A friend and I went to Peru for two weeks back in 2018 (check out my itinerary here) and one part of the trip we were so excited for was an overnight hike in the Colca Canyon. The Colca Canyon is about a 3-hour drive from the city of Arequipa.
This canyon is big. Like, REALLY big. We’re talking twice the depth of the Grand Canyon here – 3,300 meters deep at some points.
The hike was going to take us right to the bottom of the canyon, where we’d sleep overnight, and then hike back out the next day.
I was really excited for this trip. I even bought new hiking boots and hauled them around in my backpack for the entire trip. I was also nervous. While I like hiking, it is quite the steep hike, and I read horror stories online about mean guides who would just leave the slow hikers behind in order to catch the bus back to Arequipa. I did not want to be said slow-poke.
Anyways, we were excited. What an experience! So, after a few days exploring Arequipa, we joined our tour. We left at 3am in the morning. Yes, you read that right – 3am. As we were leaving the city at that time, there were still tons of people out partying from the night before. We actually picked up two of them to join the tour – they hadn’t slept all night and I think were regretting their decision to sign up for a hike.
I was tired, but the scenery was super gorgeous to look at. About half way into the 3-hour drive, my friend taps me on the shoulder and is like, “I don’t feel good.”
Uh-oh. “Don’t feel good, how?” I asked.
“Maybe food poisoning.”
Oh boy. This was not going to be good. She assured me she could wait until we were at the next rest stop… she didn’t want to be “that person” who makes the entire bus stop for her.
And then I started feeling not-so-great. Something in my stomach just wasn’t quite right. This is really not starting to look good.
We arrived at El Mirador Del Condor (a lookout where you can see these famous huge birds, Condors) and we ran. Like RAN to the bathroom. Who cares about the birds, we gotta go! It became clear pretty quickly that we were not going to be able to hike for hours into a canyon without proper *ahem* facilities along the way.
So, we had to pivot and make new plans pretty quick. We could either get on a bus and head back to Arequipa, or we could stay overnight in the tiny town at the edge of the canyon – Cabanconde – and meet up with the group the next day. We decided on option #2, because why not? Always up for an adventure!
We said goodbye to the group, and checked into one of the only hotel options. It was, um, simple, I guess. Very, very simple. Clean enough, but super basic. We were grateful for a fully working toilet and beds to rest on. After a few hours, we were actually feeling a lot better. At least better enough to go out and explore the town. To this day, I’m not sure what ailed us – it was like a weird 6-hour bug, but that’s all. I’m so grateful we recovered enough to explore the area.
The town of Cabanconde is small, quaint-ish, and quite interesting. It did feel like a taste of “real” Peru, because it was so small and not very tourist-friendly. In fact, at the little tourist info centre, I asked the host, “Hola, hablas ingles?” (do you speak English?) – her answer? “No.” Many people who work in the tourist industry know at least a little English, but here I had to use my broken Spanish to get some answers about a few walks and trails in the area.
My friend and I set off on a trail to check out the canyon views. It. Was. AMAZING.
We were standing right at the edge of this amazing canyon, vast and huge. Simply stunning.
After taking tons and tons of pictures, we just sat there, at the edge of the canyon and took it all in. There was not another soul in the world near us. Just us and that amazing canyon.
We spent the rest of the day just wandering around, taking in the sights of the canyon and the town. We bought bananas and peanuts from a little store for dinner (figured that would be safe on our poor stomachs) and went to the hotel to watch the one English-speaking channels on TV before going to bed early.
The next morning, we met up with our tour group, had breakfast, and headed back to Arequipa. The people on our tour told us that it was a good hike and they managed to set record time getting back! It was a group of super sporty people, so I was not surprised by this. 100% I would have been the slow poke in the group… I would have struggled getting back. And, to be honest, our guide was also not the friendliest, so it’s possible we would have just been left behind in the dust if we couldn’t keep up.
I actually think this all worked out for the best.
We avoided a hike that may have been cool, yes, but definitely super challenging (for me, at least).
We saw the canyon, in all it’s splendor, from a totally secluded vantage point.
We experienced small-town Peru.
And we always have this story to look back and laugh on. That one time we almost hiked in Peru.