Community Trekking - Part 1

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South America » Peru » Cusco » Pisac
November 19th 2012
Published: November 24th 2012
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After a few days in Cusco and one almighty hangover – note to self; pints of G&Ts are never, ever a good idea! - it was time to head off on the trek that over the next 5 days would take me high into the Andes, through snow-capped mountains and into rural Peru that many travellers don’t get to see.

The trek operator was Andina Travel and our guides came to our hotel in Cusco on Sunday night to talk us through what the next 5 days would contain – here’s some of the blurb that originally sold me on this trek;

‘The community trek will take you through pristine unspoilt Andean scenery, walking ancient Inca trails and staying as guests of the local communities as part of the pioneering Dragoman community based tourism project, Tarpuy Yachay. The trek is all about getting away from the overcrowded thoroughfares of the Classic Inca Trek and getting out into the real Andes – not to mention being part of a project that provides a genuine direct benefit to the host communities we travel though, by supporting education, income generation and environmental sustainability projects’ – Dragoman trip notes 2012

‘These are remote farming communities in the Andes, with traditions dating back to Inka times. The local inhabitants are mostly native Quechua speakers, with some Spanish, their daily lives consist of potato cultivation, weaving textiles and the herding of llamas, alpacas and sheep. Considered by the Peruvian Government as subsisting in conditions of extreme poverty, they often face malnutrition, exposure to severely cold weather, poor hygienic conditions and lack of medical or educational assistance. Typically, these communities possess small schools, which are often in need of support in the form of building, furniture, materials and teachers’ Tarpuy Yachay, Andina Travel 2012

Our guides talked us through the rest of the week, the temperatures we’d experience – factor 50 and thermals needed then! – The amount of water we should drink, how to work with the altitude, what to do if you’re sick, what to expect from the trekking team Etc....

Another big plus point for me was the style of transport used for the equipment we’d need, on the Classic Trek porters load themselves up with all our gear and run the route ahead of you, it never really sat right having someone transport all your gear for you, on the community trek we’re told llamas, mules and horses are used instead of porters to carry all the equipment. These animals are sourced from the communities we travel through, providing a direct source of income to local families.

Day 1 – 19.11.12 – Cusco to Cancha Cancha

Leaving the hotel at 7am we head off to the trek start. On route through the Sacred Valley we stop off at Sacsayhuaman. These gigantic blocks make up a zig zag frontal of a fort like construction. In the early morning light it’s a pretty spectacular place and being up so high the views over Cusco are amazing.

Whilst we are wandering the ruins and group of guys are silently using the grounds as a running track, as we marvel at the pace they are keeping at this altitude our guide beckons one of them over, it turns out we’re watching the Peruvian Olympic team train and that we’re lucky enough to meet a bronze medal holder.

Pictures with sports stars done its back on the bus to drive to Pisac for more ruins before lunch. The Pisac ruins are inca ruins high up on the mountain side, we clamber around the mountain exploring tiny lanes, through ancient arches, houses and storage buildings.

After a quick lunch in the village of Pisac its time to head to the start of the trek, here we meet the rest of the team, collect walking poles and start off. The hike covers 9ks, the guide describes it as this: 3ks of easy up, 3ks of hard up and then 3ks of Peruvian flat (some up some down). What it turns out to be is a hike mainly of very steep and hard ups, but all the climbing and shortness of breath was worth it when you turn the corner and find your path blocked by a heard of llamas, or when you look up and see the glacier peaks of Cancha Cancha Casa and Chicon in the distance.

The trek started at 2,900 meters and finally after hiking for 4hours we reach the first camp site at 3,900 meters, camping in the grounds of the Cancha Cancha village school on the banks of a very fast flowing river.

The equipment team had reached camp before us, and already the llamas and horses were grazing and all our tents were set up, including the mess tent, a huge tent with a table running down its centre, with the sun disappearing the chill sets in quickly so after hiking into camp in shorts it’s time to pull on the thermals, take a seat in the mess tent for hot drinks and chat with my fellow trekkers for the evening. The support group served up an amazing 3 course dinner of Soup, Chicken and Rice and Poached pears! With no artificial light and a storm brewing we were tucked up and in our tents by 8pm, luckily as around 8.30 the heavens opened and the campsite was drenched. Day 1 ended with falling asleep to the sound of the rain hitting the tent and the rushing river at our feet snuggled in the sleeping bags all safe and dry.

Day 2 – 20.11.12 –Cancha Cancha to Quishuarani

The day started at 5.30am with a knock on the tent and a hot cup of coca tea thrust through the tent door – great wake up and should be compulsory on all camping trips going forward. Before heading off we met with the teacher of the school grounds we were camped in, he spoke about the work that is carried out there, the ages of the children that attend and some of the hardships they face, we gave our gifts of books, pens, toothbrushes and toothpaste…..

Day 2 had been billed as the hardest day of the trip, whilst only 14ks of walking the first part of the day would take us up and over a pass at 4,700meters, climbing 800meters in one morning! It was a hard hike, the higher we climbed the more the temperature dropped, we left the sun behind and hiked up and up in cloud, then drizzle, then rain and finally snow. The hike took us through remote farms and communities, unbelievable that they work and survive in places so remote.

It was amazingly beautiful, walking along side snow covered peaks and above glaciers, reaching the pass at 4,700 felt a great achievement, it was so cold that it was a case of hanging around just long enough to snap a quick picture at the pass before heading down the other side to the lunch rendezvous. Reaching the lunch spot a few hours later, we spent some time waiting alongside a mist filled lake, warming ourselves in the afternoon sunshine, waiting for the rest of the group to catch up, lunch was another amazing 2 courses cooked up by the support group before heading off on the easy part of the day, the downhill 1.5 hours stroll to the campsite.

Arriving at the campsite in the early afternoon gave some of the group time for a kickabout on the school’s football pitch. After the coldness of the day walking in snow, it was a welcome reward to have whisky coffees in the mess tent that afternoon before another great dinner with lots of chat and laughter.

In the tents that evening we were woken around midnight to thunder crashing off of the surrounding mountains, being in a valley it was an awesome sound, each thunder roll lasted minutes and you could hear it rebounding off of each side of the bowl we were in, slightly scary and awe inspiring sounds of mother nature at her best!

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26


Day 1 - Meeting the Llamas Day 1 - Meeting the Llamas
Day 1 - Meeting the Llamas

i think this is what is known as a traffic jam in the Andes
Day 2 - Reaching the summitDay 2 - Reaching the summit
Day 2 - Reaching the summit

4,700 meters up and cold!
Day 2 - Lunch SpotDay 2 - Lunch Spot
Day 2 - Lunch Spot

See the red hut at the far side of the lake? that's our lunch spot that is..... 1.5 hours away,

25th November 2012

Hiya Gemma - so enjoying your blog and the pics look great. You must be having the time of your life meeting all the locals and keeping off the tourist track. Keep it up! xx

Tot: 3.088s; Tpl: 0.06s; cc: 12; qc: 50; dbt: 0.0305s; 3; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb