What is hiding behind one of the deepest canyons of the world?

Terra Explorer
December 15, 2020

When I need to take a break from routine and escape from the city, the first accomplice that comes to mind is the Peruvian explorer Piero Vellutino. Together, we have paddled one of the deepest canyons in the world, rode our mountain bikes above 4 thousand meters above sea level and surrounded by snow, we have celebrated endless festivities and gone horseback riding for hours crossing rivers and discovering waterfalls.

The best trips I’ve had, I owe them to him, and I’m sure that over the years, our list of adventures will continue to grow. Piero is part of an Arequipa family, a kind of pioneer tribe of adventure tourism in Peru

He has worked as a guide in Africa, America, Europe, and Asia, managing to accumulate more than twenty years of professional experience. Over ten years ago, he founded Terra Explorer, which today has established itself as one of the best luxury adventure tourism agencies in the country. 

When I found out that he was organizing a rafting expedition on the Apurimac River, I got my flight tickets to Cusco on that same day, and with luck, I was able to get the last spot on the trip. 

They say the best trips are the ones that are not planned, and this experience was no exception. The Apurimac River is one of those well-kept treasures of Peru that all outdoor and nature lovers should paddle sometime in their life.

adventure turism

Apurimac River: meaning and origins

The word Apurimac comes from the Quechua language and means “Lord who speaks.” According to the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, the Apurimac River was also called Capac Mayu, which means “Main River,” to highlight its importance over the rest of torrents. 

The Spanish Pedro Pizarro helped us understand the place this river occupied in the Andean worldview, by affirming in its chronicles the existence of a temple and oracle, close to this river, which was removed during the conquest.

The section that is commercially paddled is located in the border limit of Cusco and Apurimac. However, this river is born in Arequipa from the Mismi glacier (5597m.a.s.l) and flows from south to north until the waters reach the Amazon, the longest and most abundant river in the planet.

boating sport

Types of canoeing expeditions on the Apurimac River

 According to Piero, two types of completely different rafting expeditions can be done in the Apurimac River. One option is to take a family trip in the quieter section known as the “black canyon.” 

The other is the one I embarked on, an adventure for adults with fun rapids that requires a team of certified professionals, such as Terra Explorer. 

Although I have a lot of respect for extreme sports since I was a little girl, I learned that adventure is an essential experience that allows us to enjoy the present time and fill us with life. 

I was lucky to grow up with an adventurous dad who taught me how to sail, surf, fish, between others. He has always and unconditionally supported my own outdoor adventures, like this one.

outdoor adventures

Water expedition on the Apurimac River

We leave very early from Cusco in a south-west direction towards the Huallpachaca bridge and have lunch on the banks of the imposing Apurimac River, while the guides were in charge of organizing the gear and getting everything ready. After a safety talk, we take our places on the boat and start our first day of rafting.

Since I started paddling, I realized that the success of these types of expeditions depends entirely on teamwork. I had to be attentive to the navigation commands of the guide and also react in coordination with other passengers.

That made us quickly develop a relationship of trust and go from not talking much on the way to the river, to hugging and screaming adrenaline when we were undefeated in good class III or IV rapids.

mountain expedition

I was surprised by the guides’ ability to read the river and choose their lines carefully. Before paddling each section, they would tell us the name and history of the rapid and coordinated with the cargo team and the safety kayakers the navigation techniques that we would use.

For people like me, with little experience in the river but eager to explore, it was crucial to know that the safety and well-being of the group are prioritized. We even avoided some technical and potentially dangerous stretches as a precaution.

At the end of the rainy season, the water level decreases, altering some sections of the river, making them almost unnavigable. In these cases, the passengers crossed this section on foot, while the guides displayed a show of incredible maneuvers while descending through the stirring white waters.

What unforgettable experiences can you live on the Apurimac River?

The experience of hiking along the shores of the river was terrific. At times, we had to walk through thick vegetation, where it was normal to find wild mammals footprints; or we walked among immense rock forests polished by the wind, creating mysterious shapes.

The view was even more privileged from the rafts. Being Peru, one of the countries with the greatest biodiversity in the world, perhaps the best advice they gave me was to take advantage of the flat sections of the river to look up and admire the landscape. 

The journey is sometimes intense, and you can easily paddle miles without discovering the beautiful nature surrounding you. Thanks to those moments of rest and observation, led by the guides, I was able to identify fifteen of hundreds of species of birds that inhabit the valley. 

My favorite ones were the torrents duck, the yellow-backed cacique, the cormorant, and the magnificent Andean condor that nests in the canyon. If you are lucky, you can even get to see otters, swimming near your boat.

inca sacred valley

After spending a full day in constant activity, the news that we were approaching the campsite was received as a great reward. The beaches of the river have few things to envy those of the coast. They are virgin shelters of white sand and crystal clear water, protected from the wind by enormous rock cliffs.

Our beach plans began around a campfire, enjoying the afternoon with snacks and a well-deserved happy hour. At night, the campsite was transformed into a one-million-star hotel, convincing some to sleep outside their tents. 

My culinary experience on this trip completely changed the concept I had of food in outdoor camps.

The Apurimac River canyon is truly a natural sanctuary that allows you moments of authentic connection with yourself and teaches you the importance we should give to things. 

It is not so difficult to break the routine if we dare to take the opportunities that are presented to us to do something new and recharge ourselves with good energy. When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Now that you know more about Apurimac River, would you be willing to live such a fantastic adventure in this destination? In Terra Explorer, we have several itineraries made for you, get in touch with us, and we will help you design the trip of your dreams!

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