The second day of the trek took us through more awesome mountain scenery as we made our way along the edge of the canyon. The river was not too far below us for most of the walk and apart from the final descent into our camp for the second night, the route was fairly flat.
We passed through several small villages along the way and walked through a couple of ankle-deep streams that flowed across the trail. We were definitely happy that we had bought water-proof boots before we left home! The variety of vegetation was staggering. Everything from cactus to medicinal plants to domestic crops for the local populace. Here and there the landscape actually opened up into large open fields.
The cochineal insect is rampant in this area and grows on the Nopal cactus. It has been used since pre-Inca times for dyeing cloth a rich red color. “Cochineal insects have a flat, soft body, and oval-shaped scale. The females cluster on cactus paddles, feeding on its juices. After mating, they give birth to nymphs that secrete a waxy white substance over their bodies for protection. It’s this substance which makes the insect appear white or grey on the outside and its inside a dark purple.” (Wikipedia).
Our guide gave us a short demo on how it was also used for face paint. He just squished a few between his fingers producing the rich red color immediately. A few strokes across the face of a willing volunteer and “voila”!
You also have to remember that Spanish is not spoken in this part of Peru. Once you get away from the coast and into the mountains, the only language spoken is Quechua, the local indigenous language. However, you do find a bit of Spanish spoken by those that deal with the tourists passing through on a regular basis.
The days’s hike ended at The Oasis, a collection of small resorts that is located on the canyon floor pretty much directly below the town of Cabanaconde. It’s possible to hike straight down from Cabanaconde, stay at The Oasis, and then hike back up again the next day. This part of the canyon is also accessible by road.
We could see the zig-zag trail back up to the canyon lip on the other side and decided at that point that we would not be walking out the next day! Our legs were trashed and there was no way we were going to be making it back to the top in three hours, our scheduled amount of time. So we booked mules for the next day at 60 soles each.
After a soak in the pool, a few Pisco sours and a great dinner, we crashed once again for the night.