Our next day out from Cabanaconde was a trip to the bottom of the canyon! Yes, we were going to venture in! 🙂 The Colca Canyon is supposedly the 2nd deepest canyon in the ENTIRE WORLD! (3270 metres deep) (but I guess it depends on how you measure it?) Yes, but luckily for us, Cabanaconde is not at the deepest part…
Still, it was deep enough to make for quite a hard trek – we were going down to a place called Sangalle – also known as the ‘Oasis’ – because the Colca Canyon is extremely dry, and Sangalle is right by the river and very green.
The starting point of the trail is a pleasant 15 minute walk from Cabanaconde, but after that it’s DOWN, DOWN, DOWN all the way. Cabanaconde is at 3287m above sea level, and the Oasis is at around 1950m. Yes, this means a descent of over 1300m (and therefore an ascent of 1300m as well) – yikes! It is supposedly a 7km return walk – but I’m not sure if they have measured all the switchbacks in the trail?! 🙂
When you go up a mountain, you do all the hard work first – so you get to the top, eat lunch, and then have an easy stroll back down again. The problem with a canyon, is that you go DOWN first, then eat lunch, then you feel very full and tired and you have to climb out in the hottest part of the day…
So, going down was all nice and easy – it is a very steep trail though, and a bit hard on the knees. The other problem with going down first thing in the morning, is that the standard tour group itinerary has an overnight stay at Sangalle, and then they all hike up starting at 5am (yes, no thanks…) So as we started our descent, we were confronted with around a hundred people struggling up the trail…(made up of different tour groups, spread along the trail). Also, for people who can’t physically make it up the trail, donkeys are provided – so as well as a hundred or so people, there were 20 or so donkeys charging up the trail as well… yes, so the first 45 minutes or so were not so relaxing. But on the plus side, all the tour groups follow exactly the same itinerary – so after around an hour we had the trail to ourselves for the rest of the walk.
When we finally arrived at the Oasis, it wasn’t that exciting to be honest! It consisted of two or three areas where you can buy cold drinks, some swimming pools, and some cabins for rent. We had imagined having our picnic by the river – but the river was still WAY below the oasis, with steep cliffs up the side.
We were glad to be able to get an ice-cold drink though! 🙂
We decided to head for the bridge over the river, around 15 minutes walk past the Oasis, to see if we could find a nice riverside lunch spot. We found the bridge and the river was very pretty – but there was no way to get down to the banks of the river, so we contented ourselves with lunch in the shade by the bridge – still overlooking the river – so not too bad! 🙂
Back at the Oasis, it was time to start the long, hard ascent back to the top. It had taken around two and a half hours to get to the bottom – we figured it would take longer to get back out! It was early afternoon and the sun was beating down hard – there was almost no shade on the trail…. it was a HARD and TIRING walk back up – in the end it took almost 4 hours to get out of the canyon…!
Once we were out of the canyon, we enjoyed our 15 minute stroll back to town – although the trail which we thought was ‘flat’ when we came down it this morning, seemed to be very hard work this time around! 🙂
In the end it was great walk – but one of those walks where the journey is better than the destination! 🙂