My time in Peru feels like it was an age ago. Holidays and working on new illustration projects as well as my tiny house have kept me quite busy. I haven’t shared anything about my wonderful time in Ausangate but now I finally have a moment to write a bit about this part of my Peruvian adventure.
I always intended to do more than one trek when I was planning my trip to Peru. My virtual friend, Drew Robinson, who blogs about all things hiking and trekking at Trail to Peak had recommended taking an additional trek to a mountain range called Ausangate, which is a lesser known mountain near the city of Cusco. Lissa and I used the expedition company he recommended called Alpaca Expeditions for our Inca Trail trek and were very impressed. I believe Drew also used them for his trek in Ausangate so that was my initial plan as well. The afternoon Lissa left Cusco to return to Portland I managed to throw my back out bending over to get through one of the miniature Inca doorways with my big heavy pack on. I was pretty much immobile for 2 days.
As I lay in bed in my Airbnb marinating in an ibuprofen haze, I thought my opportunity to do a second trek was probably in jeopardy. I recovered, however, much more quickly than I thought and was back climbing up and down the infamous stairs in Cusco within a week. Lissa had treated me to a massage after returning from Machu Picchu and I returned to the same massage therapist after I was able to move again. Daniel, who is a transplant from the UK, recommended hiking Ausangate on my own. He and some friends had stayed in a town called Pacchanta right below the mountains and were able to do day hikes to the beautiful ‘lagunas‘ that Ausangate is famous for. I (and my dwindling budget) thought this sounded like a great alternative plan. I decided to investigate this much more affordable option if my back fully recovered.
Two weeks later, I felt much stronger. I googled ‘homestay’ and ‘Ausangate’ and a website popped up. I was introduced through text and photos to the wonderful Condori family that lives near Pacchanta in a small village called Pukarumi. Felipe and Juliana offer a variety of options which include a homestay at the base of the mountains and could also include a 1-5 day trek with Felipe as cook and guide. The price was incredibly reasonable and I immediately emailed to see if they could accommodate me the following week. They could, and after emailing back and forth we agreed on a 5-night stay which would include a 3-day trek. Felipe would retrieve me in Cusco, and we would travel together out to Pukarumi.
The following Monday afternoon I found myself on a very crowded bus on my way to the village of Tinki where we would take a taxi up to Casa Condor. I found myself wedged in between a sleeping man and two young boys engaging in some sort of play fighting. Peruvians do not have personal bubbles. I began taking deep breaths and reminding myself that at least the bus ride was only 3 hours. After arriving in Tinki we had a 30 minute taxi ride on what, I suppose, the locals call a road. Holy potholes Batman! Teenagers piled on motorbikes were constantly whizzing by us in the dark. It was a tiny bit hair-raising.
We eventually arrived safely, and as the taxi pulled up into a field of grass, a group of people poured out of a small building with glowing windows. I was greeted in the dark outside the house by almost the whole family. Felipe and Juliana have 5 children and I met 4 of them, including the oldest Wilian, who is 23, and the youngest, Mirian, who is 8. The Condor family lives a very humble existence, residing in 2-3 buildings that are about the size of my tiny house. The floors are packed dirt and there is no heat or hot water. The bathroom is an outhouse-type building with a hole in the ground, but thank goodness for those of us using our phones as our cameras, there is electricity. I was directed across the grass to the guest-house where a series of double beds piled with heavy Alpaca wool blankets lined the wall. Juliana and Felipe cooked dinner for all of us over a 2-burner propane stove while squatting on small plastic stools. The meal was filling and delicious. I was again, so impressed with Peruvian cuisine, and especially what can be produced in such rustic conditions. I think of our American kitchens with all the gadgets and specialty items we insist we need to cook and it just makes me laugh. (I’m not judging… I just received a garlic press from Pampered Chef for my new kitchen and I am so so very happy.)
I woke up the next morning to Felipe delivering me steaming coca tea, a bowl of hot water to wash in, and the most spectacular view of two incredibly beautiful mountain ranges. Behind Casa Condor (which you can see in the drawing above) looms Qayangate, and to the South, the more famous Ausangate dominates the skyline. These both are part of the Vilcanota mountain range in the Andes. They are known for their myriad of gorgeous ‘lagunas,’ and herds of wild Alpacas. After a tasty breakfast, Felipe emerged with a packed lunch in his backpack and we embarked on a day hike to the ‘mirador‘ (viewpoint) behind the house so I could acclimatize with a shorter hike before we began our trek the next day. Dark clouds rolled in about an hour into our hike, so I was only able to see small glimpse of the entire mountain range. November is when the rainy season starts in Peru, so this was to be expected. We made it back to the house before the rain started and I headed for the guesthouse to take a nap. Hiking at such high elevations wears you out very quickly. I was also developing a head cold and feeling quite puny and weak. When I woke up in the afternoon, the clouds had disappeared and the sun was bright and strong. I sat on a small stool outside the house and sketched. The drawing above brings back that moment: sitting in the warm sunshine, drinking tea, with the beauty of Peru spread before me.
I’ll continue in my next blog about my trek into Ausangate. As 2017 comes to a close, I am so very grateful for another year of wonderful adventures and captured memories. Thank you for following along with me as I encounter and record the beauty that is to come in 2018.