Colca Canyon Without A Guide – Day 4 – FINAL DAY!
Llahuar to Cabanaconde: The last leg
Daybreak rolled around again and after a group photo with our host the lovely tiny Yola we set off on the long trek up the canyon side to Cabanaconde, the town from whence we’d started. Today we’d be climbing a vertical 1.2km! Before we’d even got to the first bridge we were accosted by Yola’s husband. Claudio had run all the way after us to ensure we’d take the right path, which was lucky because the way was not at all clear. How kind of him!
After the crossing we found the track. Just. It was literally a near vertical scrabble of grit with barely any rocks for purchase. We zigzagged back and forth for a good hour and half before reaching the first level part. It was 90 minutes of puffing in the increasingly intense sun punctuated only by gummies and water stops. But every step rewarded us with a growing view of the valley – when we summoned the energy to turn our sweating faces to the depth we’d covered. The dark olive shadows shrunk as the sun crept over the folds of the opposite slope. As the hillside paled it highlighted toddler scribbles of tracks and roads and we thought, “We have been there, we have been following those crazy lines.” Later we were given a view of the entire valley and we could see, as on a 3D map, our whole trek from the Oasis to our current point. That was an awesome feeling.
After a steady incline around the edge of a giant rock face, we faced another seemingly endless zigzag. Eventually we were at the top. We collapsed to snack on Oreos, drink a little more water and tend to blisters before starting on our home leg, all the time looking out for our milestones of a bullring and football pitch. The land changed from ridiculously steep and un-farmable to terraced crops edged by stone walls. Such a feat of manpower, they must have taken incredible amounts of time and patience. To the Western eye they look beautiful, like Incan ruins.
At the bullring where sheep graze eight foot up on the ‘bleachers’ and tourists take silly photos (yep, me) we heard a whistle. As we continued into town, we gathered an entourage of young boys curious and well, I don’t know what but they were there. As we reached the main plaza they melted away to be replaced by a funeral procession complete with the most discordant brass band I’ve ever heard. We settled into our wonderful hostel Pachamama and took a bit of hammock time before trying alpaca steaks at a restaurant overlooking the plaza. I did feel a little guilty eating those doe-eyed regal, ridiculous creatures, but I’m always up for new experiences.
By this point we were blissed out, happy in each other’s company and enjoying the sunshine on the pretty square. The next morning we would take an early bus to search for condors! But since we didn’t see any I’m not going to write about that. You can look at this picture I drew while we waited instead.