Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Colca Canyon – 16-18 Juin; Puno, Lac Titicaca 19-21 Juin

Colca Canyon – 16-18 June; Puno, Lake Titicaca 19-21 June

Tuesday 16th, we wake up at 3 am to take a bus going towards Cabanaconde, Colca Canyon. We are knackered but yet quite exited to leave the busy city in exchange for 3 days of fresh air.

At 9 am, the bus stops for 45 minutes at Cruz del Condor, apparently the best place to spot these beautiful birds of prey, out on the hunt for the next meal. They have a wing span of 3 meters (see the pictures at the end) and can live up to 50 years old, also apparently one of only two species of birds that have a sense of smell! Sometimes a Condor would sweep above us, much closer than the others and at this point you begin to understand the enormity of these birds. The view is incomparable to anything either of us has ever seen. The mountain cliffs plummet before us at almost 1000m joining the banks of the river Colca.

We’re back in the bus towards Cabanaconde, the principal town of Colca Canyon, where our lunch is waiting for us (in the bus for breakfast we were treated to ‘empanadas de queso’ - bread cooked with cheese … Thank you Carlito!).

AT 12.30, our group (Louise, Isla, Lara, Michael, Renu, Nico and Carlito-our guide) start to make our way to the edge of the plateau. Meanwhile Carlito explains all about our surroundings and also warns us to be careful around another guide doing the trek, working for another company, who happens to be apparently a very dodgy character. That puts us at complete ease, not. We start walking while chewing on our first lot of coca leaves of the long excursion ahead of us. The coca leaves are supposed to be full of nutrients that help you cope with the altitude. Cabanaconde is on a plateau of 3287m altitude, we prepare ourselves to descend the second deepest Canyon in the world: at the point 1200m in depth and a walk of 7 km to get to the bridge at the bottom (3 ½ hours walk), our meeting point before we cross the river together and walk for another 1 ½ hour uphill to meet a local family in the village of Coshnirhua where we stay the night.

The decent is hard on our knees and carves, but the views as we come down are magnificent. It is so hard to explain how big these mountains are, and how small you feel. The pictures are good, but they really don’t do justice to the sheer size of what we are trying to walk across. The hardest part of the walk down though is the sight of the path we need to take to get back up on the other side. It is so much steeper than the path we’re currently on to come down, and it brings out the trepidation within us. We arrive at our destination by about 6.30pm, and are very warmly greeted by our host family, who happen to be one of the richest families of the village, even though, their living quarters were very simple to our standards. The kitchen was a sort of hut with an open fire for cooking. It was cosy, and made you realise that really, we don’t need much in life. But still, they have hot water showers, a fridge and a separate freezer (it took four men, over four days to carry the fridge down (and the same again for the freezer) from Cabanaconde to Coshnirhua (the walk we had just completed over 6 hours). Needless to say the cold Cerveza was extremely welcome after our first big day of walking, exhausted is too kind a word to describe how we were feeling.

Carlito makes us the best pasta we’ve had so far in South America, we warm ourselves around the fire telling a few jokes, and we feel much better.

We have a restless night. A scorpion, but apparently harmless– let him now rest in peace – found itself on Nicolas’ pillow and so made it difficult for us to sleep, and so in the end we had to share the dormitory rooms with Louise and Isla for fear of more scorpions (who’s the chicken now). After yummy pancakes and a great view for breakfast, we leave on our journey again, a three hour walk, going towards the oasis in the pit of the canyon. The walk is worth it as we find ourselves in a mini paradise with lush green around us, the flowing river, little cabanas swimming pools. We swim for a bit (though the water is freezing), take in the sun for two hours, eat lunch and set off again at 3pm, going back up towards Cabanaconde. The first half hour is a quite simply a nightmare. The sun is beating down on us, and climb is so much steeper than coming down. We keep going, and after two hours of climbing, we realise that it’s no longer our legs and lungs that are going to get us to the top, but more a great deal of courage.

Night falls around 5pm, and now it gets hard, but really hard, there’s no path, but just clambering rock after rock after rock. Our legs ache like never before. Our lungs are about to explode, fighting for breath every three steps, the effects of the altitude obviously get worse the higher we climb. With the dark, it’s all mind over matter, as our tiny torch guides us up, so hopefully saving us from falling off the edge. Clambering, struggling and with many words of encouragement we finally reach the top of the Canyon around 6.30pm, enormously relieved and extremely proud of ourselves. The air is freezing now, and we have another 30 to 45 minutes walking on flat ground to the hotel.

We have the hottest, longest and probably the most enjoyable shower of our lives at the hotel, and then head to a local restaurant for dinner, where some classic 80’s tunes are playing on the telly. It kind of gets you in the mood for dancing, until you stand up and realize that your legs can no longer hold your weight after about 12 hours of walking over 2 days. We leave the restaurant fairly early ready for bed, to find a big festival with a brass band and people dancing in the street. It’s so lovely to watch, gets your feet twitching but still not enough to keep you away from a long awaited sleep. The festival goes on all night and all the next morning in any case.

The next day, Thursday 18th, we get on the bus to Chivay, bathe in some hot springs for an hour (for which our aching muscles are very grateful!) and then have a ridiculously expensive lunch (by local standards) before returning to Arequipa.

Thursday evening we go out into Arequipa to a Mexican restaurant and finish in a bar called ‘Deja-Vu’, all with the Colca Canyon team, eating loads, and drinking lots of beer and tequila.
Friday 19th, we take another bus early afternoon to Puno, border of Peru and Lake Titicaca (nicknamed by Nico … Lake PipiCaca … no comment there). The lake is apparently 160 km by 60 km, 250 meters deep, average temperature of 9 degrees (ow, wouldn’t like to fall in), 60% Peruvian and 40% Bolivian. Apparently the highest lake in the world at 4000m altitude (but that turns out not to be true). Basically, it’s a pretty impressive Lake, always good to have a few statistics to chew over.

From Puno we hoped to find some way of getting to Cusco, and then on to Machu Pichu, but it turns out that all routes from Arequipa or Puno going to Cusco have been blocked by protestors, and also the only bridge that allows you to get there they burned down. It turns out the Peruvian government are trying to sells off certain Amazon ports to big companies to be able to exploit the petrol. This idea is not going down well with the locals. It’s quite gutting to be in Peru and not be able to get to Machu Pichu, the most famous archeological site in South America if not the world.

As a result, we’re stuck in Puno, not a particularly exiting town to say the least. The only saving grace is that the Australian couple, Lara and Mike (aka Dipper) that we met at Colca Canyon is also here and so we’re able to spend time eating and drinking together. The first night in Puno is misery, the hostel we end up in (Hostal Kantuta, never go there!) is horrid and with no heating (at 4000m altitude, you feel like an elephant is sat on your chest when you are trying to breath, and it’s bloody freezing, below 0 at night, even fully dressed with five blankets on top, you still shiver). The next day we go on the hunt for somewhere else to stay and decide on being naughty by staying in a three star hotel (Hotel Hacienda), with a comfy room, unlimited hot water (with a bath!) and heating in the room.

Sunday we have lunch at the port, fresh trout straight out of the lake, and then take a two our boat ride to one of the floating islands on the lake. It’s really crazy; they construct these islands themselves with condensed roots and mud that are meters thick. When it’s dry, the islands touch the bottom of the Lake, but when it rains, they float, and so have to be tied down to save from crashing into another communities’ floating island. The ‘flooring’ is covered in straw, their dwelling are made from the same material, together with their boats.
All very strange, and quite fascinating.

Monday 22nd, we leave for Copacabana in Bolivia, to see the Bolivian side of the Lake, seemingly much prettier, and to continue our journey to La Paz in the middle/end of the week.

For the photos of the last week, click here.

We miss you all, please send us some news, we’d love to hear from you.

Kisses, Renu and Nico.

Nous nous levons à 3 heures du matin le mardi 16 pour partir en bus direction Cabanaconde, Colca Canyon. On est crevés et à la fois excite de sortir de la ville pour prendre un bon bol d’air de trois jours.
A 9h, le bus s’arrête 45 minutes a Cruz Del Condor afin que nous puissions observer ces volatiles pouvant atteindre 3 mètres d’envergure et pouvant vivre plus de 50 ans (quelques photos dispos, voir le lien a la fin du post). La vue est impressionnante, la falaise plonge devant nous sur presque 1000m pour atteindre le lit de la rivière Colca. Parfois, un condor vole plus bas que les autres et nous permet de comprendre a quel point ils sont majestueux…
A nouveau dans le bus pour rejoindre Cabanaconde, la ville la plus importante du Colca Canyon ou notre déjeuner nous attend (au petit déjeuner nous avons eu droit a des empanadas de queso dans le bus… Merci Carlito !).
12h30, notre groupe compose de Louise, Isla, Lara, Michael, Renu, Nico et Carlito (le guide) commence à avancer vers le bord du plateau et à mâcher les premières feuilles de coca du périple. Cabanaconde se trouve sur un plateau a 3287m d’altitude et nous nous apprêtons à descendre le second Canyon le plus profond du monde : 1200m de dénivelé et une marche de 7km pour atteindre le pont qui nous permettra de traverser la rivière et de rejoindre notre famille d’accueil a Coshnirhua.
Nous mettons en gros trois bonnes heures à descendre et nous en prenons plein la vue. Seule ombre au tableau, nous pouvons apercevoir à certains moments le chemin que nous allons devoir prendre pour remonter et il est beaucoup plus raide que celui sur lequel nous nous trouvons. Arrives a destination vers 18h30, nous sommes accueillis chaleureusement par cette famille de locaux a priori les plus riches du village, ils possèdent plusieurs douches, un frigo et un congelo (il leur aura fallu 4 jours et 4 hommes pour amener le frigo de Cabanaconde a Coshnirhua et autant pour le congelo). Autant vous dire que la cerveza bien fraiche se laisse apprécier après cette première journée bien fatigante.
Après une nuit plutôt mouvemente (un scorpion a priori inoffensif – paix a son âme - sur l’oreiller de Nicolas l’aura empêché de trouver le sommeil et on du coup partager une chambre avec Louise et Isla), nous repartons en direction de l’oasis qui se trouve dans le fond du canyon a 3 heures de marche. Ces trois heures en valent la peine et nous arrivons dans un endroit assez surprenant car compose de paillottes et de piscines. Nous nous baignons, prenons le soleil pendant 2 heures et a 15h nous repartons direction Cabanaconde. La première demi heure de marche est infernale, le soleil tape fort et la pente est bien plus raide qu’a l’aller. A partir de la deuxième heure, c’est le courage qui fait défaut.
La nuit tombe vers 17 heures et nous atteignons finalement non sans peine le haut du Canyon à 18h30. 3h et demi pour remonter et une autre demi heure sur le plat pour rejoindre notre hôtel, prendre une douche brulante avant de diner et de s’écrouler.
Le lendemain nous nous arrêtons à Chivay pour se baigner dans des sources d’eau chaude et déjeuner Avant de rentrer a Arequipa.
Vendredi 19, nous prenons un bus en début d’après midi pour Puno, sur le bord du Lac Titicaca dans l’espoir de pouvoir trouver un moyen de locomotion jusqu'à Cusco mais la route a été bloquée par des manifestants et le seul pont qui relie Puno a Cusco a été brule. Nous sommes dons bloque a Puno sans savoir si nous pourrons ou non rejoindre Cusco pour aller au Machu Pichu. La première nuit a Puno a été infernale, l'Hostel été pourave et sans chauffage (Hostel Kantuta, n’y allez jamais…) et le lendemain nous décidons avec Renu de prendre une chambre a l’Hôtel Hacienda, trois étoiles, eau chaude a volonté et chambre chauffée. Lundi, nous partons pour Copacabana en Bolivie pour visiter le lac du cote bolivien et continuer notre route vers La Paz en milieu/fin de semaine.
Pour les photos de ces derniers jours c’est par ici.
Vous nous manquez, envoyez de vos nouvelles.
Bises, Nico et Renu.


  1. bonjour,

    je m'appelle lolo dit lolito dit Mr ONDE.
    tout va bien sur PAris. le soleil commenc à s'installer.le rythme estival se met en place. doucement au boulot et on accèlere pour l'apéro, fiesta et autre picnic avec les collègues
    l'été se prépare : un tour sur arles pour les rencontres de la photo puis 10j chez les parents et re 10j en aout (économie pour venir vous voir noel/jour de l'an).
    bref ça avance tranquillement par chez moi

    par chez vous, ça a l'air plutot cool: les gros oiseaux, les montagnes, les indiens, la taquilla, les pauvres, les randos....
    continuez à vous régaler.

    bises bises

  2. Un peu de culture:
    vous connaissez le nom de la femelle du Condor ?

    Reponse: la chambre a coucher, parceque c'est la Condor

    PS: des photos des Condors ?

  3. autant Renu en Peruvienne est superbe, autant Nico m'a décu déguise en ane...on le reconnait

    le vieil homme et sa mere

  4. je reconnais dnas ces derniers commentaires un humour dans l'ordre, a la Gerbelot et a la Fleury...
    La bise a vous
    ps,me mettrez 4 kits a broches JD Edwards, les turquoises..

  5. Bonjour vous deux !!!
    C'est la famille JIMENEZ !!
    On vous fait de gros bisous vous nous manquez beaucoup mais onvien sur votre blog tout les jours pour voir si ca se passe bien ! Et bien sûr on est toujours impressionés par vos photos !
    Gros gros bisous a vous deux !!!

  6. Alors sur les blagues, je dois dire qu'il n'y a qu'un des deux qui a ecrit, l'autre se réserve poru le lac TITICACA (rapport au nom et a ses blagues droles a themes....il se reconnaitra)

    pour les kits a broches, si vous pouvez vous engager avant ce soir, je vous fais - 30% et vous rajoute 3 connecteurs magnets oranges, ceux en boite de 8 qu'on peux coller au mur ou sur le frigo

    sinon j'ai un nouveau SKYPE, vous ai envoye une request bande de cons, je comprends pas que vous soyez pas 6-8 heures par jour sur l'ordi....comprends pas, on doit bien se faire chier dans ces montagnes pleines d'oiseaux geants....

  7. PS: j'ai oublié de dire que je vous aime, pis les comments ca vous fait de la lecture pour quand les condors pioncent

  8. Au niveau des blagues je me réserve effectivement pour des blagues de haut vol plus titicaca comme le dit ci-bien mon collègue et ami. Sinon pour les photos faut arréter de zoomer comme ça sur NICO, je dis ça je dis rien...

    La galoche.