Guest Post: Hiking Peru
Sam, a native of London, has been living a semi-nomadic life for the last four years, teaching English around Europe and travelling to Asia and the Middle East. Finally, after seven years together, his partner Zab joined him and they left on one-way tickets to Buenos Aires in January 2013. You can follow their journey on their blog Indefinite Adventure.
Hiking Colca Canyon, Peru
Despite being more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Colca Canyon in southern Peru isn’t nearly as famous as its little brother to the north. The best known part of the canyon, however, is the deepest point, Cruz del Condor, where you can regularly see Peru’s national bird: the condor.
From Chivay or Arequipa (the regional capital), it is possible to organise a tour into the canyon and down to Cruz del Condor, for one (extremely long) day or overnight, camping in the canyon.
For those preferring to do some easy hiking, there are numerous options around Chivay, the largest town around the canyon. The hike I have chosen to describe is a roughly 3 hour circular walk from Yanque, a town just a 20 minute bus ride from Chivay, and which takes you through a range of canyon landscapes and farmland.
Starting out from Chivay’s main square, walk a couple of blocks past the market until you find someone who can indicate to you where the minibuses to Yanque are. They leave when full (we only waited about 10 minutes on a weekday morning) and will charge you 1.20 Peruvian Sol per person (about £0.30). You’ll be dropped off in Yanque’s pleasant and tranquil main square, where this walk starts from.
With your back to the church, take the road at the right hand corner of the square out of town and towards the river. The road quickly becomes unpaved and you’ll start to get views of the terraced hills and the river down at the base of the canyon.
After about 20 minutes, the path will begin to descend and you’ll go down a well paved switchback with a handrail until you get to a red metal suspension bridge that crosses the river.
On the other side of the river, the reasonably narrow dirt path gradually ascends again until joining with a wider, more level and better worn path that you’ll follow for about an hour parallel to the river.
From there, you’ll get views of Yanque in the distance on the other side of the canyon and you’ll pass fields of sheep and alpacas. Shade is scarce if walking around midday, so make sure to wear a hat and sunscreen and bring plenty of water.
Soon the path will begin a gradual descent and across the river you’ll see the path that you’ll have to ascend in the opposite direction to return to Yanque. You’ll also notice that several other small bridges cross the narrow river at the bottom of the canyon, and if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you could take one of the steeper paths that turns off the main path to the left down to the river and cross earlier, making the hike a little shorter, but slightly more strenuous.
Otherwise, continue on the main path, following its steady descent until you reach a stone pedestrian bridge that is parallel to a yellow metal suspension bridge for vehicles. On the other side of the bridge are the Chacapi thermal baths where you can soak in the natural hot springs for a fee if you’ve remembered to bring your swimming costume!
From there, the gentle ascent back to Yanque is on a wide unpaved road shared with the occasional tour bus, so it can get a little dusty, but it shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes to be back in the main square, from where you can catch a bus back to Chivay.