When I asked Renzo, our friendly host at Arequipay Backpackers about the 3-day Colca Canyon hike advertised on their Tours board, he was surprised. He encouraged us to consider the one-day visit to the canyon rim advising that the trek to the bottom of the canyon would be too much for our boys.
Doubtful, I asked his wife Evelin’s opinion as she was passing by. Knowing that we’d just completed the Inca Trail, she disagreed with her husband “Oh, no, you’ll be fine. You should do it. It’ll be fun for your boys.”
4:30am the next morning found us in a mini-bus trundling out of Arequipa. The boys were stunned that we’d booked another trek so soon after the Inca Trail. It’s a testament to the way that travel warps my sense of time that I was confused as to why they were so irate until I realized that it hadn’t even been a week since we’d finished one trek and now here we were starting on another. Ah well, it was too late to change our minds now.
The Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world. On the 3-day trek, you hike down into the canyon on the first day and along the canyon floor in the morning of the second day. You get to spend the rest of the second day relaxing by an oasis – with a swimming pool – which is just as well because the third day starts really early (5am) so that you can hike all the way out of the canyon in the cool early morning.
I have never, ever felt as dusty as on that first day’s hike. Even BigB complained – and he rarely complains about anything. The trail is not difficult, with plenty of switchbacks to ease the steepness of the path but the terrain is mostly loose shale. I found it terrifying if only because my boys frequently ran on ahead and there were many times where I was sure they would slip on the stones and end up rolling head-first down the side of the mountain. Thankfully that didn’t happen and we reached the village for our late lunch without even a scratch. After lunch, it took about an hour to walk to our overnight accommodations at a second village.
Even the boys rated the hike along the valley floor to the oasis on the second day as super-easy. The swimming pool came into sight within the first half hour and was the perfect goal for them to focus on as we made our way along the path.
I knew that the trek up from the valley floor to the ridge of the canyon on day three was going to be tough for BigB. We split up, with Murph and CAM going ahead and BigB and I taking plenty of breaks as we turned along each switchback. CAM needed to keep moving and focus on getting to the end as quickly as possible. BigB works best with short, visible goals and plenty of encouragement: “Do you see that big rock ahead buddy? We’ll take our next break there.” Initially the canyon was cold, the sun not yet high enough in the sky to warm the path but as we continued higher and the morning progressed we started to feel the heat of the sun as we turned uphill. It was a constant reminder to keep going and get to the top before the sun fully crested the canyon’s edge.
We made it. Murph and CAM finished the hike in two hours, BigB and I arrived just twenty minutes or so later – not too far behind the other members of our group.
I hadn’t even heard of Colca Canyon before we got to Arequipa. Now, I’m surprised that more people don’t know about because, what with an oasis and pools and hot springs, it’s a perfect hiking weekend.
Information on traveling to Peru with Children.