Into The Second Deepest Canyon In The World: Colca Canyon

Arequipa was my first stop after entering Peru and the city was so much nicer than I ever imagined it to be. I thought it was just a launching point for people wanting to hike into the nearby Colca Canyon, which is the reason that I ended up in Arequipa. I didn’t expect it to be such a beautiful city itself.

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View from hostel terrace

I also didn’t realize that the second deepest canyon in the world, Colca Canyon, was so far away from Arequipa. Arequipa is the closest main city to the canyon, but it still takes around 5 hours by public bus to reach the entrance. Most tours leave at 3am in order to arrive first thing in the morning.

I really wanted to do the Colca Canyon hike without a tour. As I mentioned before, I usually prefer to avoid tours whenever possible. I prefer to have my freedom and although there have been some exceptions; I have been disappointed by most tours I have purchased in the past.

The Brazilian girls preferred to do it with a tour and I didn’t want to do the hike completely alone, so I set out to recruit some people to join me. Just like when I was looking for people to rent a car with in Salta, things came together rather fast this time as well. I first met a German named Merino on the bus to Arequipa, who was interested in doing the hike without a tour as well.

Then a few hours later we were on a free city walking tour. We were in a huge group, so it was hard to hear what the guide was saying. We were being a bit loud and having our own conversation at the back of the group and that’s where we met Celia and Lea. The girls decided that they would join us on the hike the next day and our Colca Canyon group was now complete.

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Main square

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On city walking tour

Our bus to Colca Canyon was at 1am that night, so instead of sleeping for a few hours, we went to the Irish bar to watch the big Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight instead. I don’t follow boxing at all, but I thought it would be fun to bet on the match. I bet on Pacquiao, so I ended up losing $10 to Merino when he lost.

As soon as we hopped on the overnight bus, it was lights out for me until we arrived at our stop, Cruz Del Condor. This was still an hour hike from the entrance to Colca Canyon, but we stopped here because it’s a great spot to see condors. We thought we were clever by taking the 1am bus instead of the 3am. We thought that if we arrived at 6am we would have a couple hours with the condors before the crowds arrive.

Apparently, the condors don’t come out until around 8am anyways, so we ended up waiting around for a couple hours until the birds finally appeared, along with the buses full of tourists. It was fine though. Even before the condors arrived, the view of the Andes Mountains was stunning.

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Cruz Del Condor

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Me and Merino

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One of the condors

After we had our fill of condors for the day, we were talking about how nice it would be if we could hitch a ride up to the entrance point of the canyon. This would save us an hour of walking. I noticed that there was one pick up truck sitting in the parking lot and mentioned that we could try to find the owner and ask for a ride. As it turned out, the owners of the pick up truck were standing right beside us and overheard our conversation. They offered us a ride.

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In the back of the pick up truck

RIMG2231Our journey into the canyon was slow going. It seemed like we were being passed by everyone. Not because we weren’t capable of walking fast, but because we started playing “hiking games,” which took our focus away from actually moving along the path. As fun as this was, there came a point where we had to pick up the pace, to avoid arriving at the oasis after dark.

The Colca Canyon hike was beautiful, but the trail could have used a few more signs and our map could have been better. Although, we got lost a few times, the lack of signage gave me a chance to practice the habit of making quick decisions. Every time we came to a fork in the road and realized that the map would be no help, I would trust my intuition and just choose a direction, without wasting time, and start walking.

In my experience, in this kind of situation, most people will stand around discussing which way to go, even though there is no valid information to help make a decision. After 10 minutes, they still have no more information than before, there is still a 50% chance of being correct and they are still making a complete guess.

I would rather just make a decision and then if it is wrong, at least I can then correct and continue earlier than if I had made a decision slowly. I still remember what one of my mentors told me years ago. He said, “Successful people make decisions quickly and change their minds slowly. Unsuccessful people make decisions slowly and change their minds quickly.”

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Looking down into Colca Canyon

RIMG2235We may not have broken any records with our slow descent into the canyon, but we did eventually arrived at the oasis before dark, which is where we spent the night. We found a nice resort to stay at and spent the last hour of daylight relaxing in the pool.

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The Oasis

At dinner, there was a guy talking about how he was currently on a 2 month trip around South America. He really enjoyed the first month, but since then, he hasn’t been able to stop dreading the idea of going back home to work. This sparked a conversation about how travel or even short vacations can be a good test of whether we are working in the right career.

There is a difference between being a bit sad to end a great vacation, compared to dreading the idea of going back home. If we are ever on vacation and dread returning home to work, then I think that’s a pretty clear sign that we should not be doing what we are currently doing. Life is too short to be working a job or building a business we don’t love.

I’ve always been excited to travel, but I’ve also always been just as excited get back home to work. Every time I traveled in my business’s off-season, a couple months abroad was a great recharge for me, but I always returned home motivated to get back to building my business. One of the reasons I knew it was time for a transition out of the business I was in, was that I no longer felt that same level of excitement.

I remember back when I worked jobs, throughout high school and university, that I did not love. I remember working for money and no other reason. I remember counting down the days until my next vacation, or even until the next weekend. I remember waking up each morning and forcing myself out of bed, and having to mentally prepare myself for another unfulfilling day of work. I remember getting stuck in this routine, and accepting it as my way of life. This is no way to live.

I have spoken to people who lived this way their entire life. They were never truly happy, but also never quite unhappy enough to do something about it and change. They may have complained from time to time and even talked about doing something different, but they always put it off as something they would deal with later. Then before they new it, 10 years, then 20 years, then their entire life had passed them by.

I don’t think travel or vacations ought to be an escape from the “real world.” I think they are important and should be valued, but I don’t see any reason why everyday life should have to be any less fun and exciting than traveling the world.

For me, building my business was hard work. At times, I was working 80-100 hour weeks, taking risks and dealing with issues that most people my age would never have to deal with, but I loved every moment of it. There was never a day where I woke up and dreaded having to go to work.

I’m not saying that if you aren’t excited to go to work each day, that you should quit your job tomorrow. If you have bills to pay and a family to feed, this would likely not be a responsible thing to do. I’m just saying that if you do not feel fulfilled by your work, you may want to ask yourself if you really want to keep living this way. If the answer is no, then perhaps it’s time to start planning for a transition.

If you feel like you are not capable of starting a business or getting a better job then maybe it’s time to start working on yourself. Learn new skills. Make yourself more valuable to the marketplace. Jim Rohn said, “Work harder on yourself, than you do on your job/business. When you become better, everything will get better for you.”

We are no longer in the 20th century, where you could end your education after finishing school, get a secure job with a pension and you would be financially set for life. We are now in the 21st century, in the age of technology and globalization.

We are living in an age where there is more opportunity than ever before, but also more competition than ever before. I believe that in this day and age, it’s more important than ever to be continually learning and improving ourselves throughout our entire life to avoid being left behind.

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Lea and Celia enjoying the climb out of Colca Canyon

Wake up call for us was at 5am the next morning. It was time to make the steep, uphill climb, up and out of Colca Canyon. It was a more difficult hike than the day before, but waking up early paid off. I was just glad I wasn’t walking 3 hours, straight up hill, in the midday sun.

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Out of the canyon!

All in all, I had a fantastic few days in Arequipa and Colca Canyon. I was really happy with my decision to do the hike without a guided tour. It was worth not knowing exactly where we were going, for the added freedom that we had. I actually think getting lost a few times added to the adventure in a positive way.

The incredible landscape and even more incredible people that I was with, made this another experience on my South America adventure that I will never forget.

Out On The Highest Lake In The World: Lake Titicaca
Surrounded By Sand: Huacachina

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