Originally we wanted to walk the Inca trail–26 miles from Ollantaytombo to Machu Picchu– but this trail has gotten very popular and is now limited to 500 permits a day which includes guides and porters. Some how our permits didn’t go through but the airline tickets were already purchased so we opted to do one of the other treks in the Sacred Valley that doesn’t require permits.
Now all good pilgrims know that when things don’t work out as planned, you let it go and move to the next option and trust the process. I trusted the process and knew we would get the best experience for our needs. So, instead of a busy trail with thousands of Inca steps we ended up on the road less traveled. A total of 8 where on the Lares Trail the day we started instead of 500. We walked through the pristine countryside and tiny indigenous villages and saw lots of animals. Although the trail was very challenging, it wasn’t quite as hard or as long as the Inca Trail or Salkantey Trail. We all knew that we were where we were meant to be this beautiful October day in Peru. It was perfect.
Our day started early when our guide Vladimir (www.karikuy.com) picked us up at 5:15 to head to our first stop in the Sacred Valley at Urubamba. We went to the market for breakfast where we found some delicious cake and then finally the coffee counter. The ladies made us hot chocolate and coffee with steaming milk and then fried eggs on the local flat bread. Below us we were the smells and sounds of the butcher cutting up that day’s meat. One of the local dogs managed to break in and help himself to the scrapes.
We next drove up into the mountains on a narrow one-lane road with steep dropoffs on both sides. Fortunately, the driver negotiated it expertly and we focused in the scenery and the thousands of free-range alpacas grazing on the steep mountains.
Our next stop was the hot spring at Lares, a beautiful garden with six pools ranging from cold to very hot. Lots of local children were playing in the shallower pool and took great delight in splashing the tall blond girl. Our guide showed us how to go from hot to cold and back to hot then to cold to have the complete spa experience. We dried off, put our hiking clothes back on, had a snack and headed up the mountain. We just had day packs with snacks, water and rain jacket. The rest of our gear was sent ahead by horse to our camping spot.
The first part was steep and the altitude made me short of breath. I thought that maybe I had made a big mistake but I took my time and stopped for a rest and it soon leveled out next to a beautiful boulder-filled rushing stream. We stopped to thank Pachamama, the earth mother, goddess of fertility, for her gift of life and gave her an offering of three coca leaves. We walked by the small, stone houses of the local indigenous people, the Quechua. The little children would come running over to see us. My sister brought chocolates and I brought pens and puffy glitter stickers. I took the backing off the stickers and put them on their sweaters or in the backs of their hands. From toddlers to older children, they stood patiently waiting for me to get to each one. Big smiles and “gracias” and we were all happy. In the mean time, Alexandra made it her mission to personally great each of the ten thousand sheep and alpacas we saw and professing her undying love. Even the little pigs got the same attention. Meanwhile, Melanie documented every moment with pictures. We all had our rolls to play.
We slowly hiked up the mountainside enjoying each new view, animals and people in their colorful clothes. We hiked about four hours and six miles until we got to the little village where our tents were waiting for us in the barnyard by the small stone hut with thatched roof and dirt floors. This was the home of the horseman. Along with our guide Vladimir, there was the cook Nico, assistant Richard and horseman Pablito. Our guide said we were at 13,000 feet. We were all very tired and hungry and glad our lunch was almost ready. The hut was one room serving as kitchen, living room and store room. The sleeping room was a separate hut next to the main room. There was a table set up with a cloth and silverware and camp stools. First course was soup and it was delicious and perfect to warm us up. The next course was trout, potatoes, tomatoes and cucumbers and rice with hot sweet lemon tea. Alexandra noticed a couple of guinea pigs in the corner and, sure enough, after awhile about 30 guinea pigs where running around our feet as we ate. Their little chirping noises were like a choir singing to us, definitely a new experience for me. I fed the kitty some scrapes of trout and the guinea pigs liked the rice. I’m glad they weren’t on the menu. It would be hard to eat the entertainment.
It was time to put on every layer we owned and hang out in the sleeping bags where we chatted and Melissa and Alexandra sang some of the songs from Hamilton. It gets very dark by 6 so we scouted a rock wall as an open air bathroom—Inca toilet– since the stand up outhouse seemed to be just a bit much.
The lunch was so big and late that we asked for just a snack for supper. We snuggled into the cooking tent to eat popcorn, cookies and hot cocoa. It was all delicious and really warmed us up for our night in our little tents in a barnyard with the little pig in Peru. The full moon cloaked in gentle clouds gave just enough light to make the land even more mysterious. All of us are adventurous and good sports and find the whole experience delightful from guinea pig companions to stunning scenery. This is definitely not the trip for the fragile or neat freak but if you can find delight in living life to the fullest whatever that may be, it is the perfect adventure.