Salkantay Trekking and Machu Picchu!

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.

thumb_IMG_4192_1024Walking along the water canal to reach Soraypampa.

thumb_IMG_4205_1024Glacier lagoon – 50 minutes uphill uphill hike from the Soraypampa campsite. The water was freezing cold! The laguna was blue green and yellow— pictures don’t do it justice.

thumb_IMG_4215_1024Our two groups combined together–

thumb_IMG_2410_1024Posing by the laguna.

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.

 

thumb_IMG_2422_1024Wispy cloud at our elevation.

thumb_IMG_2425_1024The trail looks like a thin ribbon, cascading the mountain side.

thumb_IMG_2429_1024At 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.

thumb_IMG_2441_1024So I built my rockstack/ cairn on top of a big rock– the one on the right side was mine. It was destroyed 5 minutes after 😦

thumb_IMG_2446_1024On top of Abra Salkantay!!

thumb_IMG_2461_1024Another mediocre yoga  pose– but on a rock– so it’s a little bit cooler. I’ve been practicing so I’ve got a couple more yoga poses under my sleeves. Things that you get to do when you’re unemployed!.

 

thumb_IMG_2465_1024Downhill 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??thumb_IMG_4246_1024Astounding vistas.

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thumb_IMG_2493_1024After an exhausting and most difficult second day, we arrived at the campsite, greeted by this uber cute puppy, snuggling with a kitty cat.

thumb_IMG_2502_1024On the third day, we passed these pools, recently built, but right next to the cliff supporting the road. Supposedly there’s rockfall into the pool every time a car passes atop.

thumb_IMG_4265_1024The (trekking) roadside was littered with passion fruit tree– here’s Brady throughly enjoying one. We had around 30 amougst the 4 of us.

thumb_IMG_4268_1024At 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.

thumb_IMG_4279_1024The fourth day was nice- walked for 6 hours along the road and the train tracks. Here’s a pic of Brady and Hermo (our guide), both hungover from the free Inka Tekila.

thumb_IMG_4287_1024Having 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.

thumb_IMG_4289_1024More 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.

thumb_IMG_4256_1024There were lots of rivers on the fourth day- here’s a snapshot of the beautiful frothy water flowing down the river towards the jungle.

thumb_IMG_4306_1024The 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.

thumb_IMG_2510_1024I was the first person who entered Machu Picchu on 6/10/2015. So excited, waving my green Indonesian passport. woot woot!

thumb_IMG_4315_1024However, I think it was wayyyyy to early, so we had our Machu Picchu tour from our guide in the mist/ fog.

thumb_IMG_4321_1024Beautiful building atop a natural rock formation

thumb_IMG_4323_1024The 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.

thumb_IMG_4343_1024More of foggy Machu Picchu.

 

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.

thumb_IMG_4354_1024Very well constructed from the Incan time, but still gnarly stairs.

 

thumb_DSC04933_1024It was hella foggy at the top, We were above the clouds, blocking the Machu Picchu views.

thumb_IMG_2516_1024There it is! (Not pictured, covered with fog)

thumb_IMG_2514_1024Above the cloud and inside the fog– I don’t know which.

thumb_IMG_2527_1024On the way up the Machu Picchu mountain- the cloud/ fog really thick.

thumb_IMG_2530_1024At the top- trying to capture Machu Picchu at the perfect moment when the clouds part. There were few other people up there, although they only allow 400 people a day to go up the mountain.

 

thumb_IMG_4364_1024Brady, surrounded by clouds.

thumb_IMG_2525_1024The way down- towards the top, the cloud had barely dissipated.

thumb_IMG_2538_1024Still in the clouds— until….

thumb_IMG_4372_1024It started dissipating as the sun burns the fog off at lower altitude.

thumb_IMG_2549_1024And we were blessed with this amazing, jaw dropping view.

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We are so incredibly lucky for the great weather, astounding hike, amazing new friends and great experience. thumb_IMG_4395_1024

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.

 

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