We woke at 3:30am this morning to catch a bus to the Colca Canyon. I have had a little bout of altitude sickness again, even though we are relatively not that high- 2335m above sea level. We’ve just trekked down into the base of the Colca Canyon in Arequipa, Peru- the world’s deepest canyon at 3000m and an area famed for its condors. It was an incredibly tough descent, scrambling, slipping and sliding down over the scree of the vertiginous mountain slope, it was just loose rock and fine sand the whole way to the bottom. My legs have become a wobbling, jelly-like mess. Regardless, we have passed a clutch of geriatric locals with overloaded mules and plaited hair skipping past us.
Lunch and a cushioned seat were calling. We stopped in the tiny village of San Juan de Chuccho just on the other side of the river at the base of the canyon. Lunch consists of alpaca meat and soup…soup is a basic food in Peru and comes with every meal….always delicious. After a bit of a rest and the slow but steady stiffening of our leg muscles from the descent we headed off up the mountain with our two guides. Our view is stupendous. Jagged mountain ridges and a blanket of grey green agaves and cactii drop down to a ribbon-like sliver of churning water. This section of the hike follows an ancient Incan aqueduct system which is still used today to supply the tiny high altitude mountain villages with fresh water. Every now and then we break and grab some tuna (read toena) which is cactus fruit, carefully de-spining them and devouring the sweet pink flesh. I am in love!
By the time we reach the top of the mountain (again), we’re heading up to Cosnirhua village and come past an incredibly old man scaling the steep mountainside with a heavy pile of wood tied to his back with some rope, he thinks he is 91 years old! The work ethic throughout the rural areas is relentless with every member of the society providing in some way until they are unable to do so. Cosnirhua (pronounced Coshneerwah) is the village where our guide Remy was brought up and we are staying with some distant relatives of his for the night. Cosnirhua is encircled by the belittling walls of the canyon and perched on a high plateau which looks out toward our final destination on the other side of the gorge. It’s a small (they all are) local village with incredible natural beauty, fed by the aqueduct which runs right through it, it’s lush and leafy, the homes are modest and the atmosphere peaceful.
We are completely exhausted after a full days hiking and I have worked out that our host Mauricio has a little shop selling essentials like soap, toothpaste and RUM! The sun has dipped behind the vast mountainscape which has turned a shade of pink, we have found ourselves a rock to sit on and are quietly sipping rum from little plastic cups. This is bliss.