Our main reason for being in Peru was that we had booked ourselves onto a 9-day, high altitude trek around one of the highest mountains in Peru – the Ausangate mountain. We had booked with a Keswick-based company called KE Adventure whose operation comes with a good reputation with regards to their guides, customer service, product and treatment of their local staff.
Their Ausangate itinerary lasts for 14 days and includes 4 days of acclimatisation prior to the start of the trek. During these initial days we were taken to several Incan structures both around Cusco and in the Sacred Valley. After the trek we were taken to Machu Picchu for a day-trip which was included as part of the itinerary. I will cover both the trek and Machu Picchu in separate posts.
As we were already in Cusco before the beginning of the itinerary, we met up with our guide and drove out to the airport to pick up some other members of the group. We totalled 6 members plus our guide, so half a regular group. Sarah and I were by far the youngest, with the additional members being >50 years of age. Each of the other members were relatively well experienced when it came to trekking at altitude, and all were well accustomed to KE, some having been on 12 trips with them! Like them and their obvious vote-with-your-feet mentality, I can only praise KE and their affiliate in Peru – Tambo Treks – and would certainly book with them again.
From the airport we travelled for 3-4 hours (including stops), driving to our first port of call – Ollantaytambo – a small town in the Sacred Valley home to a massive Incan citadel. But beforehand we stopped at a village around an hour outside of Cusco, Here we were shown the process and materials utilised to make many of the alpaca knit-wares that you see all over Peru.
Ollantaytambo is characterised by it’s terraces and was alleged to have been an administrative centre, tasked with the production and allocation of food supplies throughout the Incan population in this region. The stepped structures are suggested to allow the production of different crops in a small space using the existing climate – this involves the generation of varying microclimates from top to bottom.
From Ollantaytambo we drove back towards Cusco through the Sacred Valley, stopping at another Incan citadel known as Pisac.
Pisac is quite an impressive terraced structure with numerous viewpoints over the surrounding area. It’s character is accentuated by the presence of an Incan burial site on the opposite side of the view above, which was visibly raided by Spanish Conquistadors.
En route back into Cusco we were taken to Sacsayhuaman, a yet more massive structure situated on a hilltop just outside Cusco. Based upon a pre-Incan site, the scale of the stonework here is staggering.
Other sites outside Cusco that we encountered were; the ‘gateway to Cusco’ that existed in order to filter travellers along an ancient pre-Incan road into Cusco via Sacsayhuaman, Tambomachay – a water temple for cleansing prior to reaching Cusco and also a pre-Incan, small and cave-like rock formation known as Q’enko.
Next we move on to the main highlight of this trip – the trek around Ausangate – in Part 2.2 of A Pan-American Adventure.