Hiking Above Tambomachay

The Cusco region is full of so many more places of incredible beauty and history than the relative handful of sites that 99% of tourists visit as part of packaged tours.

Tambomachay is one of the four main stops on the popular city tours. It is certainly an interesting, though very small, site with fantastic examples of Inca stonework as well as beautiful, still functioning, fountains that is well worth a visit.

Yesterday I headed up to Tambomachay with the intention of hiking into the mountains along the long trail to the distant ruins of Huchuy Qosqo. While I had no desire to make the extended trip all the way there, I did want to see what was along the the first part of the path.

The difficulty in finding the right trail was compounded by the fact that there are innumerable trails on both sides of the canyon that are heavily used by locals and livestock as well as occasional trekkers on the way to Huchuy Qosqo.

The usual path took me up past some fascinating ruins just above Tambomachay that few see. (I even showed a young European couple the ruins on my way up as they were looking for more ruins and said they thought I knew where I was going!)

I’m not going to tell you how many times I had to turn around as well-used paths quickly turned into dead ends, but it was more than once. Finally I found one dead end that actually turned out to be the stream crossing that I needed to take. (Hint: stay — or quickly get to — the right side of the stream if you want to find the correct route.)

Once I was on the correct side of the canyon, making my way was not difficult as the multitude of trails all head in the same direction and stay very close to each other. This is probably due to the heavy use that this area gets from livestock — mostly sheep but sometimes llamas.

As I went up, the rocky trail was a steady climb and generally rough, but a fairly easy path to follow. As always, I made sure to turn around regularly and look behind as the views were spectacular. But the best was yet to come.

After reading hike reports from others, I knew at some point I would come up to the first pass. It was becoming clear as I rose higher and higher that I was getting closer after about an hour and a half of hiking and an apparent saddle appeared ahead.

Despite all the fabulous places I’ve been in Peru, there are few moments when a view presents itself and my jaw literally drops. The view at the first pass was one of those moments.

This view along the trail was one of the most incredible that I’ve ever seen in Peru.

As I crested the pass, a deep canyon bordered by massive 14,000′ peaks spread out before me. Far in the distance I could see the snow-capped peak of Chacón with its majestic glaciers far off on the other side of the Sacred Valley.

I continued on up the trail a little more until it became clear that I had a long way to go! I had climbed over 13,600′ on this relatively short trek — about 2500′ feet above Cusco. Thank goodness this altitude is not a big deal for me as long as I’m not climbing up a mountain!

This is definitely a trail I want to explore farther including making the entire trek to Huchuy Qosqo, but that will have to wait for another day!

Once I reached this spot and saw the trail continuing on far off the distance, I decided it was time to head back down and leave exploring the distant mountains for a future trek.

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