Article by Natasha Moon
I would say that Ausangate trek was my favorite. It is remote, it offers variety of scenery, and I enjoyed going by some little villages and seeing hundreds and hundreds of alpacas.
You need to take a bus from Cusco to Tinki or Tinke. Busses go pretty often and don’t cost much. Buses leave from Paradero Livitaca with is located by the Estadio de Parque Zonal. It may say that bus is going to Ocongate with is a bigger town before Tinki. Just double check that the bus will continue to Tinki. The bus ride from Cusco to Tinki follows the highway towards Puerto Maldonado and it takes about 4 hours. Tinki is situated at about 12,500 feet. Because we left Cusco a little bit late we decided to spend the night in Tinki. The are not many accommodations and places to eat in Tinki. I would recommend leaving Cusco early and hike in the same day. You need to be well acclimatized to do this trek as you constantly stay pretty high and would need to go over four passes. Two of the passes are above 16,000 feet of elevation. Passes are mostly gradual so they felt easier for me than passes on Salkantay and Lares treks. We did the Ausangate trek in 5 days and four nights.
We woke up early morning, bought some fresh bread and snacks in the local store, and started hiking. There was a registry at the beginning of the trail where a small fee is collected (10 soles each). You can also take a taxi and ride to Upis which we didn’t do since we spent the night in Tinki and had a lot of time available. If you take a bus from Cusco and hike in the same day, you might want to consider taking a taxi from Tinki. The first day doesn’t really offer great views but the camp is beautiful. We camped by the Upis hot spring with two other groups. The hot springs didn’t look very attractive to us so we didn’t experience them. The campsite offers great views of Ausangate. There are toilets available at the camp. When we were there it started to snow in the afternoon so we had to climb inside our tent for the rest of the day. Also when we just left Tinki we were followed by a dog. He was really dirty the fist day so we called him Sucio (”dirty” in Spanish). This dog ended up staying with us for the whole trek and was guarding our tent during the night. We were very happy to have such a loyal companion with us. He just made me smile every time by not resisting the temptation to chase the alpacas, and then to be chased by them. He definitely made our trek experience even better.
We woke up in the morning and it was still snowing so we were a little hesitant if we should keep going or wait an extra day. Soon enough the sky cleared and it was a perfect day sunny day. We went over the first pass and made our way down to the lakes where we stopped to have a lunch. From there we lost the trail because we though it was going around the lake down in the valley. Instead you need to go a little bit up, and there you will find the trail. Ether way it was a beautiful walk. We got really tired and camped a little bit before the second pass. There is a lake before the pass with a good spot for a tent. Unfortunately, we saw it only the next day. Many guided groups do two passes the second day and camp right before the third pass. There is a nice area to camp before the third pass where they also have bathrooms. Locals collect a fee of 10 soles per person at that spot. If you can push it until that spot, it would be a good place to camp.
We quickly went over the second pass and from there made our way down to the valley. We stopped to pay the fee, use the restroom, and have a snack. Pass number three was the hardest for me. Slowly we made our way up the Palomani pass which is at 17,060 feet in elevation. Sucio was at the pass long before we got there, and was waiting for us. There are spectacular views all the way around. We made our way down to the village, and it took us some time to figure out where to go. Keep left of the village to find the trail. It goes around and to the left. As we kept on walking after the village we saw a storm coming so we had to quickly set up the camp in the ruins of an old house. It wasn’t the most beautiful camp but it gave us a good protection from the wind. If it wasn’t for the bad weather we would have made it to a good campsite that is a little bit further up the hill. They did have bathrooms there but they were dirty with no water to flush the toilet.
The fourth and the last Q’ampa pass (16,400 feet) was a mild grade but consistent and very long. Views were breathtaking which helped the ascend, and we also were able to see some vicunas with our zoom lens. The trail on the other side of the pass is very well maintained. There are also some spectacular blue lakes. If you would like to experience the area and have some amazing views, this would be the area to visit. It is easily accessible if you come in from the other side. We bought some souvenirs from local women, and made our way down to the village of Pacchanta. There are hot springs in the village that looked good but were very busy so we decided to skip on them. We stayed in a little hostel for the night, and bought some drinks and treats from a little store.
We woke up early and walked back to Tinki which took us couple of hours. You could also probably find a taxi but we didn’t mind walking. Sucio walked with us all the way down to the bus stop in Tinki and was there until we got on the bus. On our way back to Tinki we met a local arriero and had a nice conversation. He recognized Sucio and said that the dog finds people that do the trek and does it over and over again. It was hard to say goodbye, but Sucio is an Ausangate dog and loves the mountains. Maybe he will join you on your Ausangate trek too.