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This will be the last blog before I hit the Pacific Ocean, hopefully just a few days from now.
A very eventful last few weeks since I climbed Mismi and left Chivay, and all the details will have to wait until after I finish. I walked from Chivay to Cabanaconde along the top of the mesmerizing Colca Canyon where I couldn’t help stopping frequently to look at the views and take photos of the stunning landscapes. Especially at dawn and dusk, the clear blue skies and eye-piercing sunlight of the dry season appear to constantly change the colours and shapes of the different rock formations of the mountains.
To get to Cabanaconde I passed Yanque, Achoma, Maca, and Pinchollo, and nestled in between were various tiny pueblos. As I approached Cabanaconde, word had got around about my trek and I was kindly invited to stay at the stunning Colca trek lodge in Pinchollo thanks to Vlado the owner of the lodge and then at La Granja del Colca in the town of Cabanaconde where many international tourists stay.
After chatting to some local Quechua guides based in Cabanaconde, I heard about the sad disappearance of young Belgian tourist Natasha Crombrugghe. Some of the local guides had volunteered to help search for her over the last few months. It is rare that there are any events like this here, and her parents were still in the area, desperate in their search for clues to the mystery. Link – More info here.
One of the Quechua guides, Brendesi, offered to walk with me for a week for security, just to get down into the canyon and the very welcome, almost tropical, warmth of the village of Canco, then across the Colca river to climb back up to 3500m and into the cold mountains to Viraco. He became my last (short-term) guide of the expedition (see guides page for info and contact details). After walking alone since I left Pichari, it was good to have some company for a week. I would love to have extended it, but it was all I could afford.
From the multiple volcanos overlooking the town of Andagua, Brendesi advised me to hire a local Quechua plus his mule to help get us over the 3 day trek and a 5000m mountain via ancient pre-Inca trails to Viraco. We made camp at altitude, and it was the coldest night I have ever experienced. Brendesi, who guides in the high peaks and knows the mountains well, said it was probably -15C that night. My hands and feet were numb until 10 am the following morning, when we started to descend rapidly, and although it was a really interesting traverse, I really was now looking forward to the warmer lower altitudes, and to shedding layers of jumpers and coats and thermals for the last time.
Viraco is overlooked by one of the highest peaks in Peru, the glacier-topped Coropuna mountain. I said my farewells to Brendesi and continued alone down and into the Majes river valley, where it practically never rains. Coropuna was still visible behind me, majestically dominating the horizon as I headed down and down towards the Pacific coast. My first thought after descending, was ‘Wow! – an oasis in the middle of a mountain desert!’ The Majes River was believed by the Incas to flow directly to the Milky Way, and for this reason they often put sacrifices and gifts in the river so they would be borne along to them.
Before the Inca civilization, the Wari people lived there, and there are many petroglyphs (Toro Muerto), and tombs that still exist on the mountains overlooking the fertile valley. Millennia before us humans, dinosaurs lived here among the mountains – and dinosaur footprints can be found here also.
The contrast between the deep blue, clear sky, the arid, reddish-brown mountains, a green, fertile valley and an almost turquoise river, is spectacular to see first hand.
Walking through the Majes valley will hold bitter sweet memories for me now, as my my father sadly passed away while I was walking here. I had hoped to see him again on my return to the UK, and it means that I have lost both my parents over the course of the expedition. This has been mentally very tough, and I will be thinking of them both as I approach the ocean. I’ve lost a few days walking as a result but now I’m back on track.
And so onto the Pacific I go, to complete the final part of my Amazon odyssey. I hope to finish late June, about the same time as Inti Raymi, the Inca festival of the sun here in Peru.
The final blog will be as soon as possible after the finish, so please watch this space and keep updated with Twitter @amazonascent (also displayed on my homepage of the website).
Thanks again🙏 to all who have donated and helped me get to this point. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support, and feel this has become a ‘peoples’ expedition! I’ve been really happy to be able to share the experience and I’m looking forward to putting together and delivering a really special, signed 2023 calendar to all who donated, when I return to the UK.
My support page is still open for donations via the PayPal link below. Any donations of £25 / $30 or more will receive the special 2023 calendar signed, sealed and delivered, with unique images from my trek. Delivered anywhere on the planet.
Header photo. The contrasting turquoise river, green farmlands, red mountains and blue sky are spectacular along the Majes Valley.
Two Quechua women with Colca canyon in the background.
Quechua guide Primitivo Álvarez and his amazingly strong and patient mule helped us up and over the mountains from Andagua to Vicaro
Mountain trails & roads – walking 20km to advance just 10km!
Green wheat crops contrast with the sky and mountains of the Majes Valley.
Workers processing rice grown in the Majes Valley backdropped by the mountains.
Professional Quechua Mountain guide Brendesi accompanied me for a week.
Old man warming himself in a ray of sunshine in a very cold town of Vicaro. Coropuna mountain in the distance.
“A river has many curves, but it always reaches the ocean” ~ Amit Kalantri
The many hundreds of ancient petroglyphs scattered across the bone-dry landscape. Toro Muerto.
Petroglyphs of Toro Muerto. Majes Valley in the background.
As in most towns, a Colonial church dominates the town square (Cabanconde).
Many types of cactus grow high in the mountains.
Fruit of the cactus. Sour-tasting, but thirst quenching!
One of many memorials I’ve seen along the mountain roads recently.
Brendesi still on the lookout for clues regarding Natasha, who went missing in late January 2022.
The Mamacocha river meets the Colca river.
Trackking maps displaying my route from Chivay to Corire
Pan & zoom map to see more detail