Cotahuasi Canyon is a stunning cut on the earth that the river has eroded between two enormous mountain ranges: the Coropuna of 6.425m and Solimana of 6.093m. They say it's the deepest in the world (3535 meters deep), in the area of Ninancocha, although Tsangpo Canyon in Tibet or the Kali Gandaki Canyon in Nepal may be deeper... The depth is measured from the level of the river to the peaks on both sides, and these two peaks must be within a maximum distance, which does not mean they are vertical walls. For years it was thought that the Colca Canyon (Arequipa, Peru) was the deepest, but the Cotahuasi Canyon beats by 163m.
The canyon is located within a protected area in the region of Arequipa in southern Peru, and is part of the Pacific Ocean watershed.
In late August 2011 Silvio Gurrieri and I (Eneko Yarza) arrived from Arequipa city to Cotahuasi town at 3 am, after 12 hours of bus bouncing trip.
We load the kayaks in a taxi and went down the valley past the waterfall Sipia, a point where the river abruptly reduced to only 5 m wide and rushes violently 150m crashing against the rocks. The following possible entry into the river after Sipia is in the village of Chaupo, where we had to walk more than an hour to reach the river. We changed, dry clothes, sleeping bag and food inside the kayak, and ready to paddle. The river seemed to have an average flow.
Then there is the "Flat Water Canyon", but has nothing flat. 5 km class IV-V to Velinga (1750m altitude). In Velinga the best known and longest "Lower Canyon" section begins with some class 5 rapids: Metro Canyon, Centimeter Canyon, High side for your life, and so on. Good whitewater quality and continuous, no time to bored.
|Happy in the Centimeter Canyon|
But that's not all, great man-made pre-Inca works of architecture are also found: set of "platforms" or "andenes" are seen on the banks of the river throughout all the descent. We also explored burial niches from where we camped. In the past this valley was well populated, but now almost nobody lives, and we only saw gold miners. Desert environment and cloudless blue sky.
After the confluence of the Cotahuasi and Maran rivers, it takes the name of Ocoña river. It has more volume of water, but is flatter, and from noon the wind blows hard against, and must paddle strong to go downstream. Where we saw that there was a car road we went out, and a 4x4 Hylux took us to the town of Barreras, where there was one hostel and one restaurant, enough to delight us with crackling shrimp of the same river, relax and travel to Arequipa city the next day.
Neither Silvio nor myself knew the river, and we were told it would take at least 4 days. This same August another group kayaked from Velinga in six days. But Silvio had plane ticket and could not be more than 4 days on the river, so that with good communication we paddled hard no losing time, launching at a view almost without scouting, and running all the rapids without portaging. Suddenly, without knowing it, the second day we were at the end and we had time and food left.
Silvio went back to Argentina and after the expedition to the Colca Canyon (this will be the next video and blog post) I went back to Cotahuasi Canyon to make a second expedition with the Arequipans Diego Ibañez and Santiago Ibañez. This time we wait in the town of Cotahuasi until 6 am and went on local bus to Chaupo, better and cheaper. Already knew the river and paddling hard we did the expedition again in 2 days. We returned to Arequipa city without resting, starting the trip as you see in the picture: in the cold sunset and uncomfortable, but happy.
You get in good physical and mental condition after these marathon days, and then brief falls short, hehe