We wanted to trek the Classic Inca trail to Machu Picchu, but we didn’t plan much in advance and the trekking permits were no longer available by the time we booked for the trek. Disappointed, we settled for one of the alternate Inca trails – the less traveled Lares Valley Trek. I already trekked the Classic Inca Trail in 2000 so I didn’t really mind, but I would have wanted Keith to experience it for himself. But what a blessing in disguise! The 4-day Lares Valley Trek turned out to be a much more spectacular and much more exhilarating trek than the Classic Inca Trail. It also provided more rewarding cultural experience and offered more interesting photographic opportunities.
We trekked through beautiful wide open valleys with incredible vistas of snowcapped mountains, passed by beautiful blue mountain lagoons, impressive waterfalls, mountain streams, hot springs and Inca ruins. We trekked through mountain villages and encountered indigenous residents, met adorable children along the trail who were walking several miles to and from school, visited a small local school, came face to face with indigenous wildlife and learned a lot more about the colorful Quechuan culture. You don’t experience all those on the classic trail. For those seasoned trekkers, the Lares Valley trek will be much more challenging for you than the classic trail. For the beginners, don’t be discouraged it will be doable; just take it slow. Enjoy the photojournal of the trek.
Day 1: Quiswarani – Cuncani (Walking distance approximately 12 km 5-6 hours.)
Keith working his way up to the first high pass of the trek, the Hualcajasa Pass. It was a challenging first day; we had to tackle one of the three high passes of the trails within few hours of starting the trek.
Not yet halfway to the high pass but almost close to the lunch camp.
We made it to Hualcajasa Pass (4,400 m/14,436 ft)!
Looking down at the trail ahead from Hualcajasa Pass.
After the steep climb to Hualcajasa Pass, trekkers savored the downhill strides.
This lovely 8-year old Quechuan girl was the first native we met along the trail.
The first indigenous village we passed by. The Quechuan people in the highland villages still maintain an ancient way of life that they inherited from their Inca ancestors: herding llamas and alpacas, farming the Andean slope, and weaving colorful textiles.
Day 2: Cuncani – Ipsay Qocha Lake (Walking distance approximately 15 km, 6-7 hours)
Early morning at our campsite. The night was cold, much more than everyone had expected. We were happy for the extra blankets provided by SAS Travel, our trekking company. They provided the best quality tent I ever had in all of my many trekking trips.
The ascent to the second high pass of the trek.
The horses running wild! One of the horses carried our camp supplies and the other one provided a ride to some trekkers straggling behind (those who were smoking while trekking then had a hard time breathing. What were they thinking!)
Local women hanging out along the trail. They weave and dye the colorful clothes they wear everyday.
A woman holding a bag of coca leaves. Coca is integral part of Peruvian life, especially in the the Andean highland communities. They use it as medicine for common ailments such as headache, stomach ache, sore throat, etc. Chewing it is said to alleviate high altitude sickness. We didn’t try but some swore to it.
A little boy on the rock.
A Quechan girl on her way back from school with her dog.
A little girl sitting quietly by herself along the trail while mother was working in the field and big sister was playing.
A Quechuan woman in full bloom. Women wear distinctive headgears to distinguish their origin in the Andes.
A lovely Quechuan señorita.
Day 3: Ipsay Qocha Lake – Pantacacha-Ollantaytmbo-Aguas Calientes (walking distance approximately 18 km / 7-8 hours.)
A boy with a sling shot admiring the new set of crayons he received from one of the trekkers.
Glacier water flowing through the stream.
Trekkers taking a break along the stream.
Chilldren and a dog in Patacancha.
I met my buddy Brenda (whose sweater was inside out) at school we visited in the village of Pallata. She looked serious as she was about to use her new crayon for the first time.
Our superb tekking chef, Valerio, who provided us with delicious and nutritious meals during the trek.
From the trail, we made our way to Ollantaytambo and took the train to Aguas Calientes, where we ended the third day of the trek and where we finally got a hot shower and our first sip of spirit after more than a week in high altitude.
Booking the trek: We booked the trek through SAS Travel Peru, a company based in Cuzco. It’s a very reputable company that provide quality service as well as social and environmental responsibility. We highly recommend it.