endless switchbacks and the steep ascent took their toll on most people. We noticed some tour groups not carrying a thing and when asked they said they’d split the cost of a mule to carry their stuff. Other people were coming up on mules and passing by quickly. A slight feeling of resentment comes over you when you see people who can’t make a commitment to climb up for a couple of hours. There is already too much donkey/horse poo on the trail as it is without adding it further. Admittedly those with injuries or older people have an excuse, but for others it’s hard to justify.
The game of beat the sun became ever more intense as the shadows quickly disappeared and the sun hit us with full vengeance. It was almost impossible to determine how much further it was to go as there are no real reference points. We hadn’t come down this trail, so didn’t know exactly what was ahead.
It would take us the best part of 2 hours to get to the top and about 15 more minutes back to town.
We’d done it and it felt so good. Time to celebrate by finding a Peruvian breakfast (6 soles) and getting on the bus back to Arequipa (17 soles / $6).
The bus was full and there was a lot of seat shuffling. Toby had bought some bread and a slice of chocolate cake as a snack and we shared a KR lemonade soda to replenish some calories. Luckily we’d done this as about 25km out of Arequipa our bus struck trouble. The driver and conductor were both working underneath near the engine for somewhere around 30 minutes. Most of the other white tourists had vacated and were hitching rides or getting taxis. We sat patiently with all the other locals who knew it wouldn’t be long before we got going again. This was one of very few bus breakdowns we’ve had in our entire trip. The last one we clearly remember was needing to change a tire in a shuttle in Guatemala.
Colca Canyon is definitely worth doing. Try to get off the tourist trail if possible and do it independently. For those that are time poor, get on a tour, it’s cheap and no need to worry about anything. You’ll likely just get stuck in big groups of other tourists which is not exactly highly desired by us.
The Condor viewing point really is a must. These creatures are unique and really amazing.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/