During my time in Peru, a lot of my limits were tested. Endurance, altitude, stomach and digestive capacities, sleeping, motion sickness… you name it, I think it was tested. We were staying in a town called Chivay, at nearly 5000 metres altitude, it was cold, wet, and dizzyingly (not word but will become a word now!) difficult to sleep. Still, we prevailed. With the yearning for adventure and a thirst for discovery, the group got over the sickness, over the tiredness, and we took on our first altitude hike, the Colca Canyon.
The Colca Canyon is regarded as the deepest canyon in the Americas, with a depth of 3500 metres, it is something to behold. In the cold weather, not only were we breathless due to the low density of the air, but the site it self was incredible. Through fault of my own ignorance, I always thought of a canyon as something quite arid, mostly because in my head canyon goes straight to the Grand Canyon. However, clearly in the spirit of learning and continuous growth, I learnt otherwise. The Colca Canyon is ripe with vegetation that varies depending on the altitude that you find yourself in. It is a truly transforming site, where the cycles of nature can be observed all year long.
For those of you who need some clarification, as I did, a canyon is a deep cleft or gorge that has been formed as a result of weathering and usually the erosive activity of a river over time. As I said before, I always imagined an arid, desert like mountain range to be a canyon, hence the Grand Canyon. I have however since been educated, and the spotting the beautiful river that carved its way through the gorge was awe inspiring. It is now a very calm river, that bathes its valley and nourishes its greenery, but it was once a destructive force that constructed this beautiful valley. Or perhaps we should see the river as a sort of artist, brushing past each rock and shaping it until it made this stunning view.
In the cold weather that was such a contrast to the blistering heat of sea level Peru, it was almost as if we were walking on clouds. The clear change of pressure in the air caused the formation of very low clouds. Or maybe I had just never been that high up, but the clouds added another layer of wonder to the whole sight. As they parted to reveal the imposing drop and the flying condors, we were left teetering on the edge of the precipice. I don’t think anyone had noticed just how high up we were and how careful we should have been.
I never knew that I respected hikers and mountain climbers so much in my life until this moment. It was intimidating and inviting, I could almost convince myself that I could fly at the edge of those cliffs… almost. And it certainly felt like it as I walked on clouds discovering the masterfully, naturally shaped canyon.