Huchuy Cusco Trek: 2 days of beautiful views to ourselves

Day 1: After the Moray to Maras hike my mother decided she hadn’t seen enough of the incredible mountains, lakes, and rivers surrounding Cusco – so we loaded the packs up again and headed out early Saturday morning for the 2 day Huchuy Cusco trek. This route is another hidden gem; we didn’t see any other hikers during the entire trip (we saw a lot of locals, but I’ll get to that later), and were treated to views of snow-capped mountains and the Sacred Valley that would rival any of the more popular multi-day treks available.
Admittedly, we cut out a lot of the uphill by hiring someone with a rugged 4×4 to drive us several kilometers up the burly dirt road that winds up the side of the mountain, along some precipitous drop offs, and through a small village before reaching the wide open meadow that served as our starting point. There were several spots where the jeep got bogged down in the rainy season mud, including one time when I looked out the back window to see several small children from the village pushing us as our tires spun. They won half our chocolate supply for that act of kindness (and bravery).
Our first couple of hours (walking slowly – my mother was still feeling the impacts of the altitude) were uphill, with stunning views of the glaciated peak of Ausangate in the distance, and the Cusco valley below. When we reached the highest point of our route for the day we sat on what looked like ceremonial rock and earth mounds for lunch. A few minutes later we saw a line of people running down a distant ridge, flying three flags behind them. And so began one of the surreal experiences I’ve come to accept and almost expect in Peru: at 14,000ft on a mountainside we were in the middle of a party/ceremony celebrating the annual gathering of 3 villages from the valleys below. As the crowd got closer, the dancers wearing traditional costumes and carrying banners became more apparent – as did the marching band with drums, conch shells, and trumpets. Of course, the children were the first to reach the ceremonial area (our lunch spot), then the flag-bearers who planted the flags of Peru, Cusco, and the rainbow flag denoting the Inca Empire. From there the rest of the crowd assembled and a coca leaf ceremony was held before one of the community leaders spoke about the importance of the gathering and wishing everyone health and prosperity. He also made a special point to ask us where we were from, and to welcome us. Just as quickly as they arrived they were gone – in a long parade heading down into the valley of Huchay Q’osqo.
We followed soon after and descended an Inca built path that followed a river, crossed bridges, and eventually through a canyon with amazing Inca stairs and walls intact. There were some steep sections and a few ladders to descend, but overall it was the sort of mellow walk that allows you to drift off as you absorb all the beauty around you. As a bonus, the sun broke through. After a long stretch of grey weather, I could feel my batteries being recharged and my shoulders moving away from my ears.
The homestretch of Day 1 offered expansive views of the Urubamba range that were almost to beautiful to believe…leading up to the impressive Huchay Q’osqo ruins. We were pretty tired at this point but took some time to explore the ancient village surrounded by sheer mountain walls and fields of wildflowers. The sun was setting and the mountains were catching the warm pinks and oranges of the horizon when we arrived at Mama Natividad’s guest house. When we entered the gate we were greeted with warm hugs from Mama Natividad before she set to the task of making us an enormous meal on the wood fueled stove. We watched the sun sink lower and eventually behind the mountains before retreating into the warm, candle-lit kitchen area where we drank fresh mint tea before digging in to a 3 course meal that would put any restaurant in Cusco to shame.
After dinner we briefly did some star gazing; picking out the constellations we could identify as novices and marveling at the galaxy clusters that are only visible in these skies so far removed from city lights.
Even in the midst of a massive rain and thunderstorm I slept like a baby that night.