Canyoning in the Cordillera Blanca

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Huaraz, Peru
By Marisa Umsawasdi

First Steps Off the Waterfall
First Steps Off the Waterfall

Judith and I met Holmes, our guide, up at his shop and hung around the Plaza Ginebra before we departed for our canyoning trip. We were approached by children begging for money from us. One boy thought I was African, which I thought was bizarre. I tried to ride Holmes’ bike in the plaza (since I can’t ride one),but it was way too tall for me. I didn’t want to look like a fool in front of all the gringos in the plaza, so I didn’t go very far – meaning, I went like 3 feet, and leaned my foot out and got off the bike.
We went canyoning for 50 soles with Holmes – our guide, Marco – another guide, a guy from Arequipa and 2 Israeli girls from our hostel – Yakira and Lemora. We walked back toward the hostel and past the basketball courts and took a combi to “somewhere” as I wrote on the list in the combi. We drove along the scenic river, and stopped at a certain point. We got out, hiked uphill a bit, and got to a set of waterfalls.

Holmes and the guys started setting up. Since the tour was so cheap and not in the guidebooks, I doubted things a bit. I checked out how they were setting up the equipment, and saw that everything was set up pretty well. We had to cross a stream, and I slipped in it with my hiking boots on, so they were all wet and my socks were saturated. I took them off, traded them for my Tevas, and tied my boots to my pack. I was the first out of the non-Peruvians to go, since I had been rapelling before and wasn’t chicken.

Getting Soaked
Getting Soaked

Rapelling down the first cascade was easy — it wasn’t very high. But freaking cold!!! The waterfalls were created from snow and ice melt from high in the Cordillera Blanca. Now I thought, what on earth was I thinking. Couldn’t I have picked rock climbing or icefall climbing instead? At
least it was a sunny day out.

We went down another waterfall – not too bad. The third one, we got completely soaked.

After the third one, I decided to put my tank top around my waist, as it was freezing and I would dry faster in the sun. We were all shiverring, trying to keep warm and dry off, sitting on the rocks in the sun where we could. This was much colder than any cold shower I had taken in South America thus far.

The fourth waterfall was high — 20 meters. While we were waiting for the setup to be complete, a man who lives near the area approached us and said he rode his bike off the ledge and down into the canyon – that’s why his arm was broken. Crazy! I went down, slipped a few times, and got totally drenched!! When I got to the bottom, the guy from Arequipa was taking pictures, so I turned around and smiled with a cheesy grin – not knowing that the sheer force of the waterfall had moved my bikini top so that one of my boobs was hanging out!

Ack! Oops! Wardrobe malfunction. When I noticed it, I turned my back, fixed it, and was like..crap, I probably have a picture of that now.

Thank god it doesn't rain like this
Thank God it Doesn’t Rain Like This

The last waterfall was pretty high as well. You put your feet under the ledge, and the lower you down
really really fast!! And it is straight down the waterfall, all the way to the bottom. We all got
completely soaked. As if we weren’t wet enough. At the bottom of the rappel is a pool above knee deep, so you’re freezing, water is pounding on your head, and you’re in a freezing pool, desperately trying to undo the beaner so that the next person can go, and run to a dry spot, hopefully in the sun.

Yakira couldn’t quite get the hang of rappelling, so it was quite entertaining. The first cascade, she had so many problems (that was the super easy one). Holmes gave up on her (all instructions were in
Spanish, so there were some communication problems),and just lowered her down. Same thing happened on the 4th cascade as well.

We were so cold after that. Judith and I went back to the hostel, hoping for a hot shower…well, not in our room! We found that the shower downstairs wass electric
and gets hot…yeah!! Aaaahhhh.

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