A Must Do Multi-Day Hike!
Famous for its outstanding beauty and proximity for seeing the Andean condor, the Colca Valley in Peru offers some fantastic hiking opportunities, the most popular of which being a hike down into Colca Canyon.
Deeper than the Grand Canyon in the USA, Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world descending over four kilometres. So never ones to miss an opportunity for putting on the hiking boots, we decided to go off itinerary, leave most of the Odyssey gang behind for a few days and head off into the canyon on a mini-adventure.
Our first glimpse of the Colca Valley from the bus window.
It was an early start from the town of Arequipa where we had camped overnight with Odyssey. In total, seven of the group decided to embark on the trek (who we now like to call the ‘Hardcore Hikers’). So at 7:00am we grabbed our backpacks and food supplies and took a couple of taxis to the main bus station in Arequipa, Terminal Terrestre.
We had pre-booked tickets the night before for a scheduled bus to take us to the town of Cabanaconde where we would be starting our trek. (17 soles p/p + 1.50 bus station tax). The bus left around 8:15am, and after a quick toilet stop on route in the town of Chivay, we arrived in Cabanaconde at approximately 2:00pm.
Making Friends With ‘Stevie Jumpers’
Meet ‘Stevie Jumpers’ our very own hiking dog!
The trail we had chosen was to take us three days/ two nights in a circular route, starting and finishing in Cabanaconde. When we arrived, we bought our National Park tickets (70 soles each) and decided to have a picnic lunch in the town square before setting off into the canyon.
It was here that we became acquainted with a cute, little dog wearing a red Christmas jumper. He sat under the bench where we were sitting in the hope of getting some food scraps and then took to guarding our friend Steve’s backpack when he went to the shop. Hence we decided to name him ‘Stevie Jumpers’ and from then on acquired our very own hiking dog!
We set off on the trail at 3:00pm with Stevie Jumpers in tow. We didn’t know if he had an owner or was simply a stray, but he seemed quite content to follow us out of the town into the cornfields towards the canyon.
Now we are genuinely ‘cat’ people through and through and have never really taken to dogs. But this little fella really won us over and became the perfect hiking companion.
The ‘Hardcore Hikers’ set off from Cabanaconde.
Day 1 – Hiking Down 1,000m To Sangalle.
The first afternoon was a steep descent of over a kilometre on some rocky switchbacks to the Oasis of Sangalle. We could see the oasis from the top, a big patch of greenery with a couple of swimming pools dotted here and there, but even after an hours walking, it didn’t seem that we were getting any closer to it! In the strong afternoon sun, what kept us going was the thought of jumping in one of those nice, cool swimming pools when we finally reached the bottom!
Setting off for the Oasis at Sangalle.
Looking into the canyon.
Ready for the 1 kilometre descent.
Heading down on the steep switchbacks.
Our first glimpse of the Oasis (including a couple of swimming pools).
It took us three hours to get there, reaching the Oasis at 6:00pm just as it was getting dark. There are several painted markers on rocks as you head down into the canyon indicating hostels where you can stay. We decided to follow the blue arrows to Paradise Lodge where there are a number of cabins as well as space for camping.
Continuing down into the canyon.
Enjoying the scenery…
Passing a mule making its way up.
The Oasis de Sangalle – so near yet still so far!
The lady owner of the lodge was lovely and very accommodating. Two of our group shared a cabin for 15 soles each, whilst the rest of us pitched our tents on a private camping area near the river. Camping was a bargain at 5 soles per person. (Approx. £1.20 GBP).
We were a bit worried about how Stevie Jumpers would fare at the lodge, but he just strolled right in with us and made himself at home, enjoying the fuss from other gringos staying there too, because of his cute little Christmas jumper!
Setting up camp at Paradise Lodge.
The swimming pool at Paradise Lodge.
Stevie Jumpers exhausted after his hike down into the canyon.
After a celebratory beer for making it down the canyon in one piece, it was time for dinner. You can buy meals at the lodge for 20 soles or make your own camp dinner. The lodge has a fantastic camp kitchen with everything you need including a working sink, gas stove, pots, pans, crockery and cutlery.
We had brought all of our own stuff to cook camp meals each day, but it was nice to have a proper shelter to cook in with proper washing up facilities. We shared our dinner of noodles and salami with Stevie Jumpers, then settled down for the night in our two-man tent, with our own guard dog just outside.
Stevie Jumpers sits outside our tent as guard dog.
Wayne preparing dinner in the camp kitchen.
Day 2 – From Sangalle to Malata to San Juan de Chuccho
The next morning we had a lovely camp breakfast (shared once again with Stevie Jumpers) and a cold shower to set us up for the day. We didn’t expect the hike on day 2 to take us that long so we didn’t leave the lodge until around 9:30am. We set off for Malata village which is 480 metres higher than Sangalle, so our day started with some uphill effort.
Enjoying a leisurely breakfast.
Relaxing before setting off along the canyon to the next village.
What we immediately noticed about Colca Canyon in comparison to the Grand Canyon in the USA, is how green it is. The scenery really is spectacular, with breathtaking views no matter what section you are hiking in.
Looking down the canyon.
The swing bridge we had to cross to reach the trail on the other side.
The swing bridge up close.
Looking down onto the Rio Colca that flows through the canyon.
Lovely weather for Day 2.
A sacred spot we passed on the way to Malata.
Lots of cacti growing in the dry areas.
With lots of photographic stops and a few breathers, it took us around two and a half hours to reach Malata where we stopped to eat lunch. Stevie Jumpers was flat out having a rest by this point! We were all feeding him our scraps and by day 2, I was also carrying a bottle of water specifically for him! He was well and truly part of the gang.
Stevie Jumpers enjoying the view.
Looking across to the village of Malata.
The church in the small village of Malata.
Stevie ‘Jumperless’ having a rest.
Continuing to the next village San Juan de Chuccho.
Not too much further…
From Malata village, it was then a steep downhill walk towards the village of San Juan de Chuccho. We arrived at the village around 3:30pm, which gave us plenty of time to pitch our tents at ‘Casa de Roy’ and enjoy a beer whilst watching the sun set over the canyon.
Another camp dinner followed, but it was quite a restless night as we were already wondering how we were going to leave Stevie Jumpers back in Cabanaconde and say goodbye to our new, loyal companion.
Me and my dog!
Man’s best friend!
The Mystery Of Stevie Jumpers Unravelled…
Along the route on day 2, we happened to meet a guide with another trekking group who recognised Stevie Jumpers! He told us that our little friendly dog was from Cabanaconde and regularly tagged along with hikers trekking around Colca Canyon. In fact, he had even hiked with the guide for 5 days and the guide had named him ‘Chapo’.
We realised why both Paradise Lodge at Sangalle and Casa de Roy at San Juan de Chuccho had not said anything to us about our little travelling companion, as it seemed he was a regular visitor!
Enjoying the view from Casa de Roy.
Cooking up a storm. Another camp dinner.
Sunset over the canyon from Casa de Roy.
Day 3 – San Juan de Chuccho to Cabanaconde
Day 3 was the killer day!!! Well, actually just a morning as we were back in Cabanaconde by lunchtime. Switchback after gruelling switchback, we had to hike from 2,300 metres at San Juan de Chuccho all the way up to 3,287 metres back at Cabanaconde. We set off from Casa de Roy at 6:45am and made it to the top of the canyon by 11:00am. This was where we met up with the rest of the Odyssey group with the truck who were doing a sightseeing tour of all the viewpoints at the top of the canyon.
Sunrise over the canyon.
Saying farewell to the owner of Casa de Roy.
Setting off across the bridge to hike out of the canyon.
The Rio Colca that has carved the canyon.
Panorama shot from the trail.
The long path up…
A nice, gentle switchback to catch our breath!
Lovely morning sunshine.
More cacti. They were actually taller than me!
Looking back on the trail we had walked up.
Even Stevie Jumpers posed for the camera!
Hiking with our companion still in tow.
Taking a breather…
The ‘Hardcore Hikers’ reach the end of the trail!
We decided to walk back into town from the final viewpoint and end of the trail so that we could stretch our legs and drop Stevie Jumpers off back in the square where we had found him. Our new found friend would not say goodbye so easily however. He followed us to the cafe where we had a drink, and then proceeded to follow us back to the truck where we were forced to say our final farewells.
Heading back to the town of Cabanaconde where we met Stevie Jumpers.
It was heartbreaking especially hearing Stevie Jumpers whimpering and then seeing him chase the truck for at least 2 kilometres down the road. We wish we could have taken him home, he was such a lovely, obedient dog that just wanted someone to take care of him.
Stevie Jumpers desperately chasing after our overland truck… Sob!
A Trek With A Difference
Hiking down into the Colca Canyon was a fantastic experience, made all the better by our hiking guide dog Stevie Jumpers. He was a great companion to have on the trek and has opened our eyes to the benefits of owning a dog.
If you spot him in the future or have the pleasure of his company whilst hiking in Colca Canyon, be sure to feed and water him and give him lots of love and cuddles.
A dog truly is man’s best friend, especially if he enjoys hiking too!