Tuesday, December 22, 2009

El Cañon

Cañon de Colca is big.  Really, really big.  There's really no other way to describe it.  Pictures don't really do it justice, although mine will try.  The only way to appreciate it is to try to walk down it, and be engulfed in its massiveness.  From the viewpoint at the top, you can see the river, and it doesn't look that far away.  It's not until you've descended an hour and the view has barely changed that you begin to comprehend its size.  You realize that the tiny boulder you can see on the river's bank is probably at least 50 feet wide.  You notice your knees shaking from the strain of walking 1000 feet downhill, and as if to taunt you, a condor floats effortlessly by.  I didn't get a picture of the condor, but here's the view from partway down:

After another couple of hours, we finally made our way down to the bottom.  Solicitors greeted us immediately with offers of swimming pools and beds, but we had priorities.  We walked through the little community, past the pools and bungalows, until we found a path down to the icy cold river.  A quick dip and some clothes-washing later, we walked back to the bungalow with the nicest solicitor and got ourselves a campsite here, for about $1.50:

After a quick swim (much warmer than the river), a nice nap and some dinner, we were searching for good avocados from the trees around the campsite when we saw the owner and a worker irrigating their terraces.  It was very cool, and fascinating to watch.  They had an irrigation stream running right by the topmost terrace, and an empty one running down through all of them.  They built a quick sandbag dam below the top terrace, then busted the upper dam, flooding the terrace with water.  When it had enough, they moved the sandbag dam one level lower, and let the water flood the next one.  It was a very cool way to irrigate a lot of land with only a few sandbags and a shovel.  The owner said he plants all sorts of vegetables for the dinners and lunches he cooks up for guests.  It was an awesome experience to watch traditional agriculture in action.

A short while later, I got a nice sunset picture, and then it was time for bed.  The next day could've been a grueling hike up with some stomach pain, but I just went slow and it really wasn't that bad.  I picked up trash along the way as well, which helped boost my spirits.  And on the bus ride back out, I finally got some good lighting to take pics of the canyon.

The canyon at sunset.

From the bus.

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