Adventure 2017: Susan Petersen, Jill Boyd, Kristen Hager — Horseback riding to Peru’s Machu Picchu
March 28, 2017
Susan Petersen's cousin and travel agent Felicia Ingwers is on a roll. First, it was the trek she organized through Iceland on horses. The latest excursion she booked took Petersen, her cousin and two other Steamboat women on a five-day horseback riding adventure through Peru.
Petersen, Jill Boyd and Kristen Hager traversed mountain passes with "enormous and mystical snow-capped peaks," exploring more than 15 different ecosystems while staying at lodges sitting higher than the summit of Mount Zirkel.
Throughout their adventure, they rode more than 60 miles.
"We went five days without seeing a wheel," Petersen says. "But by no means were we roughing it. We'd arrive at a lodge and were greeted with hot steaming wash cloths and cups of green tea."
The adventure started in Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire. There, the adventurers spent a day and a half acclimating to the altitude, getting outfitted and partaking in traditional Peruvian cocktails called pisco sours.
They then saddled up quarterhorses and Arabian horses and embarked on a five-day trek through the Andes Mountains along the Salkantay Trail, which leads to Machu Picchu.
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The first stop at the end of a six-hour horseback ride was the Salkantay Lodge, which sits at 12,690 feet and offers views of peaks towering as high as 20,574 feet. The second day took the women through the Soraypampa Valley, where they saw Andean condors circling a baby calf.
"Horseback riding is such a cool way to see a country and travel, because you can cover a lot more distance than you can hiking," she says.
Every step and trot of the way, their guide, Antonio, taught them about the area's culture.
"The people in Peru are so genuine. They love their country and love to share their culture and history," Petersen says.
The third day of riding was the most difficult, taking them up and over Salkantay Pass at 15,213 feet before descending through the Rio Blanco Valley in a hailstorm. The trip culminated in a six-hour hike through bamboo forests along the Urubamba River on the way to Machu Picchu.
But the ancient city wasn't even the trip's highlight, says Petersen. "As incredible as Machu Picchu is, it was more about the riding and being in the mountains," she says.
What's next on the travel dream list for Petersen and company? They're eying a possible hut-to-hut trip in the Italian Dolomites.