Nester, 33, was born in Cabanacande, which is a small remote village at the top of the canyon (elevation 12,000 ft). He trained to become a guide and now leads treks all over Peru and Bolivia. His entire family lives in Cabanacande. His grandfather is 105 and still walks the mountains. According to Nester, living to 100 is average in his village. The people only eat fresh organic food and they stay extremely active throughout life.The Colca Canyon trek (18 km total) started with a long downhill hike as we descended into the canyon. Eventually we crossed the Colca River between the two mountains. A much needed lunch (soup and lomos saltado) awaited us on the other side of the canyon. A couple hours later, we made it to our final destination for the evening. It was a tropical oasis hostel at the bottom of the canyon with a swimming pool and stone huts for sleeping. This easily falls under the category of one of the most beautiful places I have ever spent the night. The next day started at a frigid 4 am. Under the light of a multitude of stars, we hiked straight up and out of the canyon. Accompanied by some local dogs, we slowly but surely climbed 6 km up rocky stairs and dirt inclines.
According to Nester, this is called “Inca flat”. It took three hours, and it was the most difficult hike I have ever done. Nester hardly broke a sweat. He’s been doing this his entire life. On Sundays as kids, he and his friends would hike down to the bottom of the canyon, play soccer, and then walk back up. My most challenging trek is Nester’s walk in the park.
A breakfast of eggs, toast, and coffee was waiting for us at the top. We ate voraciously and nursed our sore feet, calves, hamstrings, and glute muscles. Nester said goodbye and joined another group who was just starting the Colca Trek. Unbelievable. Over the course of many generations in Nester’s family, their knees and legs must have evolved to be much more durable than mine. When asked if the view of the canyon ever gets old, he replied with an assured “no way”.
PS- We start the five day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu on Thursday (July 14th). The mountains do not have wifi, so don’t expect any blog posts until next week. Hasta luego!