At the beginning of our trip with Rolphy; our guide, on an Incan Archaeological site.

The AUSANGATE is the snow-capped Sacred Mountain, visible from the city of Cusco, Peru. It reaches 6,372 meters above sea level and is the country´s second highest mountain. Beautiful, majestic, imposing and spiritual, the glacier provides water to the surrounding region, making it fertile, and its waters run all the way to the Amazon Basin. The Ausangate´s inhabitants are part of one of the world’s last and oldest shepherding cultures, as they have proudly maintained their traditional way of life, as well as their devotion to the Sacred Mountain and textile art. I recently did a 5-day trek with Andean Lodges, while visiting Peru with my friend, Jessica. Our brilliant and passionate guide; Rolphy, and his crew, with their llamas and horses, took us on this 5-day trek, into the Land of Wild Vicunas and Condors which we did see, circling in the sky.
This is a fair trade lodge-to-lodge trek with capital “R” and “T”, for Responsible Tourism. Andean Lodges has partnered with the native shepherding communities of Chillca and Osefina, to provide this unique experience in its kind. We stayed at lodges built by members of these communities and were hosted by them. We had a chef and two local girls who scampered across the mountains, leaving each lodge after us, and getting to the next, well before we did, where they made our beds for the night. The lodges are comfortable and lovely, in appearance. However, they are very cold, and I often slept wearing my hat and scarf, but, at least, this isn’t like camping.
Indeed, this is luxurious hardcore hiking, and you must be fit and have a positive attitude. The food is excellent, the beds are comfortable, and the showers are hot, at the most, for about 10 minutes. The last lodge offered the best shower ever. I had to release my lungs, and started belting out show tunes… I was so pleased. But, it is the people who took us on this journey, along their sacred paths, and the beauty of the place, in itself, that are the highlights. Jessica and I were the only participants on this trip, and we seldom saw any other people other than the shepherds with their herds of Alpacas, well into the thousands. It consolidated our already strong, deep and old friend, as we encouraged each other, along with the difficult ascents.
You need to be prepared for all seasons, on this hike. It can be summer, one minute, and winter, the next, but, with the right clothing, everything will go fine. The experience was unforgettable. I hope to bring my children when they will be old enough, if I am still fit enough to do it. If not, I will just tell them to go again and again. In fact, it is an opportunity not to be missed. I was sad to say goodbye to this magical landscape, and to its gracious inhabitants.
DAY 1: We’ve arrived! The first lodge is visible, in the background.

DAY 1: Our arrival at Chillca Tambo. You can get an idea of the terrain´s vastness.

DAY 2: After the evening entertainment of traditional music and dancing, offered by our hosts, and a great night´s sleep at Chillca Tambo, we set-off for our first day of extreme hiking, with Rolphy as our guide, and Pancho, following with the ‘helping horse’; Pancho Pacco.

DAY 3: The summit in the background. Before we began our ascent, our host made a traditional offering to the mountain which is a life force for the local people who respect it.

We made it! On the summit, with our crew; Vilma, Rosa, Pancho, Eduardo and the ever elusive Rolphy, always taking the photo.

Thumbs up! Ready for bed and I’m absolutely freezing, on this photo. Luckily, under the blankets, I was warm again. Hot water bottles were a plus.

DAY 4: We´ve reached ‘The Colourful Mountain’!

DAY 4: The penultimate lodge, with Mario; our host. You can see him in this picture. He welcomed us with the sound of a conch shell horn. He also is a wonderful musician and Jenga player.

Mario, with his homemade pipe/flute, giving us a concert.

DAY 5: Our last morning on this unbelievable terrain, with our gracious hosts.

One last look…

Goodbye beautiful Ausangate!

Over the final pass, and on to the valley below.
Reaching the final village, we come across a local woman, walking on the path and carrying her goods, while spinning her yarn, along the way.
By Lauren Ward

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