One of the (many!) great things about volunteering in Arequipa is that there are some great outdoor adventures to be had right on your doorstep. Take Colca Canyon for example. It’s twice as deep as the Grand Canyon (…yes TWICE!), which is probably why it’s considered one of the deepest canyons in the world. So me and a couple of other Hoopsters set out to conquer the canyon and experience the incredible beauty it has to offer.
Bleary eyed, but excited we awoke at 2:30am, backpacks packed and hiking shoes on ready for the adventure that lay ahead. Little did we know what a wild adventure it would be. In fact, we hadn’t got far when the mini bus stopped with a jolt and our driver informed us that something was wrong with the vehicle. So off we got. After forging a few late-night roadside friendships with fellow trekkers, we finally got back on the road (or so we thought). Only a few minutes later, our car skidded to stop again – this time with two flat tires. Luckily we took these set-backs in our stride – and squeezed into a replacement bus for the remainder of the drive.
Fortunately we arrived early enough to see the huge and condors in flight and marvel at the deep ravine, before descending to the bottom of it on foot. On our way down, our guide, Roy, was enthusiastically pointing out which plants would make you sleep like a baby alpaca – or fly like a condor (although we didn’t try any). After four hours, we had made it to the bottom of the canyon, which is carved by a winding river and home to numerous small villages. It is at one of these quaint villages that we stopped for a delicious lunch to fuel us for the rest of the day’s trek. The owners of the restaurant were very hospitable – they even allowed all of us to fall asleep for a few minutes on their kitchen floor.
The scenery of the next portion of the hike changed drastically and we were surrounded by luscious vegetation. We passed through terraced farmland and ate some delicious fresh fruit. After a total of around eight exhausting hours, we arrived at the oasis – a small village of welcoming hostels tucked away in a deep and narrow section of the canyon. Our gorgeous hostel boasted a refreshing swimming pool and pisco sours (Peru’s amazing national drink), which were both welcome treats to our sore bodies. The oasis was a great place to relax with fellow hikers, carb-load for the next day, and share stories of our journey.
The next day started bright and early at 4:30 as we began our ascent up the canyon’s steep switchbacks. The sunrise was absolutely spectacular and provided the perfect excuse to stop every few minutes to watch as the canyon filled with color and catch our breaths. Climbing the switchbacks was no easy task, but definitely worth the effort. Along the way we met fellow travelers including a German man who had sported sneakers instead of hiking boots and had worn through the soles of his shoes. We adopted him into our group and passed the time by telling absurd riddles and encouraging each other to keep going. After four hours, we arrived at the top of the canyon exhausted, but joyous.
The satisfaction of accomplishing something so challenging was incredible. The view along the way and company of our fellow hikers could not be beaten resulting in an unforgettable experience that we will carry with us long after our time at HOOP is complete.
Words by Dana Belk