Machu Picchu Pony Express

A carefully designed wilderness package, for those who wish to experience the culture, excitement and mystery of highland Inca Peru.

11birdCargo Mule and Quechua Wrangler
Photographer: Fabrice Schmitt

We have horses for experienced riders and novices alike

This is a quality adventure using pack-stock to carry all gear and camping amenities. An experienced staff of bilingual guides and local Quechua speaking packers accompany small group of guests. Comfortable camps offer delicious meals prepared from fresh meats, grains and vegetables served in our large dining tent with tables and chairs. One or two persons are assigned a weather tight, quality, four-person sleeping tents.

We own special mountain bred horses descended from noble Spanish Barbs brought from Spain in the 1500s...Crossed with the comfortable but less sure-footed Paso breed our mountain horses give a strong, comfortable ride with greater endurance, stability and reliability needed for steep Inca trails. We raise and train horses at our ranch in the Sacred Valley. The horses are no nonsense, experienced, sure-footed, non-gaited mountain trail horses affording a secure, comfortable ride on steep pathways.

Each day begins with a pan of hot water and coffee or tea served at your tent. Before the evening meal, we enjoy happy hour with popcorn, assorted hot beverages. Everyone is assigned a saddle horse. This can be used for the whole trip, for some hours each day as you wish. Horses not being used by guests will be looked after by our wranglers (packers) and can be summoned throughout the day as needed. Our well trained, sure-footed, no nonsense horses (we own and train them ourselves at our Sacred Valley facility) are smaller than American and European saddle horses but carry us over the high passes with amazing energy.

We do limit rider weight to 220 lbs. (100 kilos). (Confortable padded, South American-style saddles are used.)

Day 1: Cusco To Lares and Ride to VilcabambaLeaving Cusco in the rear view mirror, we travel by van over a low pass then down into the famous Sacred Valley of the Incas. The scenery is unsurpassable with close and distant snow peaks glistening in the sun. An interesting drive of several hours takes us past the extensive circular pre-Inka ruins of Ankasmarca covering a whole hillside – we'll make a stop – they were storage deposits for products from all over Peru. Just before Amaparaes pass we turn left to our trailhead at Chihuapampa and our waiting horses and trails crew. Our guide gives a helpful riding lesson, a review for more experienced riders and necessary trail instructions, as duffels and gear are expertly sorted, matched and loaded on mules by a colorful group of Quechua speaking wranglers. Abandoning tents and baggage to follow on the mule train, we set off, riding past the mountain town of Lares clip-clopping by on the cobblestone street. Soon we are on an ancient trail climbing steeply out of the valley past small potato fields and adobe houses. Giant blue Lupin bushes line the trail.

We follow the Rio Lares downstream Late afternoon finds us on a high broad ridge with a level area suitable for our tents at Qollpachaca at 3200 meters– we have been riding for 2 and a half hours,. We make camp near the village of Vilcabamba, a few scattered simple houses with friendly occupants. When we camped here for the first time in May of 2004, the locals said that we were the first outsiders to pass through in their memory. (Ride time 2.5 hours). B: L: D

Day 2: Ride Vilcabamba to Chupani The Andean dawn breaks colorfully to the east. We linger over a last cup coffee as restless mounts wait impatiently to begin the day's journey. Crossing a deep quebrada, we angle around another ridge passing Santa Rosa opposite the weaving village of Cachin. We may be lucky enough to buy or bargain for some of the most prized of Andean textiles produced here. Riding on, past curious, red -ponchoed peasant faremers working small potato fields with ancient digging sticks, we follow a well worn pathway once trodden by Inca pack trains laden with jungle goods from the nearby lowlands. Climbing Qochayoq pass at 4200 meters, we drop into and stop for lunch at Chupani, a small isolated village of stone-walled, grass roofed huts perched casually on a broad alluvial fan protruding down from the junction of two immense canyons. Hot Coca tea, avocado salad, cuts of ham and Andean cheese fuels us for the remainder of the day's journey. Continuing up into a broad high open region, we pass by a number of small villages. This high pampa with its beautiful view was probably a place for breeding and raising of llamas used for carrying supplies along the royal roads. We continue our climb passing herds of grazing alpacas. Mountain Vizcachas (related to the Chinchillas) scurry amongst boulders washed down from the higher peaks. We descend to our camp at Mauca Chupani 13,200 ft. Ahead in a majestic circular bowl crowned by a deep blue lake; our wranglers have set up a ring of green tents awaiting our arrival. Some of us stretch our legs by walking the last mile or so to Camp. Shortly, we are sipping hot chocolate and munching fresh popcorn near grazing alpacas. Savory aromas from the cook tent drift across the pampa. Pre dinner drinks as we wait the arrival of the first course of soup that announces the arrival of dinner B: L: D
Day 3: Ride Chupani to Mantanayoc Startling flocks of Puna Teals and Andean Geese, we trot out and upward into the morning mist and Chupani pass at 13,800ft. Today is a long ride through spectacular scenery. Following lunch we cross over another high, unpronounceable pass named Huacahuasicasa We descend through Wacawasi. The trail narrows as we wind through towering metamorphic sentinels guarding the approach. The view from the top of this 4500-meter high pass easily equals the best the Andes have to offer. Now in the downhill back toward the Sacred Valley, the horses pick up energy, as they know they are pointed toward home. The rose colored glaciers of Nevado Pumahanca hang overhead, lit by the glow of the fading Inca Sun God Inti as we reach the evening camp at Mantanayoc. A glass of selected Chilean wine completes the day. (Ride Time 6-7 hours) (B L D)
Day 4: Ride Mantanayoc to Yanahuara The daybreaks bright and sunny we hope. Fresh fruit, yogurt and hot cakes start our day. Duffels packed for the waiting mules, we head down valley. It's all downhill today along the Aruraycocha and Mantacnayoc rivers (streams actually). We pass through stands of rare, original Qeuña woodland. This is the genus Polylepis, home for some of the rarest birds on earth. An Andean Hillstar Hummingbird darts out as we clatter down the rocky trail. Herder's huts and chacras (small farms) become numerous. We pass grazing cows, barking dogs and children coming and going along the trail. Reaching the Sacred Valley at Yanahuara, we ride on through farmlands along the Urubamba River. A final ride along a colonial period lane completes our magical journey. We sadly say good-bye to the cooks, wranglers and hardworking ponies, organize our gear and take our van for the one and a half hours ride to Cusco or drop of at the hotel of your choice in the Valley. (B: L:)
Add a Day and Overnight at Machu Picchu to your trip for an extra $670 USD
MACHU PICCHU, one of the most magical and mysterious places on Earth! Situated on the spine of a jungle cloaked granite peak towering some 2,000 ft. above an entrenched meander of the roaring river below, the site is frequently shrouded in misty clouds pierced by the powerful equatorial sun. Constructed from precisely sculptured granite blocks carefully joined with the projecting exposed stone of the surrounding mountain, the site may well be the finest architectural achievement of the new world.
Day 1: Sacred Valley To Machu PicchuOur magical journey starts with the narrow gauge train ride to the New World's most spectacular archaeological monument, Machu Picchu. We breakfast then hop aboard the morning narrow gauge train heading down valley. An interesting hour of click, clack and sway with all of the accompanying sounds and smells of rural Peru takes us to the bustling backpacker town of Aguas Calientes, the portal for Machu Picchu. Soon we are gathered at the gateway to famous "Lost Cities of the Incas" Our guide takes us on a 3-hour tour of the ruins telling you the story of the rise and fall of the ancient civilizations of the Andes with the tragic end of the Inca and the enigma that this remarkable site remains. After lunch you are on your own to explore the ruins and when ready, bus back down to Aguas Calientes for overnight at our very comfortable Hotel. B:L:D
Day 2: Machu Picchu To CuscoAll morning at leisure. You may return to explore the ruins if you wish or relax and lunch at our favorite French Bistrot and then afternoon Cusco bound train, we arrive back in the Capital of the Inca early evening or those who wish may stay in Ollantaytambo B:L:

Customer Testimonials

Rossane Alexandre - Canada

The view in the Andes, the horses, the guide, the camping, the food, everything was great. It was a trip of a lifetime. I would go back anytime. These horses are amazing they can climb anywhere! Then we had that typical Peruvian meal, lamb cooked in very hot stone. It was one of the best things I ever tasted.

Sue Toland, British Horse Society Inca Challenge UK

Sue Toland, BHS Inca Challenge 2010 I am writing to thank Juan Carlos for his excellent guiding of our recent British Horse Society Inca Ride. Truly an amazing experience. Carlo's local knowledge, medical knowledge, general good humour and encouragement got us through a challenge, which I will never forget. The rest of the team were excellent also, highly organized and very efficient. The meals the cook prepared on his 2 gas rings were simply fantastic. Thank you all very much.

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