|I booked the trip with the person who ran my hotel there as he also worked in a travel agency, it was to be a 3 day trek starting by being picked up at the hotel at 6am and going by "Private Transport" to Cabanaconde at the top of the Colca Canyon. I was a bit aprehensive when I had to wake them up at 6am and he hailed a taxi outside the hotel. We jumped in the cab, dashed acros town and picked up Jan (Yan, german male) at a street corner then went off to the bus station. He then gave us an envelope told us to give it to Marcus the guide at Cabanaconde and put us on the local bus - I suppose it is private to the bus company. All the other tourists on the bus had their guide with them but we found out that all the travel agents use the bus.
The journey was 6 hours of hell, I had the front aisle seat next to the drivers cabin where everyone gets on, I was hit with luggage, had my feet stood on, my head leaned on and was generally crushed for the whole journey, especially when we passed Cruz del Condor where all the vendors had finished for the day and jammed into the bus giving any Indian bus a run for its money in a "people per volume" competition. We finally got to Cabanaconde at 1:30ish and Marcus' mum met us off the bus, spotting the only 2 with no guide. Marcus turned out to be quite young, very cross-eyed but a decent and relaxed guide. After a good lunch of Alpaca potatoes and Spagetti and a coco tea we headed off into the canyon. As we started walking into it I began to have my doubts about the legitimacy of calling it the worlds 2nd deepest canyon, to me it was just a deep valley with a canyon at the bottom but I guess calling it that wouldn't attract the tourist hoards. The walk was pleasant and virtually all down hill (obviously) and we did get to see some condors flying high overhead. The views weren't particularly stunning on the way down but when we got to the bottom and walked to the hamlet we were going to spend the night in and the sun started to set the views became more spectacular. Fortunately there was another group already at the same 'hostel'. The hostel was a few mud huts, a few bamboo shacks and a couple of tables. The other group was 2 Spanish lads on a 4 week holiday an English couple and a German girl. They were all OK and we ended up eating as one group and although the food was all the same our guides only served their own group which was a bit strange. With no electricity, bed time was almost as soon as it got dark after a bit of star spotting which given the lack of light was superb.
For some reason our guide decided that we should get up at 6:30 and we were walking again soon after 7am, the other group were allowed a lie in and folowed about an hour later. The destination for the second day was an oasis further down the canyon a 3 hour walk according to the maps and guides, we did it in two, partly becasue Jan had developed a stomach problem and after one visit to the bush toilet was desperate for a real one. When we got to the oasis, which is beautiful and has 3 swimming pools, Jan basically moved into the toilet and I was left with the pool and garden to myself. I had a nice little swim and a short lie in the sun before grabbing a cold (relative term with no electricity) drink and retiring to the shade. When the other group arrived I joined them for another swim, I'd put factor 30 sun-screen on by now, before lunch, I can't remember what we had now but I'm sure it would have involved potatoes, rice and some form of pasta - they don't skimp on carbohydrates. Most of the afternoon was spent generally lounging around, mainly in the shade, the two Spanish, Juan and Carlos (which I found amusing) were already very sunburned from the previous day and I didn't want to join them. We had a big decision to make in the afternoon, although the official trek plan was to spend the night at the Oasis and trek out at 3am in the morning to catch the bus, the guides were keen for us to trek out in the late afternoon, sleep back in Cabanaconde and get up at 6am for the 7am bus. I was in favour although a few weren't sure. In the end at about 3:30pm we all decided to go, somehow by this point I realised that parts of me had turned a nasty bright pink colour although I'd been out of the sun for a long time. When I put my trousers back on I could feel my legs burning.
The walk up was really hard work, by an hour in and half way the group of 9 were spread out along the trail, I was in the lead group with Jan, Marcus and Juan with Carlos and Katrin miles behind and the rest somewhere in between. Soon afterwards I hit the wall and couldn't keep up any longer and started to drift back, Nick soon caught up and overtook me and I felt like I wouild never make it but hit my emergency supply of peanuts and had an energy revival. After almost exactly 2 hours of really steep climbing I realised that those ahead of me had stopped and was overjoyed to realise that that was the top. The last 2 got there just as the sun was setting and the whole valley getting dark but the sunset was spectacular. Thankfully I had my torch as the last, flat 20 minute walk to Cabanaconde was done in increasing darkness.
The guides split the two groups into different hotels, I don't know what the others got but myself and Jan had a good room with en-suite and hot water, I had a shower but the sunburn was becoming very sore by then so I didn't bother with the hot water. Jan and his stomach stayed in while I joined the other group for dinner and a few end of trip beers. The next morning was a bit farsical as we were rushed through breakfast to catch the bus but realised why when we got there, there were far too many people waiting to fit on the one bus. Somehow marcus got us towards the front of the queue, even getting the last 3 seats, after that if was a bit of a squeeze, the other group (who had lingered over breakfast as it was Carlos' birthday) couldn't get on and had to wait for an hour for the next. The first stop was Cruz del Condor, a famous viewing point for (believe it or not) condors. The plan was to spot them for an hour then get on the next bus as it came through. After an hour we'd seen nothing as the bus arrived, Jan wanted to wait another hour so we could join back with the other group who he expected to stay an hour. I was getting bored and wanted to leave. All of a sudden a Condor appeared, flew around a bit, sat on a tree to pose for photographs and flew off. The others had actually decided to get back on the same bus so we all squeezed in for the 2 hours to Chivay, next destination. The main attraction there is the hot springs which with my sunburn burning I decided to miss, unfortunately we were boooked on the next bus to Arequipa 2 hours later so I had a walk into the town and sat around for a bit. We were booked on seperate busses on the return journey, 3 more hours in an uncomfortable bus on very bumpy roads with painful sunburn. When we finally got back yo Arequipa I decided to use the opportunity to book my bus from there to Lima then had to get a taxi back into town.