Siri and I arrived back in Cuzco yesterday from our 5-day trek around Ausungate. The views were absolutely amazing! The altitude was impressive too - our group crossed 3 high passes, 5100 meters, 5200 meters, and 5300 meters...It was definitely slow-motion walking! Probably the highlight, other than being at 5300 meters, was seeing not one, but two avalanches - both at a safe distance. Both occurred in the same spot on the same mountain, but the second one was huge. Each time, it sounded like a plane was flying overhead, but I noticed a huge cloud falling down the mountain (Cuyangate). It was an amazing event to witness!
I'll do a longer write-up on each trek when I return...and of course, I'll post pics. Just a quick comparison though...Inca Trail - hiked that with a small group of friends and 399 others...lots of leap frogging with other groups on the trail. Ausungate - just 3 or 4 of us, a few horses, a guide, cook & a porter. We didn't see any other trekkers and very few local farmers. Both treks had all food prepared for us, although first trek had better food. I'm looking forward to a break from rice, potatoes, and pasta - soemtimes served all at the same meal. During the Inca Trek, I would have loved to have shorts and a tank top - it was warm! On Ausungate, I woke up to frost on the tent a couple of times and was glad I had all the fleece layers I had! The Inca Trek had ruins - no ruins on the Ausungate trek, but we did walk through numerous grazing pastures for llamas, alpacas, sheep and horses. The Inca Trail is paved most of the way with stones that were set there for the Inca royals. The path around Ausungate isn't as clear - no rocks, sometimes we were wandering on local paths created by the farmers and other times, we were criss-crossing through boggy-land that used to be a lake.
It was an interesting morning in Cuzco. Siri and I headed to San Pedro Market early in the morning. It was neat to see people setting up shop. We got in some important shopping and enjoyed fresh-squeezed juice. The fruit & juice here is amazing - I may just have to invest in a juicer when I return! I'm going to miss papaya...The market is a bit of a chaotic place - you can buy just about anything there, from touristy goods to kitchen staples. There's a huge selection of weaving, beading, and other good gifts. The fresh fruit & vegetable sections are amazing. We avoided the meat section - seeing and smelling recently butchered animals at 8am is not always a good thing. Although, I think the smells probably get stronger later in the day... On our way out, we heard music - there was a huge parade heading into the Plaza de Armas. Dozens of groups of dancers were dressed up in an amazing assortment of costumes. Many schools & the grades at schools were represented. One group was dancing with bones & skulls, a couple of groups were dancing with boughs from trees, and everything was incredibly colorful! After the main groups went by in 20minutes or so, we continued and then came across another parade with lots of ninos and ninas dressed up in costumes. They were cute! What a beautiful day for a parade. :-)
Only a half day left in Cuzco...Almost done with shopping - may take in a museum this afternoon for something different. I fly out to Lima tomorrow morning, get all day Friday and Saturday to explore Lima / Miraflores before flying out early to Atlanta...If anyone's up for dinner Sunday evening, zip me an email...I'm thinking I might bookend this trip with meals at Farm Burger. Adios!