Hello! This is Apus Peru Customer Service Manager Amanda Zenick. I´ve just returned from our five day Vilcabamba-Machu Picchu trek, which was an amazing experience. Vilcabamba is a very remote area; we didn´t see a single other trekker, and only a few locals during the entire trek. The scenery was varied, and ranged from humid jungle to high altitude passes. For anyone considering this route, or trying to decide on a trek, here is a little information on each day of my trip. The full itinerary can be viewed here: http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/vilcabamba_machu_picchu.htm
Our group woke up early for the drive to Huancacalle, the trek departure point. The trip was long (about six hours), but very scenic. From Ollantaytambo we climbed the Abra Malaga, a high pass with great views of the surrounding peaks and valleys, before descending to the high jungle. The majority of the drive was through coffee and banana farms, along rivers and lush, tropical vegetation. We were met in Huancacalle by our muleteers, and quickly set out for the ruins of Vitcos and Ñustrahispana. Vitcos is located high above the valley where we had departed from. I was especially surprised by the number of parakeets around the site, and the noise they created. Ñustrahispana (white stone) is one of the most interesting ruins I have been to, with a large, intricately carved rock and smaller ruins surrounding it.
Approaching the Vitcos ruins
Guides Erick Farfan, Fredy Callañaupa and I at the ruins!
This day was the most challenging for me, although day three is technically the most physically demanding. The route was beautiful, as we moved through green, lower altitude areas up to higher altitudes, where we would spend the night beneath glaciers. The second half of the day was spent hiking along a clear, freezing cold stream, with pretty waterfalls and pools along the way. Our campsite was very remote and impressive, with snow covered peaks around us and an amazing night sky filled with the most stars I have ever seen. This night was cold! Although almost everyone was able to sleep well, the temperature was very low, and ice covered the ground when we woke up the following morning.
This is what happens when you walk at the head of the group-extra break time!
Descent down the Racachaca Valley, where our group took a break and had lunch.
Lunch, break and repellent re-application time!
Approaching our campsite for night two.
Day three involved three challenging passes with amazing views, an original Inca trail, and a long descent back down to the high jungle. Needless to say, most of the group was very tired at the end of the day, but the views, lakes, and diverse scenery really made the trek worth it. We had the chance to see two condors soaring above us on the way down to lunch, and were only a few feet from a glacier at the final pass.
On our way to Pillao Kasa Pass, the first of day three
The final day of trekking involved an approximately 3.5 hour hike through the high jungle to our pickup point in Yanatile. During the walk we passed through small fruit farms, arriving at our pick up point just before lunch. While the rest of the group continued on to the Cola de Mono zipline and Machu Picchu, I returned to Cusco (Day five of this trek normally includes a guided tour of Machu Picchu, the option to climb Huayna Picchu, and return to Cusco in the evening.
A final group photo with our cooks and muleteers at the trek pickup point.