[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]About one hundred kilometers south-east of Cusco, Peru, there is a hidden gem of a trek: 5 days and 4 nights in the Vilcanota Cordillera, with awe-inspiring scenery, and four mountain lodges or “tambos”,… strategically situated along the route. Hence, no tenting between 35 and 45ºF is necessary.  This trek is all on private land, belonging to the Chillca and Osefina native Andean shepherding communities. So, there are no other trekkers to be seen!
This is El Camino del Apu Ausangate.  (andeanlodges.com)
Mount Ausangate is a Holy Mountain or “Apu”, in Quechua, from which all life comes and draws upon.  The water, running from its glaciers, nourishes the earth, from which the crops sprout and grow.

The days are generally beautiful, with 65 to 70ºF, while nights are quite cold, between 35 and 45ºF.  Each day, except the first, begins with a hike over a mountain pass.  The rest of the trail is what locals call “llama trail” or “Andean flat”; that is, up and down undulating areas.  The highest pass is at 16,892’ above sea level.   Every night, except the first, we slept at altitudes between 15,416’ and 15,803’.
The lodges are very comfortable.  There is no Internet, so, they also are very peaceful.  Folks actually talk to each other!  There is a wood stove in the main downstairs room.  The beds have heavy blankets and a thick eiderdown comforter. Furthermore, they are warmed-up by hot water bottles.  In fact, mine was still tepid in the morning.

I have been fortunate enough to have gone twice on this trek: April 2014 and June 2015.  The scenery was totally different each time.  April, just at the end of the rainy season, offered various shades of green, while late June showed us rich yellows and browns.  In June, I went there with my friend, Alicia, and her son, Matthew.  In the group, there also was a doctor and his wife, from Canada, and Anahí Orellana.  Soon, we became a very compatible group.  The food is superb, and is professionally prepared and served.
Only native Peruvians may work in the lodges, after having been professionally trained by the best chefs and hospitality professionals in Cusco and surrounding area.  The guides are extraordinary:  Roger, Jesú and Juan Carlos, in 2014, and Jesú and Juan Carlos, in 2015.  It is clear that they love what they do, and they do it very well.  Their stories are both entertaining and informative.  Llamas carry your gear, while you only carry a daypack with the essentials for the day, including a snack, supplied by Andean Lodges.

If you are adventurous, looking for an “off the beaten track” place to trek, and are in good shape, this is an experience of a lifetime for you.  It is a high altitude hike, but coca tea and Diamox usually solve the potential difficulties.  However, until you get there, there is no knowing how you may be affected by the altitude.  Therefore, a 3 to 4-day acclimatization period, in Cusco and nearby region, is a must.

So, if you like adventure, are curious, love beautiful scenery and tranquility, this is a must trek for you.  And tell your friends that Sheila recommended it to you!
The Andean goose is one of the birds that choose a mate for life.

By Sheila Ashley[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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