martes, 30 de enero de 2018

Exploring the surroundings Colca Canyon

After discovering the Cotahuasi Canyon, the deepest in the world, we continue to travel through the region of the canyons of southern Peru to reach the tourist Colca Canyon.

Located in the northeastern tip of the Region of Arequipa, province of Caylloma, and 165 km from the city of Arequipa, the Colca Canyon has about 100 km length  and runs between the inactive volcanoes of Coropuna (6,613 meters) and the Ampato (6,288 meters), reaching its lowest point at the confluence of the rivers Colca and Andamayo, at 9 meters.

Colca Canyon, How to get Colca Canyon, All about Colca Canyon, Colca Canyon Arequipa

The climate of the Colca Valley will be characteristic of high Andean zones, low temperatures in the upper parts of the mountain and milder temperatures on its slope, where there are air currents where the condors glide.

The best time to visit the Colca Valley is from May by the end of November, with an average of 0 ºC at night and 15-20 ºC during the day. During the rainy season (from November) the temperature is around 5 and 10 ºC more or less stable.

Across the Colca Valley we can find ichu and yareta, the typical Andean highland vegetation and some animals such as alpacas and vizcachas, a species of medium sized rodents similar to chinchillas.

A peculiarity of this area is the 8,000 hectares of pre-Inca irrigation terraces with more than a thousand years old, which besides producing food, served to prevent soil erosion. Inside these terraces are cultivated potato, 32 different varieties of corn, quinoa, 12 varieties of beans, and other products that serve as food for the inhabitants of the region.

In antiquity there lived in this valley about 60 thousand people, who after the arrival of the Spaniards were taken to villages called 'Reductions of Indians' and depleted up to 15 thousand inhabitants because of European diseases.

There are currently 16 villages of the Collaguas and Cabanas ethnic groups in the valley, very characteristic for their hats, embroidered attire and white hats with sequins of the women of Chivay.

About 3.5 km from Chivay, capital of the province of Caylloma, we find the thermal waters of La Calera, which sprouts at 85 ºC and which apparently have healing powers. The entrance fee to these pools is S/10 (€ 3). If you have not booked a tour in the area, you can get there by taxi from Chivay for about S/5 or in a bus with 4-5 passengers by S/ 0,70.

thermal waters of La Calera, Colca Canyon, Arequipa

Bicycle rental in the Colca Valley

If you prefer an alternative plan, in the town of Chivay you can rent bicycles and visit the nearby town of Corporaque, which is located along the road that leads to the termal baths.

 There we will find a beautiful colonial church nestled in a square with arches and if we continue towards the lower part of the town, we will find some ruins and tombs after crossing the river to Yanque.

You can also take buses from the Chivay market and visit Ichupampa, Lari, and reach one of the deepest areas of the Canyon, the Madrigal.

About 30 km from Chivay and following the main road to the southern part of the Colca canyon, you will find the village of Pinchollo, from where you can trek for about 5 days to the snow-covered volcano of Hualca Hualca (6,025 meters), which is part of the Ampato, next to the mountain of the same name and the Sabancaya Volcano.

Hualca Hualca Volcano, Hualca Hualca Arequipa, Hualca Colca Canyon

Precisely the rains and the melting of Hualca Hualca, together with the ashes that emanated from Sabancaya, caused a mudslide that blocked the road that leads to the Pinchollo geyser. This geyser was active until a recent earthquake contained it.

Cruz del Condor Viewpoint: Looking for the Condors in Colca Canyon

Without a doubt this viewpoint is one of the best known and admired by tourists who visit this route, since from here you can appreciate the depth of the Colca Canyon and the flight of the majestic Andean condor, considered the symbol of the region and even Peru.

From this viewpoint, traditionally known as Chaq' lla, you can take impressive photos of these birds that come gliding from the thermal currents coming from the canyon, and glimpse the 1200 meters fall to the river or the summit of the snow-capped Mismi.

It is recommended that condors be sighted between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. in the morning or from 4 p.m. In the rainy season these birds are not usually seen, so it is best to visit during the dry season (from May to November).

Cruz del Condor Viewpoint, Colca Canyon

Cabanaconde District

In Cabanaconde, in the heart of the Colca, it is the starting point for many excursions through the Colca canyon. A small village in which we will find some simple lodgings to eat and sleep. One of these excursions goes to the "oasis" of Sangalle, a quiet place at the bottom of the canyon where bungalows are offered for about S/10.

It is recommended to bring water and food for these excursions. The return from Sangalle to Cabanaconde is done through a slope of 3-4 hours.

An hour and a half walk or 10 minutes by bus from Cabanaconde to Tapay, and from there we will reach to the nearby towns of Coshiñirwa, Malata and San Juan de Chuccho.

In Cabanaconde there are buses that leave towards the Tapay viewpoint at 6.30 a.m. and on the way back you can arrive in an hour and a half by taking the shortcut from the water reservoir and going to the San Miguel viewpoint.

Tapay Viewpoint is located on the left bank of the Colca River, at 3,600 meters above sea level and is an excellent place to observe the depth of the Colca Canyon, as well as the Chila mountain range and the archaeological sites of Kakatapuy, Otupara and Kosñirhua.

There, although not with as many possibilities as in the viewpoint of the Condor, we will be able to see these birds and some others like the peregrine falcon or the kestrel.

Tourist Ticket Colca Canyon

In order to visit the Colca Canyon, it is necessary to buy a tourist ticket from the Autonomous Authority of Colca (Autocolca), which costs S/ 70 (€ 20), and can be purchased at the entrance of Chivay or in Cabanaconde itself. This ticket is required to visit the attractions of the Colca Canyon. The money raised is used to maintain the tourist infrastructure and promote the Colca Canyon.

Buses depart from the small Plaza de Armas in Cabanacoche every day to Chivay (2,5 hours) and Arequipa (6 hours). The companies that make this tour are Reyna (6.00 am); Andalucía (9.00 a.m.); Milagros (11.00 a.m.); Reyna (14.00 p.m.); and Milagros (22.00 p.m.). The price of all bus companies is around S/ 17.

We are also very close to the Petroglyphs of Toro Muerto and the Valley of the Volcanoes, which we will see in the following posts.

Esteban García, Peru Travels Blog
January 2018

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