Ausangate? More like Awesome-gate! - Expedition Leader Program

By: Chloe Saulnier, 21 y/o, Canada

54 km, 5 days, 3 course meals, spectacular views, alpacas for days, chilly nights, and very dry hot days. This is what the Ausangate trek is all about.

About one week ago, our team took on its first trek of four in this program in the Cusco region of Peru. Part of the Andes, the Ausangate and adjacent mountains make for one of the most incredible treks in South America. Unlike most treks in Peru, Ausangate is not about Inca ruins. It solely focuses on beautiful scenery, snow peaks, glaciers, rainbow coloured mountains, colourful lakes and native peruvian culture. These and the mountain's high altitude make it quite unique and one of the most incredible treks in the country.

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A quick briefing with our main guide, Jorge, was all it took to get us excited about the challenge to come. After meeting with him at our hostel in Cusco, we packed our bags, took a 4 hour bus ride to the trailhead in a small village called Tinki, quickly met our team and started hiking right away. With our big packs on, we made our way to the first campsite in approximately 3.5 hours. We were treated wonderfully by the staff of our tour company, Wayki Trek, being served tons of tea and enough food for an army with a smile every single time.

As expected, the trekking and camping were absolutely brilliant. Huffing and puffing our way over high passes for about 6-7 hours per day with a few ill team members, our morale stayed up, our appreciation for the experience was always present, and a true connection to the Pachamama (mother of earth and time for the indigenous people of the Andes) was felt.

Long mornings of hiking made for sleepy campers after lunch, but afternoon naps, followed by tea time, workshops on leadership and navigation, dinner and some silly games kept us entertain during the down time of each day. Every camp site was spectacular in its own way, thus many of us also took the opportunity to adventure a little more and find the best spots to watch the sunset in the mountains.

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After 5 days of hard work, celebration was of the essence and we were ready to hit the hot springs with some good music and share a few beers. Though our tired looks might have suggested otherwise, sentiments of pride could be felt around the entire pool. We were proud of what we had just accomplished as a team and we knew that we were taking our first steps into a new chapter for both the program and connections within the group.

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 This trek is something we will forever hold in our hearts as we make our way through the remainder of our lives. The gifts of resiliance, mindfulness, gratefulness, acceptance, compassion, hard work, optimism and pride were given to us during those 5 days and we cannot wait to pass them forward to the rest of the world.

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