The Cañon del Colca and Our Big Day

We left Arequipa in the morning and the road worked its way northward, past Volcán El Misti and the other snow-covered peaks, and out into the open country.  There were many local people on our bus, which is normal, but the women were dressed differently than how we were used to, more colorfully with tons of small detail stitched into their dresses and hats.  The road took us to higher and higher elevations until we were driving through slushy snow at almost 5000 meters.

Busing it through the snow!

We made our way over the top and saw our first glimpses into the Cañon del Colca, and the town of Chivay set out beautifully beneath us.  That bus ride will be remembered as one of the most beautiful.

Chivay at the start of the Cañon del Colca.

We stayed at a nice place in town.  Chivay is very quiet and pretty small, although it’s the biggest town in the canyon.  As soon as you enter the canyon at Chivay, you are required to buy a tourist ticket for 70 Soles per person.  We tried to avoid buying it, which we were able to get away with in Chivay, but when we went farther into the canyon they got us.

Church in central Chivay

A traditionally dressed woman sits on a public chair in the style of her own hat.

On our second day in Chivay, we decided to take a hike east of town to the hotsprings and towns beyond.  The Lonely Planet said that it would be an all-day hike, but beautiful the entire way.  The hotsprings were 3km from town but were 15 Soles per person so we decided to pass them by.  The landscape was magical and weather perfect for exercise.

Rio del Colca

Quinoa guarded by a traditionally-dressed scarecrow.

We followed the directions in the guidebook and soon found ourselves on a rutted road, then a simple trail, and soon we were having trouble finding the trail at all.  With a short supply of water and no food, Carrie was able to convince me that we should turn around.  This turned out to be a good choice because we found out later that we were headed in completely the wrong direction (thanks Lonely Planet!).  We were both grumpy for a few minutes after turning back and losing the trail several times but, after looking at the scenery around us, we soon started to cheer up.  I remembered the ring that I had been carrying in my pocket for some time, since Cuzco.  I thought, “This is the spot!” as Carrie and I stopped to drink some water.  I grabbed her hands and asked her if she would marry me as I got on one knee.  Tears came to our eyes.  “Are you serious?  Is this really it?  Yes!  YES!” she replied.

Proposal reenactment with the camera on a crooked rock.

The rest of the hike was spent in a blur of happiness.  Once back to Chivay, we decided it was a great time to splurge, so went to one of the buffets in town.  Smiles all around.

My new fiancée!

After dinner we had a blast calling our mothers and changing our personal information on Facebook.  “It’s better than my birthday!” said Carrie, stunned at all the Internet congratulations we got from friends.  That night we went out for some drinks in the land of pisco.

Pisco sour and an Arequipeña

The next day, still blissfully happy, we headed farther into the canyon, 2.5 hours by bus to the smaller village of Cabanaconde.  This is where the canyon really opens up.

On the road to Cabanaconde near Cruz del Condor

Cañon del Colca

More stunning scenery and beautiful hiking abound in the sleepy town of Cabanaconde.  Deeper than the Grand Canyon, Cañon del Colca is a very different canyon but also a once in a lifetime experience.  It was the perfect place to ask the big question and start this new chapter of our relationship!