Colca Canyon Without A Guide – Day 3

Written on Day 3 at Fure

The early morning air is crispy and the rock I’m sitting on, cold through my tracksuit bottoms which I’m still wearing from sleep. One of the many things I’ve discovered about myself this year is that I need time by myself every day to be at peace. I had that intention yesterday, but each time I deliberated leaving the company of the others I couldn’t, I was simply having too much fun. After lights out last night, Rachael, Vicky and I kept talking for at least another hour. They let me spill my guts about Bronson and encouraged me. They said my love story gave them hope. We talked about all sorts of personal stuff and it was so fun, girly and freeing. It’s not common to fall into these conversations whilst travelling. Certainly you make friends fast, but I feel so comfortable with these two. Fortunately Vickie lives in London and plans to live in Buenos Aires early next year. Rachael, well, maybe one day our paths will cross again.

The temperature drops intensely at dark and Fure stays cold until the sun hits it. Deep in this valley I look up to see the sun colouring the ravine top opposite in a strip, a fringe like pale gold Bollywood tasseling on an exotic headdress. A hazy cornflower sky zings against those distant rocks and a little moon hangs precariously. A noisy river of green and white rapids splashes and bashes below. It sounds a bit like the deep, heart-throbbing rumble of jumbos taking off. This little village of stone huts, red geraniums and burbling 45˚ streams hangs off the cliff face in a series of terraces. Three metres below my rock wall perch, a shaggy brown donkey munches grass amongst raggedy cacti. I can hear another behind me giving a strong repetitive “EH-OOOR!”, slowing to the sound of a creaking barn door.

Today we’ll walk from Fure to Llahuar. We’ll trek down into the ravine, cross the roiling river and then follow the path along the side of the curling cliff edge to a tiny village of hot springs! It should only take four hours. So first banana pancakes at 7am, then off. Lunch at Llahuar and then beers, books, bikinis and soothing our aching muscles in the pools.

Our constant companion

Entering Llahuar

From a quaint sun-dappled path sheltered by slim springtime trees and accompanied by a friendly brook, we suddenly found ourselves walking down a narrow lane of cobblestones with a smiling face waiting for us at the end. “Um, what’s the name of this place?” asked Rachel. “Llahuar!” cried tiny Yola, who would be our host for the night, cook our meals and suffer photos with us when we left.

We crowded into the balcony restaurant and gawped at the drop to the green river below, the snaking water that had been our guide and constant companion on this trip of valleys. Yola handed over a padlock and indicated rough stone steps down and down, about 40m down to the valley floor. Crossing a tiny stream we would use for flushing the toilet with a bucket, we entered a garden of lawned terraces edged by verdant green bushes and more red and pink geraniums. Bamboo cabins dotted our new piece of shady paradise and we lay down to picnic on our tuna and wheat biscuits with Oreos for desert.

Vicky, Rachael and I took the three bunk beds in one bamboo haven while Tom and Sanne nabbed a double. We lay around for a while, a little wiped out by our hike, but soon curiosity got the better of me. I did a quick swimwear change, grabbed a towel and book and raced down the last part of the cliff to the hot springs.

Unlike other hot springs I’ve experienced in Canada, the water of South American hot springs tends to be channelled into mini swimming pools. At the base of the steps lay a concrete platform about 5m by 8m with a yellow wall half a metre high between the platform and the riverbank. The other side had a 3 metre drop to the boulder strewn river bank where Rachael was doing some clothes washing. The near side held a concrete step the length of it, perfect for us to play cards on, or to draw!

Sketching passed the afternoon in the most dreamy way, between jumping in the pools to cool down.

What a paradise! Two pools with the magical and unusual backdrop of steep valley sides reaching to the clouds; donkeys racing down tracks kicking up dust in their fun and the river, a glass green kicking up as much fuss as the mules, licking with white tongues up rocks and leaving them black, tumbling noisily to the wide snake serene pool and then narrowing to a knotted rope of water again. The air was dry and baked hot yellow by the sun. The wind was a welcome fan when entering the pools and a freezing cloak when leaving. But it dried out bodies in seconds and then we were deliciously hot again.

As the sun went down we ran for beers and slipped into another pool, this one was HOT and we spent most of the darkening twilight sitting on the edge. Tom got out his speaker and we sipped beers to the sound of The Whitest Boy Alive. Slight joke on Tom since he’s a lovely redhead with ultraviolet skin.

It was the most heavenly day. We’d started with an easy trek down into the valley and then crossed farmed terraces edged with cacti rather than hedgerow, stopping to marvel at giant asparagus-like protrusions and jumping on wiggly suspension bridges. And we’d finished with beers in a hot tub. Only one more day – the only thing to feel sad about!

The beers are cooling in the river if you were wondering…

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