At its peak, over 40,000 km of trails connected the Inca empire. We set out to traverse a mere 38 of those kilometers in three days, then explore Machu Picchu on day four. There were six of us (gringos) on the trip, plus our guide (Freddy), a cook, his helper, a horse wrangler, and four horses.
Though technically the dry season, we started off under the cover of rain ponchos. What was once a trail often turned into a stream as we climbed over 1000m the first day. Little did we know what was rain in the valley had turned to snow on the pass.
After a cold night sleeping in the tents (-10 C), we awoke to quinoa porridge and clearing skies. Our spirits were high as we started the ascent. Pumahuanca Pass located at 4,740m, was our objective. The air was quite thin, and it was slow going as we left the green valley behind for a white layer of fresh snow.
The reward for our three days of hiking - a soak in the hot springs. It felt great to relax our muscles, and then we were off to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu the next morning.
Once at the top of the pass, the remainder of the trek was a descent into Lares Valley, home to the Cuncani community. Raising llamas, alpacas, sheep and goats, the people of Lares Valley are famous for their textiles produced with ancestral weaving techniques.