Ausangate Mountain is definitely one of the most spectacular treks in the Cusco region. The trek itself is a circle around a beautiful snow-covered peak – Ausangate (6,384m). Thus, it consists of spectacular landscapes, llamas, alpacas, lakes and colored mountains. The best time to discover the Ausangate route is between April and the middle of October.
My Ausangate experience
The route can be overcome in 3.5 days (from what I have already tested), but this is for those who are in very good physical condition. For those of you who do not like hiking 10-12 hours per day, aim to complete this trek in 4 or 5 days.
We did the route at the end of October and had every kind of weather: rain, snow, clouds and beautiful sun. It was a great experience, as not only did we experience different landscapes on each day, but different weather too!
We started the trek from the town of Tinqui (Tinki). We arrived by bus, which we took from Cusco at 6:00 AM. The journey took us just over 3 hours. Unfortunately, the weather on the first day was horrible: rain, rain and more rain. With regards to the trekking itself, the first day was not difficult; but if you do not have nice weather and you carry your belongings by yourself on the back, it is definitely much harder. Because of the rain, we were forced to look for shelter after some hours of walking. Finally, we came across a small Andean house.
In this hut we found a small child sitting on a bed, a little bit frightened of us. His parents were not there. Because we really needed a rest, we decided to look for the boy’s parents. Successfully, we found his mother, who was taking care of llamas and alpacas. During that time the child became less shy and began to play with us. Grateful for the possibility to rest in the house, we prepared tea for our hosts, gave them chocolate cookies, and had a really nice conversation. Our meeting with the family was a very nice experience for me. It made me realized that it is possible to be happy without having material goods. The family lived in a small house with one room and a kitchen (no bathroom). Besides the bed that was shared by the parents and children, the house had no other furniture. In the kitchen, there was a small table, two chairs, a cupboard and small stove for cooking. The floor was concrete, without any carpets or anything similar.
Without any of the material items that we normally use in our daily lives, the family was very happy, smiled all the time and did not complain. They definitely lead a very difficult life, but somehow they do not look at it from a negative perspective.
After leaving the family, we continued our trek till we reached Upis (4,400m). This is where travelers usually spend their first night. Here you can enjoy the hot springs that make the place quite unique. Unfortunately, because we wanted to finish the trip faster than normal, we could not stay there for the night and enjoy the hot bath with a beautiful view of Ausangate mountain. Instead, we continued the trip almost to the first mountain pass – Arapa (4850m). Thanks to this decision, we were able to save some energy for the following day and walk more hours.
The second day was quite hard but also very beautiful. The landscapes were breathtaking and we had nice weather!
On this day we had to overcome the second mountain pass of Apuchata (4,900m). We arrived at our camp at 5:30 PM. We camped close to a house whose owner had a lot of llamas, alpacas and sheep. We even got to witness the birth of a llama!
On the third day, we woke up very early. During the night the weather changed (again!) and started to snow. So much so that when I woke up, I could not recognize where we were. The landscape had completely changed, as the mountains around us were completely covered with snow. It looked amazing.
In the third day we started our adventure very early. Our goal was to go through the final mountain pass of Q’ampa (5,000m). The road was very nice but it was quite hard too. Just below the Q’ampa pass, was our last campsite.
The fourth day was very easy as there were no more mountain passes to cross. We had to reach the small village of Pacchanta, from where we could catch the bus to Tinki. The route was very beautiful and was mostly downhill. It was byfar the easiest stretch of the entire trek.
We arrived at Pacchanta at 3:00 PM, another village with hot springs. Yet, again, we did not have time to enjoy the hot water as we wanted to catch the bus from Tinki to Cusco (the last one departed at 5:30 PM). So we had to organize a quick form of transport from Pacchanta to Tinki. There was only one option – the truck you can see below. We took it, and after around 1 hour we were in Tinki. Just on time to jump onto the bus going to Cusco. We arrived at Cusco at 10:30 PM.
If you have an extra day, or are willing to start the hike on the last day very early, you will have enough time to visit hot springs.
With or without a travel agency?
As I always say, almost everything can be organized without a travel agency. There is only one thing – that not of all us are prepared for it. Why?
First of all, if you are alone, I do not recommend trekking for multiple days on your own. Either find friends or go with an organized tour. The mountains can be dangerous; you can meet people who are not very friendly or you can become sick and have no one to help you. And if we are talking about trekking in Peru, there is also the risk of suffering from the high altitude!
Another issue is the possibility of getting lost, and not all of us like this kind of adventure. If and when you do get lost, you may need to take another road which could be longer or harder. I faced this problem 3 times and it can be extra problematic for those who cannot walk a lot. If you will go with the travel agency or with people who know the road, you won’t face any of the aforementioned issues.
But what about the Ausangate trek? Yes, like most trekking expeditions, it is possible to do it on your own. If you have the ability to read maps and are not afraid to walk the extra distance in case you get lost, you can go without a guide. There are some moments where the road is not clear. But with some luck, especially if you find someone on the road and have a map with you, you should be fine. The best maps are provided by South American Explorers Clubs (SAE), located at Atocsaycuchi 670 street (San Blas), Cusco.
Conclusion: Always consider the advantages and disadvantages of deciding to trek on your own or with a tour, when preparing a trek in Peru.