The Ausangate Trek: A Backpacker’s Guide to Peru
It had been about 10 days since we’d finished Huayhuash, and we were still feeling worn out. However, we’d known we wanted to do the Ausangate trek even before we got to South America. A friend had told us it was one of the best treks he’d done in Peru, and that he did the whole thing on horseback. We decided that that was perfect for our current level of laziness.
Finding a Guide
We found a recommended tour agency on Tripadvisor and paid them a visit. After hearing the staggering price tag of $500/person (“Special price, just for you my friend!”), we hurried out of there and decided it was time to use some of our Israeli connections. Through an Israeli website, we found the Hostel Cusco where an Argentinian woman named Mari, who spoke surprisingly good Hebrew, arranged the whole thing for us. It would be just the two of us, four days including the Rainbow Mountain, for 490 soles/person.
It wasn’t as organized as Huayhuash – we didn’t know the trekking route, the schedule, what the equipment would be like, or who our guide was- but at that unbeatable price, we were willing to go along quite cluelessly on the adventure.
Ausangate: Day 1 & 2
The first day, we were picked up from our hostel at 4:00 am and drove four hours to the start of the Rainbow Mountain trail.
After finishing the relatively short trek, we got back into the car and our guide drove another four hours towards the snowy peaks of Ausangate. He didn’t speak any English, so when he picked up a local guy and proceeded to drop the three of us off in the middle of nowhere and drive off, we had no idea what was going on. Utterly bewildered, we followed the new guy into his brick hut.
It turned out that the man we had picked up was actually our guide for Ausangate. We spent that first night in one of the rooms in his hut, and prayed silently before we went to sleep that everything would go smoothly.
Of course, it did – more or less. We had three horses, one each for Roi and I and one for the equipment. To our pleasant surprise, when we reached the second night’s campsite we discovered that our guide was friends with the local guy managing the site, and again we got to sleep inside a hut instead of outside in the freezing cold of a tent.
We reached the campsite by noon after only a few hours, and in the afternoon we walked to a nearby lagoon at the base of the Ausangate mountain. It started snowing as we approached it – small flakes of hail-snow. It was a heavenly feeling to come back and while away the rest of the afternoon sitting in the hot springs near the campsite (although getting out was a bitch).
Ausangate: Day 3
On the second day of the Ausangate trek (third counting the first day at Rainbow Mountain), we switched off between riding our horses and walking. We passed by herds of curious alpacas, blue lagoons, and a flamingo hanging out in a lake, always under the close gaze of the white mountain peaks. The sky was cloudy and it was chilly without the warm rays of the sun; we rejoiced when it would peek out and sigh longingly as we watched the light sweep away from us across the hills like a flashlight beam.
For almost the entire three days of the trek we were entirely alone. As we made our way across the hilly landscape, we could see for miles into the horizon, and most of the time we felt like we were the only people in the world. At times, the only sounds we could hear were the wind in our ears and the tread of the horses’ hoofs on the path.
We reached the last campsite after about 4-5 hours. Here, we set up tents and braced ourselves for a night of bone-chilling cold – we were at 4,800 m and had discovered to our consternation that we had no sleeping mats. Once again, I found myself shivering in three pairs of pants, two sweaters, and a coat, but for the few minutes that we made ourselves run to the bathroom and brush our teeth, we enjoyed a view of a night sky with stars spilled across it.
Ausangate: Day 4
The final day was short; after only a few hours we reached a village named Pacchanta which, to our surprise, was our final destination. On our way, we encountered an elderly Andean woman that looked as though she had popped out of a storybook. She was dressed in the traditional, colorful clothes with a decorated, flat hat atop her head, the fabric hanging off around the sides to shade her leathery face against the sun. She carried a bundle of fabric on her back, which, upon seeing us, she set down on the ground and unwrapped to reveal an endless amount of handmade bracelets, keychains, and other trifles. Unable to resist the comical situation of being wholly alone in the mountains with this character that had appeared out of nowhere, we bought a bracelet and a llama keychain.
After eating lunch in Pacchanta, we thanked and tipped our guide and hopped into a car which drove us the four hours back to Cusco.
Worth it? For sure. If you have time and energy, you can do the 6-7 day hike which is supposed to be even more beautiful.
What to bring: hiking shoes and clothes, warm clothes (coat, hat, gloves, scarf), water, snacks, camera, sunscreen.
– Iris & Roi
Have stories or questions about Ausangate? We’d love to hear! Write a comment and we’ll get back to you 🙂