Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon and back to Mancora20/02/2012
After our monster trek to Machu Picchu you won't be surprised to read that we took it easy for a few days in Cusco. However time is now ticking on for our trip and there was still lots to do in Peru so after getting our laundry done and having a few hearty meals of anything but pasta (although typically the restaurant we had spent the whole trek discussing for our reward meal, was now closed!) we headed up to Puno, a town on the edge of Lake Titicaca.
Puno is described in the Lonely Planet as having lots of festivals and we were lucky enough to arrive on the last day of a 4 day festival so having found ourselves a hotel and relaxed with a cup of tea we went to explore the town and festival. The festival involved lots of groups of people in various traditional dress doing lots of dancing as they processed through the streets. It was great fun and full of colour and sound. A great introduction to the city.
The plan was to go out onto the lake the next day and do a two tour visiting a few of the islands but the weather had other plans in mind so we ended up taking it easy for another day waiting for the rain to clear. Luckily on the second day it was perfect weather and we headed out to see the floating reed islands of Uros Islands and then on to stay the night on Amantani and finally a quick visit to Taquile before heading back to Puno. The Uros Islands were quite amazing in the way they are made and you really could feel that they were floating reeds as you walked around the island. Unfortunately it was also quite manicured and it was sort of hard to tell where the tourism part of what we saw stopped and their real life started. That said it was still amazing to see this way of life. Next we headed on to Amantani where we stayed the night in a homestay on the Island with a lady called Cecilia and her family. Luckily she didn't break our hearts, but her husband guided up to the top of the island to see the Pachapapa monument and view over the lake, and Cecilia cooked us three great meals and gave us warm and comfortable beds for the night. The next day she even let us put on the traditional clothes of the area for a photo op. before we headed back to the boat and onto Taquile. Here we were a little lazy still feeling the effects of all our recent walking so the idea of walking up the tall hill that was the island didn't really appeal and instead we enjoyed the sun and views from a point slightly closer to the boat for a quick exit when the time was right. The lake was enormous and despite our hours spent on the boat between islands we still covered a tiny portion of it and never even saw most of the edge.
The next day we headed back to Arequipa from where we were going to head out to the Colca Canyon - arguably the worlds deepest canyon - for a 2 day trek. After a day in Arequipa we got onto a very uncomfortable bus to Cabanaconde we checked into our hostel and met a nice English couple from Bristol, Stu and Charlie, who we ended up enjoying the next few days with. It is the rainy season in Peru at the moment and so it was a great benefit that none of us where in a great rush as the first morning in Cabanaconde it rained, rained and rained some more. Over night two walls had fallen down in the town and the idea of heading off on a trek didn't appeal to any of us so we relaxed for the day in the hostel. By lunchtime the sky started to clear and we headed up to a view point near by to have a look at the canyon and see if we could spot any of the famous inhabitants of the Colca Canyon - Andean Condors. Possibly because of the rain in the morning, we did get lucky and saw quite a few messing around in the thermals. They truly are massive birds and it was incredible to see them especially in such an awe inspiring setting.
Finally the next morning the weather was clear and the four of us set off into the Canyon. Basically the route takes you down about 1000 meters to the river (spotting more Condors as we trekked), then across the river for lunch in San Juan de Chuccho and through some villages (Coshnirhua and Malata), back down to the river and then all the way back up to where we started. It was a great walk. We did it independently with no problems at all as the path was easy to follow (although recent landslides did make a few parts a bit more challenging to walk across). The scenery was stunning and the walk a great combination of up, down and flat. Perfect. By the time we stopped at the end of the first day, in the Oasis at the bottom of the Canyon, we were good and ready for some hot food and an early night. The accommodation was very basic huts but it was clean and, most importantly, dry. The next day we only had a (tough) climb up the to the top and we reached the village again in time for a shower and lunch. In fact the rain started again almost as soon as we arrived back at our hostel so our timing couldn't have been much more perfect as we settled into an afternoon of Spanish Monopoly and pizza. Another excellent trek timed well thanks to a bit flexibility at the beginning and a lot of luck at the end.
From Cabanaconde we headed back to Arequipa on a tourist bus (being only about £2 more then the uncomfortable local bus) and got to stop off the route to see more Condors, taste a Colca Pisco (only without the pisco as we have given up alcohol for February) which is made out of the fruit of a cactus that grows in the area, swim in heat springs, and a brief stop at the 4900m pass view point but it was in thick thick cloud when we got there so we could barely see the end of the parking area. It was a very nice way to end our trip to the Colca Canyon, particularly the hot springs part.
Finally, after another steak dinner we said good bye to Stu and Charlie and Arequipa, and headed back to Mancora for a few days rest before we cross the border into Ecuador. A perfect way to end this visit to wonderful Peru.