Altitude training and birding before Inca Trail
Day 1. Sleep low at Ollantaytambo
After picking up early arrivers at the Cusco airport we will do a short city tour and work our way to Ollantaytambo, passing the Huacarpay Lake for Bearded Mountaineer and wetland birds on our way. Above Ollantaytambo we will search for species like Rusty-fronted Canastero, Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch, White-tufted Sunbeam, Creamy-crested Spinetail, Giant Hummingbird, Great Sapphirewing and White-bellied Hummingbird. Night in Ollantaytambo. (2900m).
Day 2. Work high. Birding Abra Malaga
We will get up very early for the drive up beyond the Abra Malaga pass at 4200m and continue to the north side of the pass and the wet temperate forest at Canchayoc. Here we may see Diademed Tapaculo, Unstreaked Tit-Tyrant, Golden-collared Tanager, Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Parodi´s Hemispingus, Marcapata Spinetail, Tit-like Dacnis and many others. Rusty-breasted (Leimebamba), Red-and-White, Rufous and Undulated Antpitta are often heard and with some luck we may be able to lure some of them into view with play-back of its song. Returning to the pass around midday we will do a short, but quite strenuous walk to the quite disturbed Polylepis woodland on the ridge beside us. This is the most accessible high Polylepis woodland that holds the very rare Royal Cinclodes, Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant and White-browed Tit-Spinetail. Among other specialties are Giant Conebill, Line-fronted and Junin Canstero, Puna (Andean) Tapaculo, Stripe-headed Antpitta, Thick-billed Siskin, Tawny Tit-Spinetail, Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant and various species of Ground-Tyrants. As we come out of the valley, we stand good chance of encountering Andean Parakeet and Tit-like Dacnis. Back on the main road in roadside scrub we often find Junin Canastero, Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch and Golden-billed Saltator. Part of the day at altitudes around 4200m. Sleep in Ollantaytambo (2950m).
Day 3. No more Soroche! Goodbye altitude sickness!
Additional day on the Abra Malaga road. We will concentrate on birds we may have missed the previous day. Weather conditions - even snow sometimes - may make it impossible to visit the Polylepis forest on one of the days. Sleep in Cusco 3400m before starting the trip. You are now well prepared to start the hike to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail. Happy trails.