The Spirit of Apu Ausangate

Ausangate is the fourth highest peak in Peru and, at 6,372 meters, is the highest mountain in the Vilcanota Mountain Range. It is a snow-capped mountain with special significance to the Quechua-speaking population of Peru, who revere it as one of their most significant deities.

1Apu Photo: Michael Mossop


To the average tourist, Ausangate is a beautiful mountain and a challenging one to climb. But to the Quechua population of the Southern Andes, Ausangate is an Apu, a powerful mountain spirit that is considered the source of all good things, and is, in fact, the owner of the entire Cusco region of Peru. Quechua communities that dwell on the mountain make offerings, or k’intus, to Ausangate, and he, in return, provides them with all the necessities of life. During the festival of Q’ollor Riti, which takes place annually, thousands of people climb Ausangate to make offerings and receive blessings from Apu Ausangate.

The communities that dwell on Ausangate live a pastoral lifestyle, herding llama and alpacas, and trade with farming villages at lower altitudes for their other needs. The people’s lives are integrally connected to their animals and to one another. They maintain their traditions, such as the weaving of yarn made from alpaca wool, into textiles. These textiles are hand-dyed with plants, and feature ancient and symbolically significant designs referring to the spiritual beliefs of the community.

One of the most basic concepts of life in the high Andes communities is that of Ayni, or reciprocity, which connotes an ever-shifting, dynamic balance in relationship. This give and take informs not only connections that exist among people, but also the bonds between humans and the natural world, and most especially those between the people and Apu Ausangate.

The k’intu offering that reinforces this relationship has the Coca leaf as its main ingredient. Spiritual elders of the villages, or Misayoqs, say that the coca leaf is the favorite food of the Apus. Three perfect coca leaves are infused with the breath of the Misayoq. This places his intention for the wellbeing of the people into the offering. The k’intu is offered as a sacrament to Apu Ausangate, to ensure his benevolent protection towards the people who dwell in his mighty presence.

The k’intu offering that reinforces this relationship has the Coca leaf as its main ingredient. Spiritual elders of the villages, or Misayoqs, say that the coca leaf is the favorite food of the Apus. Three perfect coca leaves are infused with the breath of the Misayoq. This places his intention for the wellbeing of the people into the offering. The k’intu is offered as a sacrament to Apu Ausangate, to ensure his benevolent protection towards the people who dwell in his mighty presence.

2Turqlakes 1  PHOTO: Michael Mossop


Apus Peru offers several treks to Ausangate and the beautiful countryside surrounding it:

Ausangate Trek: Hike the circuit around Ausangate on this five-day trek. This trek is quite challenging, as it traverses three high mountain passes upwards of 5,000 meters. It offers astonishing scenery and the chance to view wildlife, birds, panoramic vistas with snow-capped peaks and mountain lakes. Soak away your aches in a natural hot springs and visit communities where villagers dress in colorful native garb. See more here:

http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/ausangate_5days.html

Ausangate Sibinacocha Trek: This is an alternative trek that covers the terrain alongside of Apu Ausangate. You will begin the trek by taking the same route as the classic circuit trek around Ausangate, (see Ausangate trek above), where you will pass through traditional Andean communities, visit hot springs, view pristine turquoise lakes, and gain stunning panoramic views of the mountain. Then, the trek diverges onto the road less travelled, toward Sibanacocha Lagoon, where you will immerse in some authentic, isolated backcountry. Here, you’ll spot herds of grazing alpacas and llamas; and if luck shines upon you, you may even spot a rarely seen herd of golden vicuñas!

http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/ausangate_sibinacocha.htm

On either of these treks you will have the chance to meet the communities, participate in a k’intu offering, and experience the wonder and majesty of Apu Ausangate first hand.

3Peru-tentglow
Photo: Michael Mossop
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