The department of Arequipa is known as Peru's "Canyon Country." It is home to the world's deepest canyon, Cotahuasi, twice the depth of Arizona's Grand Canyon, and Colca Canyon, the world's second deepest canyon.
Colca Canyon is 11, 150 feet deep at some points, and, according to Mario Vargas Llosa, is a "Valley of Wonders."
A string of volcanoes line the canyon on both sides, one of which is the second highest in Peru and where the 500-year-old mummy Juanita was discovered. The terraces that line the walls and base of the canyon were first cultivated by the Incas more than 1,000 years ago.
Beyond being filled with the wildlife Peru is known for (llamas, alpacas, vicuñas and condors), 14 pueblos sit in Colca Canyon, some of them only accessible by mule trails.
The women wear traditional Colca clothing, intricately embroidered and brightly colored skirts, vests and hats. Many locals speak Quechua as their first language.
Colca Canyon is only six hours by bus, a popular option for tourists. So Mom and I decided to go investigate.
With Sergio's help, we contracted a three-day trek into the canyon's base. The guided hike cost $60 and includes transportation and food, except for one lunch.
The plan was to leave from Arequipa for Chivay and finally Cabanaconde (see map below). That's where our five-hour descent on foot down into the canyon starts.