Ausangate trek without a guide (independent)
Ausangate trek is definitely one of the most beautiful treks that we have ever done. Nature never stops surprising you, every new pass, every turn makes your heart beating faster and you repeat again and again “It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen!”. From now every trek we do we’ll compare with this one.
The trek starts in a small town Tinque, it’s very easy to get there by bus from Cusco. Bus leaves from Terminal Paradero Levitaca (easy to find on Google map), which is near Coliseo Cerrado, a modern stadium. Ticket costs 10 soles, it takes about 2,5 hours.
Luckily this time all our arrangements (shopping, planning) took one day, we already had bought everything for our previous trek (Choquequirao trek). In fact the most difficult part was to find a map, in the end we got it in a shop where we bought gas for the stove (map wasn’t very good).
What you’ll need for Ausangate trek
– sleeping bag;
– stove (without hot food and water will be quit difficult);
– gas for stove;
– fleece inner for sleeping bag;
– purification tablets for water;
– lip balm (sun, wind and cold together make your lips very dry);
– adequate trekking clothes and shoes, during the day it is not cold but can be windy and rainy. And at night temperature can go to minus so a proper sleeping bag is must!
Food on Ausangate trek
First of all bring all the food with you, there is nothing and nowhere to buy. You can do last minute shopping in Tinque but everything there will be more expensive than in Cusco. What food we had (our standard trekking food set): noodles; cans of tuna, beans, corn; oats (for breakfast); boiled eggs (our favorite for hikes and long bus rides); cooked meat balls (in tap away container); bread; a bit of fruit and veggies; nuts; cookies; tea; chips; chocolate.Prices for food in the supermarket of Cusco are at the end.
Packing your backpack remember that after all you (and none else) will carry all your stuff so don’t make it too heavy.
On food we spent 90 soles, gas (2 tanks) – 50 soles, batteries (for torch, 4) – 8 soles, purifying tablets (6) – 15 soles. In total 163 soles for both of us, plus 20 soles for bus (return, per person) and 10 soles the entrance fee. Per person including everything we spent about 100 soles/30$. For instance for the cheapest tour you’ll pay about 250$, quite a big difference! Of course if you don’t have your own gear you’ll spend more for rental or buying (everything you need can be bought or rented in Cusco), but it still will be cheaper.
The trek itself is quite demanding, requires good physical condition and acclimatization. In fact all the route is above 4000m, with two passes over 5000m. So we’d recommend to do before one of the easier treks for example Salkantay or Choquequirao. The thing we specially liked about the trek is that there were no tourists, actually no people at all, some days we met one or two local shepherds.
Drinking water is not a problem once you have purification tablets, there are many lakes, rivers and creeks. Just be aware of alpacas and sheep’s excrement because tablets don’t help against them.
To prevent getting lost we highly recommend to ask the way every person you meet and to have GPS or old-style compass. If you meet a group with a guide just follow them, it’ll make you wandering around much easier;)
Now about our 5 wonderful sometimes tough days of trekking
Day 1. Cusco – Tinque – camping somewhere on the way
We tried to start our day as early as possible but we never succeed, we caught a bus to Tinque (3800m) at 9.30, it took less than we expected to get there, we arrived at Tinque around 12p.m., paid 10 soles the entrance and started walking. Almost from the beginning we got a bit lost, it’s tricky to find the way, there are no signs it’s better to ask locals. We missed the turn and walk 40min. in the wrong direction and had to go back as a result wasted 1,5 hours.
After 2 hours we were already quite tired from walking over 4000m with our heavy backpacks, so it started to look unreal that we’d be able to walk like that for 5 days (but we could). With all this hustle we didn’t make it all the way to Upis and decided to camp in a first suitable place. In fact the first night you supposed to sleep at Upis hot springs (4400m), about 4,5 hours walk from Tinque.
Day 2. 1st camping – Upis – Arapa pass – Puqa Qocha etc. lakes – 2nd camping
We started at 8.00, in 1 hour we got to Upis though this part of the route is not the nicest one due to the road construction, many trucks and workers. We were not very impressed by the hot springs and decided just keep walking.
After Upis the path finally turns away from the road, so we could enjoy the tranquility and the beauty of the mountains. On this stretch the path is quite clear and easy to follow. Then in 2 hours we reached Arapa pass (4850m). From the top of the pass slight down about 30-40min. to the first lake Puqa Qocha. Here at the view-point (mirador) we finally had lunch.
Around the lake we saw many vicunas (similar to llamas and alpacas but wild and very shy). Puqa Qocha is the first lake you hit after there will be many, all different colors and sizes. Next lake Japu Puqa Qocha, glacier lake, both connected through the waterfall, just think water from the glacier falls into the lake, then from first lake through the waterfall it falls to the next one etc.
After walking for a couple of hours around the lakes we reached a valley and decided to camp there. Since we didn’t know how far it was to the camping (near Ausangate lake) and there was none to ask. So we just found a flat hidden from the wind place (it was alpacas enclosure) and pitched our tent. We walked about 7-8 hours this day. In fact if you start walking from Upis 8 hours will be enough to make it all the way to Ausangate lake, we were one hour short.
From our 2nd camping we had amazing views over the valley and the lake in the morning and bright pink-orange sunset the evening before.
Day 3. 2nd camping – Apachata pass – Ausangate lake – Palomani pass – 3rd camping
Next day we started at 8.00, right in the beginning we saw a local shepherd and hurried up to ask him the distance to Ausangate lake. Though he could speak very little Spanish (native language for local people Quecheu), after 5min. we almost understood what he was trying to say. Ausangate lake and the camping were less than an hour away. Tha path wasn’t very clear but knowing the direction it was easy to walk, enjoying some beautiful scenery, grey-green lakes and pieceful alpacas. After going over Apachata pass we finally reached Ausangate lake and the camping (with probably the only one toilet on the hike). Local family tried to charge us 5 soles we couldn’t understand why and decided not to pay. Probably they charge for camping but we didn’t camp there, we even didn’t use the toilet.
Right after the camping you start steep and long up to Palomani pass, up to 5200 m the highest point of the hike. From there you can enjoy incredible views! Don’t forget from time to time to look back and check stunning views over the valley and pink mountains.
To clarify the way up is quite tough due to high altitude and heavy backpack. So just take it easy and rest as much as you need. Sooner or later you’ll reach the top. Luckily you have a good excuse to stop on the way up a lot to enjoy the scenery. When you finally reach the top and look down to the other side of the pass at this instant you realise it was absolutely worth it. The view is wonderful, pink lake, colorful mountains, big glaciers. It’s difficult to decide which way to look!
After heaving lunch and resting a bit on the top of Palomani pass we started our descend.
The down is quite steep, you go all the way to the valley Jutumpata with pink lake and river. Soon you’ll reach Pampacancha village (4050m), keep going up the river Qampa until you see the campsite in the valley Qampa (4300m) with many viscachas (long tail rabbit) running around. Campsite consists of one building with solar panels (was locked) and nothing else. Total walking time 7-8 hours.
Day 4. 3rd camping – Quampa pass – Pacchanta village
The night before was very cold so when we woke up everything was covered with snow, including our tent, it looked beautiful. We definitely needed some hot coffee to warm up!
That day you suppose to reach Pacchanta village (4100m) about 5-6 hours walking. First you walk past a small village, keep left, after slight up you’ll see the valley with many alpacas, again keep left, walk along the valley till you reach the last pass Qampa (5000m), the last up in the hike. The scenery on the pass is a bit scaring, black rocks all over the place, even the weather changed from nice and sunny to windy and rainy. The walk itself is not that nice, rocky and slippery, when we passed the area we were relieved.
After an hour or so walk we got to a completely different area, green hills, blue rivers, sunny and warm and looked like from Mordor we got to Hobbitland (I like The Lord of the rings). On the way we saw a portion of colorful lakes.
Finally we arrived at Pacchanta village and camped there, in fact 3km before the village, on a field near the river. There are hot springs in Pacchanta as well, we decided to skip them, didn’t really feel like going there.
Day 5. Pacchanta – Tinque – bus to Cusco
Last bit of walking from Pacchanta to Tinque about 3 hours, you can catch a local “bus” all the way to the village. Then 2,5 hours in bus and you’re finally back to civilization, to Cusco. Here you can treat yourself with hot shower, good coffee, delicious chocolate cake and great pizza. By the way the best coffee (americano – 6 soles, cappuccino – 8 soles) and chocolate cake (10 soles) as well as sandwiches, lasagnas, milkshakes etc. at cafe Valenciana, av. El Sol. For good pizza go to a small pizza place at Calle Meloc, up from supermarket Orion.
In total we spent a month around Cusco (after every hike had 3-4 days break) and stayed in 4 different hostels.
Where to stay in Cusco
Vip house garden hostel
23soles for a dorm bed. Likes: friendly stuff, early check-in (if beds are available), good breakfast, close to the supermarket, market and the center. Dislikes: first of all cold! Showers, toilet and kitchen outside, dorm is a bit small, no facilities in the kitchen.
26soles for a double room with shared bathroom. Likes: cheap, close to the center. Dislikes: no kitchen, small breakfast, cold, bathroom and toilet outside.
20 soles for a dorm bed, 60 for a double without bathroom. Likes: very cosy neat place, warm, very hot shower, fully equipped kitchen, good breakfast, close to the center. Dislikes: often host big groups, as a result kitchen not available, bathrooms always occupied, very slow Internet.
Hostal Tambo de Montero
60soles for a double room with bathroom. More hotel then hostel, no dorms. Likes: warm, private shower and toilet, kitchen, close to the supermarket and centre. Dislikes: no breakfast, rooms a bit dilapidated.
Prices for food in supermarket Orion in Cusco (soles/$)
– eggs – 5,2/1,5$ kg
– bread ciabatta – 0,25/0,07
– tuna (can 170g) – 5,50/1,6
– noodles – 0,9/0,2$
– beans (can 560g) – 5,50/1,6
– oats (290g) – 3,40/1$
– mince (beef) – 14 sometimes 9/4$
– tomato – 4/1,1$ kg
– onion – 2,8/0,8 kg
– garlic – 7,50/2,2$ kg
– mandarins – 6/1,7 kg
– avocado – 8/2,3$ kg
– mango – 4,50/1,3$ kg
– grape – 5,50/1,6 kg
– watermelon – 2,80/0,8$
– cucumber – 2/0,5$ kg
– pepper – 8/2,3$ kg
– yogurt – Gloria (120g) – 1,30/0,3$
– cheese Edam – 33/9,7$ kg
– cream cheese Philadelphia (226g) – 8,80/2,6$
– margarine (90g) – 1,20/0,3$
– min.water (2,25l) – 2/0,5$
– cookies (big pack) – 2,40/0,7$
– coffee (200g) – 7/2$
– tomato souce (200g) – 1,70/0,5$
– strawberry (at market) – 8/2,3$ kg
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