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Lares Adventure – Day 3: Calca to Choquecancha

On Day Three of our Lares Adventure, I woke up feeling much better and I was ready to get out and continue exploring. We started our morning with a stop in Calca to see the market. I always love going to grocery stores and markets when we travel – it’s one of my favorite ways to get a real glimpse of local living, and it’s interesting to compare the differences with what we’re used to at home. I spotted bags of fresh-cut vegetables prepped and ready for soups and stews and marveled at the fact that they were roughly five times cheaper in Calca than they are at home in the States! All of the produce was unbelievably fresh and beautiful.

After touring the various stalls at the market, we headed into the mountains. Our first hike of the day took us to the archeological site of Ankasmarka where we walked alongside the ruins of an ancient Incan granary and enjoyed beautiful views of the valley. We had the site and all of that fresh air completely to ourselves.

This was the perfect spot for a group photo!

Post-hike we split into two smaller groups – Chris and I, along with a few others, chose to dive deeper into Andean culture with a visit to Choquecancha, a small village on a steep mountainside in the Lares region. We took quite a long, bumpy, winding road (with the occasional obstacle) to arrive there.

The village is home to a very small community of people. We observed the Incan ruins that serve as the structural foundation for many of the homes, and we learned about the ancient Incan practices still in use today. As we walked through the village, our local guides pointed out various native plant species growing along the mountainside that serve medicinal purposes for ailments like headaches and digestion issues, for weight control, and even for oral contraceptives. I admit I kind of wanted to chew on the weight-loss plant for a minute to see what happens. Maybe I could have had six-pack abs as a souvenir!

Mountain Lodges of Peru arranged a fantastic lunch for us at a local family’s home, an experience that would have been hard to come by (probably impossible) if we had not joined this tour. We received a special blessing in Quechua as we entered, complete with flower petals sprinkled over our heads. The meal was simple, delicious, and nourishing, with locally harvested staples from the typical Andean diet. I did try a small bite of the guinea pig here – it wasn’t bad, but I don’t need to eat it again. The stuffed peppers were amazing though.

After lunch we had the opportunity to speak (via translation) with women from a weaving group in the village. Watching their handiwork in action, techniques that have been passed down through generation after generation, was mesmerizing. I grew up watching my grandmothers and mother turn simple fabrics into functional items like blankets, drapes, and clothing as a hobby. Sadly, I have not yet mastered their skills. Here in the Sacred Valley weaving is a way of life and tradition, and it even goes a step further in that they source and dye the fibers themselves. It’s truly an impressive process.

In the afternoon, we wound our way back down the mountain and up another one to land at our lodge for the next two nights. Huacahuasi Lodge sits perched on the mountainside at an elevation of 12,585 feet (3,835 meters) overlooking Huacahuasi village. This was the highest elevation we slept during the trek. If we had any issues with altitude we didn’t notice, perhaps because we were completely distracted by the outdoor Jacuzzi also overlooking the valley! While enjoying this gorgeous comfortable lodge and the soothing benefits of our Jacuzzi, I happily let go of any remaining guilt over not doing the Inca Trail and sleeping in tents. (But I do promise to try camping eventually.)

We woke up the next day with a hike and a cooking lesson on the schedule, and that post is up next!

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