Exploring Huacahuasi Valley, Peru's Best Kept Secret
Unlike the revered Inca and Salkantay trails, the Lares route to Machu Picchu flies largely under the radar for most travelers. Developed by Mountain Lodges of Peru in late 2015, the trail blends the intimacy of mountain life with the stirringly beautiful Andean range, connecting you with the cultures that worship this land like a god. Weaving through traditional Andean communities, the Lares provides unprecedented access to life in the Peruvian highlands: This is the path for those who seek a journey to evolve just as much on the surface as it will prove to accrue within you.
After day two on the trail, I arrived to Lares, the trail's namesake, on election day. The mountain town was even more lively than usual, as droves of locals came flooding in to cast their vote for Peru's next president. Filling truck beds to the brim, families poured in from nearby mountain outposts. As locals congregated in the town’s many outdoor markets, a lively revelry ensued, fueled by chicha de jora, a home-brewed corn beer widely consumed in the Andes.
Leaving Lares, I traversed up a winding, thin slice in the mountain to stop for lunch in Quelquena Valley, the land which connects Lares with Huacahuasi Valley. While in this bucolic setting, a young woman corralled a herd of sheep, delicately tip-toeing around the animals, making sure to keep them in her decided range of direction. I parked for lunch nearby: With mountains surrounding me on every side, it was easy to feel infinitely small in a setting so endless, making it hard to think of anything else except what was before me.
After adequate rest beneath the Peruvian sun, the journey to Huacahuasi Lodge began. Loading up my pack, I began to trek the small path over Huacahuasi Pass, gaining access to a panoramic view revealing the entire valley, over 12,595 feet above sea level. It was a sprawling scene, almost fully green, except the occasional white dots, representing sheep herds in the valley.
Once at the top of the pass, I began my descent to one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever encountered: Combing through patches of mint-flecked moraine, I reached Huacahuasi Valley, Peru’s best kept secret. Two sisters passed me upon my arrival, taking moments to wave hello as they corralled a herd of horses through the highlands. It’s a moment that can only be achieved on the Lares Adventure, which weaves travelers through local villages that exude a palpable sense of life.
I arrived to Huacahuasi Lodge as a mist begins to blanket the entire valley, masking a serene landscape that encompasses a number of cascading waterfalls. I took refuge from my trek in my room’s outdoor sauna, resting in the tub as the mist curled around the lodge. As Peru’s mysticism unveiled before my eyes, the only sound I could hear was the rush of water reaching the base its falls.
Photographers Entry: Photo Tips for Documenting Peru
Due to the immense topography of the Peruvian Andes, it’s easy to miss capturing the scale of such towering mountain peaks. In order to show the breadth of the landscape, capture a person (llamas and alpacas work, too) in your images, showing the extent of the vastness at hand.
The Peruvian people make up one of the most precious and breathtaking cultures in the entire world. It’s hard to restrain yourself from documenting absolutely everything, but to show respect for the land in which your traversing, ask people permission before photographing them. Whether you seek to capture the lovely hat you have your eye on or the adorable child you see playing in the street, you’re sure to find more success with this nod of appreciation. Peruvians are known for their kindness, so they will likely oblige, but this nod of respect goes a long way.
Alpha globetrotter was used in the making of this article
Article by: Michaela Trimble