The day after the Sacred Valley journey to Pisaq, we started the Salkantay Trek. We thought of doing the Inka trail, because it’s the most famous trek and it goes straight to Machu Picchu. However, it was booked all the way to September when we looked at the end of May and it’s way more expensive because mules/ donkeys are not allowed and hence porters are used to carry 30kg each, painstakingly carrying the load over the gnarly steps of the Inka trail.
Salkantay trek is a great alternative- a 5 day trek, 83km with lots of elevation gain up to 4650m. We had 10 people, including the both of us in our group and we were doing the trek simultaneously with another group (starting and ending and camping at the same place/ time)- so there were lots of new faces and new friends to be discovered.
The first day was a 20km trek up to elevation 3,850m at the Soraypampa- the first night was the coldest. Good thing Brady and I had our sleeping bag and sleeping pads to keep us toasty through the night.
The next day was lots of uphill and downhill, 21 km in total, but gnarly downhill towards the jungle where we could see more of fruit trees- bananas, avocados and more jungly fauna. We were walking up above the clouds and downhill at rocky areas where slippy slides are common. We even saw 3 avalanches in the period of 1 hour that we were hanging out at the top of the pass.
At the top of the pass. The cairns are built my tourists and local people alike. The locals, according to Inkan beliefs, regard mountains as place closest to deities. The mountain-like rockstacks supposedly were built by the locals at the top so they get closer to gods.
Downhill was rough on my old knees. But the view was astounding. Mt Salkantay stands at 6300m. The last time it was ascended was 2012 with a Peruvian and and American. The avalanches have been slightly impeding the flow of tourists trying to conquer the mountain. What bugs me the most is that supposedly there has NOT been a single women who have tried/ able to conquer it…. Shall I try??Astounding vistas.
At night, we camped where they had campsite and offered “Inka Tekila”= alcoholic cane juice that tasted very similar to tequila for only 1 sole each = 30 cents. Towards the end of the night, to lubricate the transactions at his hut, the campsite owner started to give these tekilas for free. It worked. We partied around the campfire and danced to a mix of European, Hispanic and American Gringos music. With strobe lights. Somewhat in the middle of nowhere.
Having been on a project that built tracks, Brady was absolutely excited to be walking along the train tracks. It seemed like there was no system whatsoever in building these tracks. The tie spacings were way off, the rail had incidental superelevations because of the sagging at the other sections. Larry, our old track superintendent would have had a heart attack if he had to walk and fix these ones. Here’s a pic of Brady standing on a ‘bridge’. If we had fallen between the ties, we would have fallen into the river underneath.
More of Brady and the train tracks, heading towards Machu Picchu Pueblo/ Aguas Calientes. The weather was really thick and humid– everything was green. There were lots of banana trees and huge green avocados.
That night, we stayed at Aguas Calientes. We splurged on a 70 soles massages for the both of us ($23). This was the first time I was massaged with a hot stone. It was surprisingly good.
The next day, we woke up at 4AM, in order to be able to cross this bridge that opens at 5AM. We arrived at 4:45am and there was already a line. I guess everybody was anxious to be the first people at the Machu Picchu.
The hike up was a little gnarly– 1.5 hours up on straight up stairs. We were drenching in sweats when we got to the top. It was only 6AM.
The Inkas were astounding at rock carving/ building. The gossip has it that the Incan king who built Machu Picchu, had his mummy stored behind the stairs, until it was transported to Vilcabamba during Spanish invasion.
We really wanted to do Huayna Picchu mountain, right next to the Machu Picchu ruins. However, due to the high demands and our lack of commitment, leading to late tickets purchases, we could only got the Machu Picchu Mountain ticket. It’s an additional 1.5 our hike STRAIGHT UP the stairs to the top.
We also met up with Brady’s parents on the 4th day at Aguas Calientes. It’s such a great feeling to see somebody from home, Brady’s parents, no less. WE ARE SO LUCKY, I am so grateful.