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Welcome to Adventure Specialists - a small, educational, adventure group focusing on Andean archaeology, discovery expeditions, and adventures by foot and horseback. This educational journey on quality horses will take you to key Inca ruins. You may ride all, hike portions of the route, or choose to travel in a supporting vehicle joining the riders at lunch, major Inca sites and each night. These options are offered within this one itinerary to allow couples and friends with diverse abilities and interests to travel together.
During this horse riding expedition, you will be accommodated three nights at comfortable, quality hotels in Sacred Valley.
You will drive to the rim of the Cusco basin to meet the waiting horses. The journey begins in rolling hills, noticeably etched by ancient fields and agricultural terraces. You will climb over a pass and down to several blue lakes hosting a noisy assortment of Andean shorebirds. You will have a gala lunch and a discussion of Inca activities there.
You then ride to the famous town of Chinchero at around 12,000 feet in altitude. An early colonial period church and large plaza frame well-made Inca walls that once were part of the Emperor Topa Inca’s Royal Estate.
For non-riders, you will drive a short distance upriver to visit the seldom seen pre-Inca, Huari culture ruins of Piqtillacta. There, your guide will tell the story of what happened prior to the rise of the Inca. This Huari administrative center had 200,000 buildings associated with its compound as well as a recently found burial site. Afterward, you’ll stop to see Tipon, an Inca experimental crop, waterworks site.
The group all unites in unique accommodation, lower in altitude in Urubamba, slipping into the hotel bar for a warming spirit, then off to a hot bath before meeting again for dinner (included) in the hotel.
A leisurely breakfast and shots of strong local coffee fuel you for the day's adventure. You will travel a short distance in a support vehicle back to the horses in Chinchero. Cinches pulled up tight, girths to you Brits, Yankee easterners, and other flatlanders, you will move smartly out at a trot along gentle, level trails through small farms and country villages on a high plateau of rolling hills and immense grasslands.
A spectacular panorama of the great ice peaks of the Vilcanota range crowns the near horizon. Sometime around mid-day, you will arrive at an isolated cathedral seeming lost and forgotten by time and modern civilization. You are pleasantly surprised to discover your support vehicle and crew awaiting you with the table set for lunch.
The destination for the afternoon ride is the Salineras. This is a huge area of terraces which form hundreds of baths all fed by a single saline stream. The salt water is allowed to evaporate leaving the salt to be mined and carried out by burros. The Salineras are worked now much as they were in pre-Hispanic times.
For non-riders: For those who prefer, the support vehicle will take you to the site for an extended visit before driving you to the inn. Or those in for the full day ride will have the opportunity for some faster riding across the high plateau before descending into the valley of the Salineras on a spectacular trail above the glittering white pools.
You will return to the same comfortable and friendly Inn in Urubamba. Valet parking with the wranglers seeing to the needs and comfort of your hoofed friends, you will amble toward the evening watering hole. Dinner and breakfast are included.
Saddled up, ponies energized, rearing to go, you ride out in early morning light, horseshoes clattering along the ancient stone-paved trail. The powerful equatorial sun reflects brilliantly off of high ancient ice fields. Riding past the picturesque village of Pichingoto, you'll ascend almost 1,000 meters above the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The trail takes you to the little known magical Inca site of Moray.
Located in a complex geological region, you will pass ancient salt mines, sinkholes and other natural phenomena to arrive at a complicated, unusual archaeological complex of circular walls, structures and terraces that remain a mystery to modern science. Colorado archeo-hydrologists Ken and Ruth Wright have conducted an investigation at Moray. After a lunch outside overlooking the Sacred Valley, you will ride to the colonial town of Maras.
For non-riders: For those who prefer, the support vehicle will take you to the site for an extended visit before driving you to the inn.
You will sadly say goodbye to your equine companions and the wrangler crew and hop a short ride in the support vehicle to deluxe accommodations in Ollantaytambo. The rooms are tastefully furnished in the best of neo-colonial style around stone-lined gardens full of blooms. You will dine together (included) at the wonderful hotel dining hall.
By foot, you visit the ruins of Ollantaytambo. Probably built by the great Inca ruler, Pachacuti in the 1460s, it was the site of Hernando Pizzaro’s defeat by Manco Inca in 1536. Constructed of finely cut polygonal stones and rhyolite blocks, the fortress, and nearby town represent the best of Inca architecture and construction.
Large worked blocks, some weighing as much as 100 tons were quarried from a site more than a thousand vertical feet above the valley floor using a technique of pecking with hammer stones, then skidded down and across the Urubamba river several kilometers to the temple site. Inclined ramps were built to raise the blocks several hundred feet uphill to the construction area. In the afternoon, you will visit a seldom seen ruin above the town. Hiking through ancient walls dating to pre-Inca times, your guide translates a picture of the life experienced there.
Transfer back to Cusco and end of your journey.
Adventure Specialists raises and trains horses at their ranch above Cusco. These well-cared for horses (a Peruvian Paso/Spanish Barb mix) are no-nonsense, experienced, sure-footed, mountain trail horses affording a secure, comfortable ride on steep pathways.
Although you do not need to be an expert rider, some previous riding experience and confidence around horses are recommended. The team will give instruction and attention to the less experienced as you travel. Skilled Quechua speaking wranglers give careful attention to each rider as needed and care for your mounts while you lunch or hike through ruins.
This route, logistical flexibility and nature of the trip offer an excellent program for kids to enjoy. Modified itineraries that permit riding and/or a day or two travelings along with the support vehicle can easily be arranged.
This is the latest itinerary (2019) in which Adventure Specialists make every effort to follow. However, Peru is subject to strikes, weather, landslides, and many events beyond control, which may cause changes and delays. They may also change the route from time to time for other good reasons. Please come prepared to cheerfully accept the unexpected with the insurance that you are in the hands of the most experienced and best adventure program operator in Peru.
Gary Ziegler, Adventure Specialist's founder and co-owner, is a field archaeologist with a geology background. He is a mountaineer and explorer who has spent a lifetime finding and studying remote Inca sites in the Vilcabamba range of Peru’s Southern Andes. Gary is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and of the Explorers Club. He has featured in documentary films for the BBC, Discovery Channel, Science and History Channels. In 2013, he was awarded the title “Distinguished Lecturer” at NASA’s Marshal Space Center. He has taught at Colorado College and Peru’s National University.
Amy Finger founded Adventure Specialists with Gary after earning degrees in geology and climatology from the University of Colorado in the early 1980s. She has designed and led horse trips in Spain, Argentina, Mexico's Copper Canyon, Peru and Colorado's Sangre de Cristo mountains. Home base is 4000 acre Bear Basin Ranch where she manages their cow/calf operation and remuda of mountain horses. Meanwhile, she directs the business and logistics aspects of Adventure Specialists from the ranch office.
Edwin Duenas is a Quechua speaking Cusco native. Edwin holds a Doctor of Law degree and practiced law before catching the ancient mysteries bug. Edwin became the expedition Maestre del Campo, expertly organizing porters, camp staff, wranglers and heading up logistical operations. Edwin guides most of the custom programs including his 'much in demand' interpretive talks at Machu Picchu. He pursues ethnohistory and field research with a passion. Each dry season, the team launches a new exploration together dedicated to unraveling ancient Andean mysteries with the ongoing Andean Research Project.
It is recommended that you arrive at Cusco a day or two before the program if possible. You will enjoy added time exploring the many interesting aspects of the region and extra time helps acclimation to the high altitude. Adventure Specialists can arrange hotels, other services and suggest itineraries for a 10% service fee over the actual cost.
Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport
Transfer not provided
Please book your flight to arrive at Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ).
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