We slept off and on during the 3 hour van ride to the canyon. It got somewhat cold during the ride – especially at the 16000+’ pass, so the blankets handed out at the beginning ended up being pretty useful.
Then we took the van 75 minutes to the Cruz de Condor. We spent about 40 minutes at the viewpoint, where we saw a few condors soaring above.
Then we traveled 15 minutes by van to Pampas San Miguel (near Cabanaconde), where our trek started by the soccer field. Two larger groups and two smaller groups seemed to be starting along with us today.
We walked downhill to the first bridge for about 2.75 hours. Unlike the Inca Trail, there were very few steps. Indeed, it was easy to slip on the loose rocks when going downhill. At the bridge crossing over the river, there is a ticket control. So, make sure you have your tourist ticket (purchased at the entrance of Colca Canyon) or you will probably have to buy a new one. Katie was surprised about the number of landslides that had occurred in the canyon.
We crossed the bridge and then walked uphill and then through some fields to get to San Juan de Chuccho, where we stopped for lunch. We each had a noddles and vegetables soup, lomo saltado de alpaca with fries and rice, and grenadilla (like a sweet passion fruit). A lady cooked our entire meal on a wood or coal fired stove.
After lunch, we walked down to the second bridge and then uphill to another village, Cosnirhua. Along the way we saw a cool irrigation canal carved into the side of the cliffs very long ago (~700 ad) and they still work. Juan Carlos explained the origin of Colca (combination of two family names) and how “Tambo” would be a more appropriate name for the canyon. The word tambo refers to secret storehouses built into the rocks. Juan Carlos also explained the different colored flags hanging on some trees: (1) blue flags indicate trees whose fruit has been tested and is safe to eat (2) yellow indicates fruit that needs to be cleaned/sanitized before eating or being harvested and moved to a different region and (3) red indicates fruit that should not be harvested or eaten due to parasites.
Cosnirhua is supposedly the cheapest place to buy more water. We bought one 2.5-liter bottle for 8s and another elsewhere for 7s. Then we walked along a new 4×4 and truck road that was being built to connect these villages to Cabanaconde (currently, the only connection is via hiking and mule paths). Juan Carlos said these villages are already decreasing in population, and kids have to move to Cabanaconde for secondary school – although the road will make it easier to move supplies, it may substantially change life in the canyon (as well as tourism – why trek if you can ride in?).
As we walked along the road that was being constructed, we often had to walk over piles of dirt and past a few construction machines. Finally, we got back onto a normal trail and began to walk down towards the Oasis. We walked past crops and a soccer field before going down switchbacks to get to the third bridge. On the way down the switchbacks we could see three pretty waterfalls. From the bridge, we had to climb upward for a short while before reaching the Oasis.
There are a couple different lodges in the Oasis. We stayed at Paraiso Lodge. Our room was in a block of rooms close to the river. We got a queen room, which also had two shelves for drying things, a trashcan, and a candle holder. The walls were a combination of rock and thatch – the room certainly did not even attempt to keep bugs out. Luckily the lodge was pretty empty and we were the only people in our block of room. But there are thatch windows between the rooms, so do not expect privacy or quiet if you stay during busy season.
Immediately after arriving, we changed into our bathing suits and went to “ice” our legs and knees in the pool. The original idea was to actually get in, but it was just too cold. As it was getting dark (and the bugs started coming out), we went to the room to clean up and change. We ended up getting in bed – both for warmth and as protection from bugs. With a candle lit for light, it was pretty nice… and we ended up falling asleep!
We were supposed to go to dinner at 7:30pm, but we woke up at 7:38pm, so we were a bit late to dinner. We had vegetable soup with chicken (we guess), vegetables and rice for dinner.
After dinner, we went to our room, packed what we could, and quickly went to sleep. We both slept extremely well without earplugs. The bed was comfortable and it was great listening to the river.