Trekking the Andes (Pt 2): Huchuy Qosqo, and our Quechua “Mama”

by Nora on April 10, 2014

 

We awoke from our first night of trekking and camping in the Peruvian Andes cold and wet. The sign of a good guide, Miguel was unfazed by it, saying he slept well while he prepared our hot tea and breakfast. We shook it off; although the clouds still looked ominous, the rain had stopped and we had an exciting day in store.

 

The Ceremony

We began by hiking a little way up the Inca trail (away from our ultimate destination) to a sacred site where we performed a beautiful ceremony to connect us with nature, set our collective intentions for our journey together, and celebrate the powerful mountain energy which surrounded us. It was a Peruvian ceremony with fire, song, sacred rituals, and blessings. (See also: Blessed in a Peruvian Despacho Ceremony).

After spending the morning lying in the grass and relaxing while the sun periodically teased us with its appearance, we put out the fire and returned to our campsite where we picked up the rest of our belongings and continued down the Inca trail towards Huchuy Qosqo.

High above the Sacred Valley

 

 

The Second Day’s Hike

This hike was much shorter in length than yesterday, and much more varied in both micro-climate and scenery. After being on the mountainside high above the Sacred Valley, we dropped down into the humid forest and spent much of our time on the Inca trail going through a deep canyon with a flowing river and lush greenery on all sides.

Descending into the canyon and humid forest climate

Following the Inca Trail through the canyon, with evidence of ruins everywhere

 

Coming out the other side, the sun was now shining with us, showing us the beauty of all things Andean, while we trekked further along the mountainside towards Huchuy Qosqo.

 

Coming out of the canyon, we were rewarded with a rainbow over the Sacred Valley

 

 

Coming around the mountain into Huchuy Qosqo

 

 

Huchuy Qosqo

Huchuy Qosqo is Quechua for “Little Cusco”. At 3,600 metres above sea level, it’s inaccessible by road, so only the hearty and healthy can visit these archaeological Incan ruins. It’s an impressive site that is still being excavated; like many of the Incan ruins and trails in Peru, there is still a substantial amount to be discovered, just underground or beneath the thick brush. Some of the Incan trails are almost impossible to access due to steep or dangerous terrain, highlighting the feats of engineering defying modern physics that the ancient Incas would have had to perform to build their roads.

First glimpse of Huchuy Qosqo, an ongoing archaeological project

Huchuy Qosqo’s extensive terraces

 

Meeting Mama

“The Quechua woman who owns this home is called Dona Natividad, but everybody calls her Mama,” said Miguel as we approached our warm abode for the night. Through this day, we had awoken cold, peeled off the layers during the day’s trek, and as the evening was setting in so too was the deep chill again. We were incredibly hungry for a warm meal and eager for a good night of sleep.

First glimpse of our warm (dry) beds for the night

 

Watching the Huchuy Qosqo ruins from my cozy bed with lots of heavy Alpaca blankets to keep me warm

 

Mama, a short rotund Quecha woman who smelled of the fire she cooked on, showed us the best hospitality any Mama would; with smiles and hugs, saying “ay Mama, ay Mama” to each of us, before showing us our rooms which looked out on the Huchuy Qosqo ruins and the Sacred Valley.

We were served a hearty meal of soup with local herbs and grains that tasted like nothing we’d had before (camping will do that to you), followed by rice and vegetables. Although there were plentiful cuy (guinea pigs – a Peruvian specialty) on the property, they were spared another day of the dinner plate since our group was largely vegetarian.

Spending time with Mama in her kitchen

 

A Starry Sky, and Quechua Hospitality

Given a long day and the strong sunshine, we didn’t last long after our early supper and everybody quickly settled into bed. But I was restless, feeling energized by the last two days and thrilled with my physical ability to withstand the rigours of trekking in the Andes despite my injuries.

Eventually I gave up staying awake by candlelight (since Mama’s place was without electricity), and made my way to the bathroom (in another building) for a last pee before bed. On my way back from the bathroom I was rewarded for my efforts with the milky way, and a thick tapestry of bright stars blanketing the dark sky.

As I stood in awe looking at the stars, the horseman came out of Mama’s kitchen (where the night’s festivities were just beginning for the local crew).

“Quieres un poco mas comida?” he asked me (do you want some more food). With fond memories Mama’s soup from a few hours ago, I couldn’t say no. I was invited into the kitchen with Mama and her crew of boys and workers, and served a bowl of different – yet equally wondrous and hearty – soup. I listened to them chatting away in Quechua, and after refusing second helpings and excusing myself, I was taught a few Quechua phrases, which, in my haze and exhaustion from the last two days of Andean experiences, faded into my dreams as I fell into a deep sleep.

 

Next up, Part 3 of my Trek through the Andes; including the train to Machu Picchu Pueblo, the exhausting hike up to Machu Picchu – and beyond – and the impressive citadel in the sky.

 

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 yara Coelho April 13, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Great photos and what an incredible experience 🙂
Lucky guinea pigs, they got to live another day, thanks to the vegetarians 🙂

Reply

2 Nora Dunn April 14, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Yara – Ha ha! They had a whole room full of guinea pigs (for breeding), and some even ran around in the kitchen (probably unbeknownst to their ultimate fate). They have strange little squeals….

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3 Anna April 14, 2014 at 5:52 am

Wow, this place is so green!
I see someone is enjoying the miniature setting on her camera 😉 I am actually a fan myself, and I find that it really enhances the colors.

Reply

4 Nora Dunn April 14, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Anna – Indeed, I’m loving playing with focus and tilt shift etc! And on the Nokia Lumia 1020 there are lots of ways to enhance colours and have fun with editing….as you can see! 🙂

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5 TC April 18, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Mama’s house looks like mud brick contraction with thatched roof and overlooking the valley. It must be quite a job to bring the supplies. You must have had a great walk and beautiful air around you. I always wondered why old civilizations seemed to exist in impossible locations?

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6 Nora Dunn April 18, 2014 at 1:33 pm

TC – I was amazed at the utter remoteness of many of the communities I passed through on this trek; but many of them are self-sustaining, so bringing in supplies is rare, if at all. Having said that I saw many Quechua families hiking long (long) distances through remote valleys with huge loads of things like firewood on their backs….it’s a simple and pure – but hard – life.

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7 romain March 13, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Hi Nora,
I plan to hike from Patabamba to Huchuy Qosqo and Lamay in August, and i wanted perhaps to sleep at Mama Natividad’s home. Do you know how to contact her? If i arrive at the end of afternoon without calling her before, I’m afraid that all her beds are taken by people who hike with agencies… What do you think about it?
How much did you pay for the night and the meal?
Thanks in advance,
best regards,
Romain

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