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

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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. Today, we would meet our adopted Quechua mother.

This post was originally published in 2014. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

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.

green mountains as seen from way above the Sacred Valley
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.

steep natural inca stairs
Descending into the canyon and humid forest climate
Inca trail through a canyon
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.

rainbow over the Sacred Valley of Peru
Coming out of the canyon, we were rewarded with a rainbow over the Sacred Valley
purple flowers with mountain behind
lush green terraces along the Quechua mountainside
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.

Inca archaelogical project Huchuy Qosqo
First glimpse of Huchuy Qosqo, an ongoing archaeological project
extensive inca terraces
Huchuy Qosqo’s extensive terraces

Meeting Our Quechua 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.

Dona Natividad's home, our Quechua mama
First glimpse of our warm (dry) beds for the night
resting and looking out the window in the home of my Quechua mama
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.

Hanging out with Dona Natividad, our Quechua Mama in her kitchen
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.

And for many (MANY!) other Peruvian hikes and adventures, click here.

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

    • 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….

      Reply
  1. 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
    • 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! 🙂

      Reply
  2. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  3. 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

    Reply

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