Trekking in the Sacred Valley
Fabio is the kind of guy who does not want much. Birthday and Christmas gifts are always a struggle, I never know what to buy him. One thing he did want was to visit Machu Picchu and if we could, get there on foot. After reading a number of traveler reviews and trip reports that said the Machu Picchu trail was crowded and the bathrooms nonexistent we opted to do the Lares Trek in the Sacred Valley as opposed to the Machu Picchu trek. The plan was to hike in the Sacred Valley (near Machu Picchu) from Huaran to Lares where we would then be transported to Ollantaytambo, and take the train to Aguas Clientes, the base town for Machu Picchu.
We booked our trek with SAM Travel Peru who made the process very easy. Sam even Skyped with me because I was initially undecided on the dates and number of days we would hike and whether we would hike Huayna Picchu (we didn't). We were picked up at our hotel, Los Apus & Mirador in Cusco, bright, actually dark and early, at 5 am, greeted the other hikers already in the van and picked up a few additional hikers. We were able to leave our luggage at the hotel, which was amazing, and only took our trekking supplies and camera of course. It was a 2 hour drive to Huaran where the trail started. Just before reaching Huaran, we stopped at the market in Calca to pick up the days food. We explored the market while the group's chefs and our guide Miguel gathered groceries.
We then headed to meet up with the horsemen where the horses were packed and we prepared to start the trek. Leaving the Sacred Valley behind us, we headed northwards through the woods following a gently climbing trail that runs parallel to the small Cancha Cancha River. Fabio started out at a rapid pace but soon fell in line with the rest of us as the altitude hits you pretty quickly. It took 4 hour of walking to our destination, the small village also named Cancha Cancha (3800m) where we spent the night.
I realize I look incredibly dorky in my bucket hat. I hate hats. I have a small head and they all look ridiculous on me. However the sun is so strong at high altitude and after living in South Florida for 12 years my once creamy complexion is now riddled with freckles and sun spots. Can you say laser treatment? I can. At this point though, it's sunscreen and dorky hats.
We left Cancha Cancha early the next morning continuing northeast up the valley, passing small thatched stone houses, many, many llamas and alpacas as well as a Quechua woman perched on a cliff, weaving next to her dogs. After 3 hours the path flattened out but then rose steeply for 2 hours to the highest pass, called Pachacutec Pass (4758m). Upon reaching the pass we were rewarded with superb views of Pachacutec Lake and the snowy peaks of Pitusiray. We then continued on the path for an hour along a narrow ridge then headed down into a beautiful secluded area filled with glacial lakes where we stopped for lunch. After refueling we descended into the next valley, where we were greeted by a series of cascading waterfalls. Obviously a quick photo shoot was necessary. We then continued on to the village of Quisuarani (3700m) where we camped by the lake for the night.
I awoke in the middle of the night with a terrible headache. I thought oh no, I have altitude sickness again! I was having trouble breathing and started to panic a bit. I woke Fabio up and said "I can't breathe, I don't know what to do." He said "why don't you try unzipping your sleeping bag." I couldn't find the zipper and started rolling around inside my sleeping bag. Finally Fabio unzipped my sleeping bag, I stuck my head out and breathed in the cool air. Omg, I had nearly suffocated myself inside the mummy style sleeping bag! Seriously. It happened. Note to campers using those sleeping bags- sleep on your back with your face up in the designated area. Otherwise you may asphyxiate yourself, lol.
We arose early the next morning for our final day of trekking which was really only a few hours of walking. We climbed an inclining trail for about an hour, then followed our guide downhill through the river valley for about 3 1/2 hours to the town of Lares (3100m). Naturally it had started raining at this point so once we reached the meeting point where the van was picking us up we hung out in the rain. Hence the lack of photos. Luckily our meeting point was across the street from a school so we had some entertainment. A couple that was part of our group had brought candy to give to children and were so excited because we hadn't seen any children during our trek. They ran over to ask if they could give the kids candy and spent a few minutes playing with the rosy cheeked children. We soon saw a van heading towards us and knew it had to be our ride. The van picked us up and we headed for Ollantaytambo where we took the train to Aguas Calientes, the base town for those heading to Machu Picchu. We were exhausted but so happy we managed to complete the trek.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next post where we explore the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu! In the meantime follow @kpotenti on Instagram to get a sneak peek of what's to come. ;)