At the Hostel Valle de Fuego, we booked a 3 days / 2 nights tour with a local guide. The person at the hostel convinced us to choose another route than the one we had planed, which is quiet easy to do because you could see the two places where you stay overnight, Tapay and Sangalle, from the Mirador in Cabanaconde. This is probably one of the more common routes, but since there are so few tourists trekking the Canyon, it really does not matter.
Well, the route suggested by the hostel would take us from Cabanaconde down to the river inside the Canyon and then to the small village of Fure on the first day, then to some waterfalls and trekking back towards Matala and down to the Oasis in Sangalle on the second day, and finally coming back to Cabanaconde on the third day. We clearly said we wanted to enjoy the scenery and take our time and were not there to beat any kind of record!
Luckily following Heidi´s suggestion, we also booked a mule for 105 Soles or 25 Euro to carry our backpacks, so that we could enjoy the trek only carrying a daypack with a little bit of water and our camera.
This was the plan … First part was a nice walk, taking us from 3.290 meters down the Canyon to Rio Colca at 2.073 meters. The afternoon turned out to be a real hell, because we had to climb back to 2.950 meters, but far back into a valley to the village of Fure. We literally walked 8.5 hours that day and always up or down! It turned out that this hike is normally done in 2 days, but we had to do it in one. We arrived at the village after 5 o’clock, covered with dust and dead tired! Our guide turned out to be the owner of the mule and was not much of a guide, he could not even tell us at what altitude we were, what the farmers planted, nothing …
Needless to say that the scenery is great, majestic mountains and patches of green terraces with tiny villages and a path that sometimes was not much wider than 60 to 80 centimeters, carved out of the steep mountain slopes going down up to 1.000 meters. This was extremely impressive, but what hard work!
Besides the exhausting long walk, the ambience in the village was rather “triste”. We were shown into in a windowless hut that belongs to one of ten families who make up the population of Fure. This hut was built of stone covered with a tin roof, two beds, a pile of dirty blankets and a door that would not close. The temperature inside equaled the one outside. Using the freezing water from the spring we cleaned a bit and sat in the cold waiting for things to happen …
In the meantime three Canadians arrived, who also stayed in the village. We had never been so happy to meet other tourists, because at that point we felt tired, hungry and quite down to find ourselves in such a gloomy place. On top of that, our guide had simply disappeared. It is actually very rare that tourists come to this remote place so we were extremely lucky. The rather sad impression we had of the “pueblo” was underlined by a conversation we overheard between the guide of the Canadians and the lady who cooked for us. She complained that her husband had got so drunk the night before that he might not be able to go fishing for a while. Only at 6 o’clock did some men start out to the river to catch some trout, which was our dinner. Later on we heard her cry and whisper to somebody in the neighboring hut.
The next morning we left at 7 o’clock, needless to say we skipped the two hour walk up to a waterfall and two hour walk back, and headed straight to the Oasis in Sangalle, which was a nice 6 hour walk. Besides, at this point of the trek, we knew what to expect and this made it much easier.
There are pools in Sangalle, the nearby hot springs bring the temperature up to 22 degrees. It felt so good to rinse off all that dust and feel human again. Altogether we were twelve people who spent the night down there in little huts made of reeds, quiet comfortable. There was also a Columbian young man camping there, who was traveling through South America. Gilles spent much time exchanging information with him, since he had been to places where we are heading and he was about to go to places where we already had been … All that in Spanish, Gilles was really proud! We all had dinner together and met a young Dutch couple who also is traveling for a year. They were into their seven months and had started off in Asia, so we exchanged lots of experiences till it was time to go to bed because the trek on the third day started at 6:30 a.m.
The third day was an easy three-hour climb up to Cabanaconde. It was a lot easier than we thought, because in the morning the trail is mostly in the shade.
Once we arrived we tried to find the guy in the Hostel Valle de Fuego to tell him he should not sell tours if he has no clue about trekking the area. Since he was not to be found, Heidi left a message for him. We collected our stuff and moved to Hostel Villa Pastor, which was much nicer. The reason why we are staying another night in Cabanaconde is that we can catch a bus at 06:30 o´clock in Cabanaconde and be at the Cruz del Condor at 07:00 o’clock in the morning, before the busloads of tourists arrive from Arequipa.