Hiking an Ancient Trail Above Yucay

It seems that every time I go out to explore somewhere new I am amazed by something even more fantastic than the last time. Sometimes it’s just hyperbole, but yesterday time I headed east out of the small town of Yucay in search of a remote Andean settlement and was not disappointed with a truly amazing hike.

A couple of days ago I went with a group to explore some of Peru’s Sacred Valley. When we turned around and began to head back down to Yucay, I asked our guide where the trail led to if one continued up the canyon into the mountains. He said there was a very small village about 2-3 hours up the very difficult trail.

That was all the encouragement I needed to return to find out what really was hidden up that mountain canyon.

Looking east from Yucay, this canyon beckons with some surprising scenery.

It’s a very easy path to follow out of Yucay. Basically, you just start walking east along any path up through the ancient agricultural complex keeping the canyon in your sights. You’ll climb steadily alongside massive Incan walls and through cultivated fields until you reach the only road that leads you east up into the mountains.

The road eventually becomes a trail at which you point you begin to climb.

And climb and climb and climb.

It’s really not all that bad, but the climb is continuous for a very long way. The steady sound of the roaring stream bringing snow-melt down from the highlands far above is a constant companion.

I was a bit unlucky to hike in constant light to heavy rain until the last 30 minutes when the clouds broke and sun came out. The trail was surprisingly good until near the village when it became a mushy mess and part became a stream bed. Of course, this kind of weather can make for some wondrous atmospheric photos, too.

I only saw two people the entire time in the canyon. One was a woman scurrying down hill and another was an old woman leading a burro down with a young burro following close behind.

The biggest surprise was how it was very much a high jungle trail. Despite climbing to nearly 12,000′ (3600m), the abundance of ferns and mosses provided a dense greenery that I haven’t seen anywhere so near Cusco. The rain only served to emphasize the feeling of being back in the rainforest.

One big surprise was the ruins of the old Planta Electrica Yucai (Yucay Electric Plant) that must have once supplied hydroelectric power to the village. Only the shell of a single building remained.

It only took about 2 ½ hours to reach what I assume was San Juan Bautista and, yes, it was as small as it was remote. I saw less than 10 dwellings spread up and down the canyon including an assortment of lifestock (pigs and burros) but no people. I’m guessing they saw me, but stayed hidden away until the stranger passed.

Despite the rain and occasional steep climbs, the trail was in good shape and I only slipped a few times coming down, though it was necessary to very careful one’s footing in certain sections.

It only took about 4 ½ to make the 9 mile roundtrip hike which was less than I was expecting. (The round trip colectivo ride from Calle Puputi in Cusco took about 3 hours total!)

This was definitely a hike I hope to repeat one day in better weather. I’m curious to see what is above the village as it appeared the canyon was beginning to open up a bit, but I couldn’t see much thanks to the clouds and the rain.

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2 years ago

Wow… that’s amazing !
You are amazing Phil!

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