Recently my wife and I along with two local friends, took a day hike to a seldom visited site overlooking the Sacred Valley called Huchuy Qosqo, the translation for this name is little or small Qosqo (Cusco), with Qosqo being the original Quechua spelling. Those that know us know that we are not at the height of physical fitness, but not at the bottom either, and the friends that joined us are at about similar levels of fitness. Overall this hike took us 12.5 hours from our start in Taucca to our finish in Lamay, we likely could have done it in less time as we really were taking it easy, taking a lot of brakes, and even spent roughly 1 hour picking wild mushrooms along the way, which I would not recommend doing if you are on your own. Good news for most of you is that if we could make it, most of you could as well, and as such I thought this trip would be worth sharing.
Our day started a little after 06:15 when we departed Huarocondo and drove up over the hill to Chinchero; here we turned toward Taucca which is a small community on the North East side of Lake Puray.
We arrived at the starting point for the trail around 07:20 and started our hike, which at this early stage just runs through the small town, passing by the many adobe homes and small fields. Not long after starting we left the town behind and started the gradual climb up the valley, passing many fields full of a variety of crops like potatoes, chocklo (giant Peruvian corn) and quinoa.
The first 2.5 hours or so was a slow gradual climb up a valley that slowly transformed from rich farm lands to rolling Andean meadows and scattered natural lakes.
We eventually reached a point above two lakes where the trail got a little steeper and continued up to the first saddle where we found 2 large Incan stone towers. At this point it was about 10:30, so we stopped here for a short rest and some picture taking before continuing on.
The trail then continued on a gradual incline for another 20 minutes or so, passing another small group of lakes before topping out at 4,300 meters.
We then started our decent towards Huchuy Qosqo, which like most of our accent was gradual and scenic. As we made our way down the valley, we passed a heard of horses, picked some wild mushrooms, which again I would not recommend doing on your own, and we even saw a small herd of llamas.
Our gradual decent continued for about 2 hours where the vegetation slowly changed again from low grasses and shrubs to succulents and then small trees and flowering plants. Here we saw the first sign we were getting close as there was a set of terraces on the right. At this point the trail split with the main trail crossing a small stream, and a smaller trail paralleling the stream to the right.
After having a snack and refilling our water bottles from the stream, and of course treating the water, we followed the small trail along the stream as there was a blue sign indicating it lead to Huchuy Qosqo. The trail continued down between the terraces and the small stream, crisscrossing the stream a few times and here it got a little steeper with some switchbacks in a few places.
Eventually we got our first glimpses of Huchuy Qosqo through the trees, and about 30 minutes later were entering the site. As with all Incan sites there were many familiar things like perfect stone work and a variety of terraces, but there was also something different about this site. This is the first site that I have been to that has had a two story stone structure, and while not solid stone all the way to the top, this building is perfectly fitted stone for the first ¾ of the wall height.
Once at the site we enjoyed a quiet lunch, with a few new friends, and then probably spent a good hour exploring before starting our decent down into the Sacred Valley. While the views were beautiful on the hike down into the valley, we found this to be the most difficult portion of the hike as the trail was steep and even slippery in places due to loose gravel and rocks. Our decent to Lamay took us almost 4 hours to complete and by the time we reached the Sacred Valley we were all exhausted, as that much continuous hiking downhill can really give the legs a work out.
Despite the fact that we were all worn out the next day we all really enjoyed the hike and would definitely recommend it to those that have an extra day to fill. This would even be a good prelude to doing one of the treks like the Inka Trail, Salkantay or Laras, as it take you up over 4,000 m and does have some steep inclines, although I think I would recommend doing it in the opposite direction so as not to burn out your legs on the downhill portion, just prior to a trek.
Speaking of routes, there are several ways in which Huchuy Qosqo could be done and aside from the trail that we took, there is also one that goes between Tambomachay and Huchuy Qosqo, but considering we have only done the trail from Taucca, this is the only one I will be discussing. Basically the trail that we took could be hiked in four different ways 1) The route that we took Taucca to Lamay. 2) Reversing this route and hiking Lamay to Taucca. 3) Doing a round trip from Lamay to Huchuy Qosqo and back to Lamay. 4) Doing a round trip from Taucca to Huchuy Qosqo and back to Taucca.
Of the four routes I think the best option might actually be the last, as doing a round trip from Taucca would provide a good variety of terrain and with the gradual slopes that are on this side, it would keep you from destroying your legs on a long steep ascent or decent. I know that based on the times given above this might not look possible for a one day hike, but I do believe that the time from Taucca to Huchuy Qosqo could be greatly improved, and if you combine this with a slightly earlier departure (around 06:00) I believe it could be done. This will definitely be my next plan of attack as I would love to make another trip, although I will likely have to wait until we have some guests that would like to hike it, as my companions for this last hike are not interested in repeating this particular hike. Once I repeat this I will post an update on times and if the round trip from Taucca is feasible.
There is one additional bit of info for those planning to visit Huchuy Qosqo, there is a fee for the site, and it is not included in the Boleto Touristico, currently the fee is S/. 22.00 Soles for Adults and S/. 10.00 Soles for Students. I hope that you enjoyed reading this and if you are planning a trip to Cusco, feel free to browse through my blogs for additional information, and check us out at http://www.gringowasi.com for your lodging and tour needs.