I got up by 2.45 am today. When we travel we need to do that sometimes. Maybe to catch a flight, or like in my case to catch a condor, flying above the Andean's sky. Where am I? I’m in a bungalow at Sangalli Oasis; this is the heart of the majestic Colca Canyon, Arequipa region, in south-east Peru. It’s been a long and extremely tiring trekking day. But it was awesome.
The Incas considered the condor as the most sacred bird. Its large size and ability to travel long distances – from Lima to the Andes, for example – are some of the reasons why the Incas believed it to be the messenger for the heavens. It was one of the most scared animals in their eyes, because of its connection to the divine. It was considered the connection between the earth and skies and was believed to carry the dead on its wings to the afterlife".
Buses that go to the Colca Valley leave every 30 minutes from the central bus station. There are three or four companies, which are all the same in terms of price and quality. After four hours crossing Andes landscapes, you can finally arrive in Chivay town (at 3550 meters above sea level), capital of the valley, and one hour and a half later, the bus stops at Cruz del Condor viewpoint. There, surrounded by a hundred gaped tourists, I saw the flight of a group of fifteen condor andinos. In the Andes, the condor is considered a divinity, since it represents the "world from above". A miracle of nature, a spectacle that touches even the most distracted person. Colossal.
Next stop is Cabanaconde, the second largest town of the valley after Chivay. In its small main square, the road that goes to the canyon is now clearly pointed. First stop, the San Miguel viewpoint. The view from there is simply magnificent! In fact, this breathtaking canyon is the second deepest in the world. The adventure just starts over here; 2 hours of trekking in 1050 meters of negative decline (If you have bad knees you shall avoid this challenge). On your way down you'll bump onto the Sangalle Oasis (at 2100 meters above sea level). Stuffed with hostels and bungalows, this place is really beautiful. The food there is ok and the prices are average. The sky though is probably among the prettiest skies I’ve ever seen. Thank you holy Pachamama (Mother Earth). Keep in mind that this is a very cold place at night, so it’s good to have warm clothes.
It’s advisable to sleep early as the next day, when you need to go back to Cabanaconde, the 1300 meters of ascent are going to be even harder. Try to take the way back at around 5 am, when it is still dark, otherwise the bright sun could be big trouble for your exhausted body. A short visit to the picturesque capital of the Colca Valley before heading back to beautiful Arequipa city, is no doubt recommended. If you are dreaming about immersing yourself into this unbelievable canyon I must warn you: It’s difficult, it’s hard, but at the same time it’s charming, it’s beautiful and it’s worthy. More than once, when I was in the middle of the mountains I stopped, looked at the horizon, took a breath and just said: "oh man, this is gorgeous". Oh yes, I've forgotten to mention that a tour or a guide is totally unnecessary in Colca Canyon. The trails are very easy to follow; after all, you will meet locals and travelers all the time, since the whole area is a paradise for trek lovers. However, beginner trekkers may find the trek a bit tough, but well, you've been warned!
Cover Picture © Credits to iStock/kovgabor79
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