Day 83 - 1st day of trek
An early 430am start to get to the trek shop for 530am. We packed our bags into the minibus and climbed in, promptly falling asleep. We were in the minibus for 2 hours before we stopped at a remote restaurant for some breakfast, a nice buffet of pasta, eggs, oranges, bread, banana and papaya, quinoa drink, coca tea and coffee! We were encouraged to eat a lot as we had a lot of walking to do over the next 5 days! We were also joined at breakfast by a dog and a parrot under the table! We then had to pay 10 soles each for entry to the national park before we got back onto the minibus for a further hour before we reached our starting point!
Before we started the Salkantay trek the whole group got in a circle and had to introduce ourselves. Starting with the tour guide, Tupac (this was his nickname, he promised to explain why later in the trip!), then we had quite a mixture of nationalities, we had 4 students from the US who had been studying in Chile for the last 5 months, a couple of Ozzy women, a Belgian couple, a couple of English Cambridge Medical students and then a few solo travellers - a German lady, a Swiz lady, an American guy and a Brazilian guy. It turns our Jess and I were the oldest in the group. Tupac asked us to come up with a group name, we suggested ‘Biggie Smalls’ but this was beaten by the ‘Sexy Cuys’ (Guinea Pigs!). With the formalities complete we began our trek!
The first 2 hours of the trek were steep and difficult to climb but cool enough to walk comfortably, after the 2 hours we arrived at Humantay Lake. The lake was bright blue with green moss and you could see the reflection of the mountain, quite stunning. We had about an hour of free time where we climbed up higher for better views of the laguna and lots of photos!
We then had a nice easy 2 hours downhill trek down to our campsite. Chatting with our group, making new friends and that...We arrived at our campsite around 3pm for lunch. Jess and I had declared we were vegetarians on this trip (we watched a documentary and cattle farming is destroying the world) so we had some lovely vegetables at lunch as part of a huge buffet. Lots of juice and coca tea too.
We then got allocated our sleeping bags and cabins before we went to watch the sunset. Turns out you can’t really see the sunset from between two mountains so we just watched it get dark instead. Then at 6pm we had our tea, consisting of popcorn, cheesy crackers, hot chocolate and coca tea (the huge amounts of food and coca tea became a very welcome theme to our trek!). Dinner promptly followed at 7pm, another huge buffet with lots of carbs and veg and soup! After dinner we played some cards and chilled out. Then back to our huts at around 8pm ready for an early night and an early 5am rise in the morning!
Day 84 - 2nd Trek Day
We were woken up at 5am with a cup of coca tea from our tour cooks. It had been a freezing night, luckily Jess had a great sleeping bag but mine was thin and had a broken zip, on top of that I’d drank way too much coca tea the evening before and was busting for the loo most of the night, but it was too cold to get out of the cabin!
Luckily the freezing cold woke air woke me up. We went up to the food cabin for our breakfast buffet, bread, jam, omelette, coffee, coca tea and fruit. Then some oreos and sweets for snacks for the days trek.
Todays hike was up to the Salkantay Pass, a passage which runs along the Salkantay mountain, around 4600m above sea level. This was a difficult walk, freezing cold, very steep and high altitude. Some of our group decided to take horses up but we were hardcore and walked it… very slowly. It took us around 3 hours to climb from the campsite to the pass, we took regular breaks for snacks, water and to catch our breath. Although the climb was tricky it wasn’t as difficult as our Colca Canyon trek, we felt comfortable all the way up. We got some amazing photos from the pass and it was nice to relax for 30 minutes at the top. Whilst there Tupac asked the group how we all felt to have made it to the pass, one of the 20 years olds said ‘Sick’, which prompted Jess to worry and offer some altitude sickness pills before realising she was speaking the youth lingo for ‘Awesome’... again, we are the oldest in the group.
After our rest, Tupac took us to his ‘office’ which turned out to be an amazing viewpoint of a bright blue laguna and a sheet of fluffy cloud over the jungle. Then we walked down for another hour to our lunch spot for another buffet, potato and egg, lots of rice, sauteed veg, star fruit drink and the obligatory coca tea! During lunch some of the younger people in our group wanted to play a ‘Get to know you’ game called Truth Truth Lie, organised fun… yay.
After we’d refueled we had another 3 hours trek from the mountains down into the jungle, the change of scenery was dramatic but once in the jungle it was very similar for the last couple of hours. We got to our campsite around 5:30 after leaving our campsite 11 hours earlier and walking around 25k (up a mountain!)... we were shattered.
We got our bags and sleeping bags and found a tent. Then headed for a shower, 10 soles for a warm shower, I decided to have a cold one which was very coooooold and pitch dark and Jess “accidentally” had a hot shower (which also had a light!).
Then tea at 630pm, more popcorn, cheese wontons, hot chocolate and coca tea. Then dinner with the group again, more sauteed vegetables, Peruvian rice (quinoa), kebab salad (lots of red cabbage), more carbs and coca tea.
Then a couple games of cards and bed!
Day 85 - 3rd Trek Day
Day 3 of the trek was called the ‘Leisurely Walk Day’. We got a nice lie in until 530am, a much better nights sleep, nice and warm! An amazing apple pancake pie for breakfast, some coffee, oh and coca tea!
We began our walk down the hill and over the river, Tupac showed us some walnuts and explained about the different flowers (some which were used as psychedelic drugs by the Incas, but now they are just used to look pretty!). We then stopped at a berry tree where Tupac proceeded to squeeze the berries into his hand and paint everybody's faces… he put a moon on Jess’ forehead and the sun on mine (Killa = Moon and Inti = Sun). Then we had to walk for 5 hours through the jungle, stopping at a waterfall and taking some photos. We eventually stopped at a green area for some water and snacks. There were a couple of football goals made of wood on the grass and Tupac produced a ball. We proceeded to have a 7 a side game of football at 3500m above sea level. The game was played at a nice slow pace and everyone was having lots of fun until another group turned up consisting of lots of Isrealies, they invited themselves to join the game and proceeded to take it very seriously, slide tackles, shoulder barges, awarding themselves free kicks and lots of shouting. It was a shame as lots of the people who originally started playing left the game and it wasn’t that fun… I decided to fly the flag for the original players and I don’t like to brag but I think scoring 4 goals in a 5-0 romp would usually make you Man of the Match.
After the game we walked for about 30 more minutes until we met our minibus which drove us for an hour along a steep and windy road to our campsite. Time for our buffet lunch again! Lots of pasta, vegetables, a peanut spicey satay thing and mushroom ceviche. Some of the group then went zip lining whilst the rest of us had a little siesta! Around 4pm we jumped in a collectivo to some hot springs which was just what the doctor ordered, we graduated through the pools from 35 degrees, to 37 and then 39. We were there for a couple of hours and just before we left we jumped in the freezing cold waterfall! Lush.
Back to the campsite for tea (popcorn, hot chocolate aaaaaand coca tea), then dinner - tofu and courgette, lentils, some disgusting dehydrated and rehydrated potatoes. We then had our team briefing for the next day where Tupac produced some Peruvian Tequila (made of sugar cane), then the disco began… we had a drink, a little dance and by 10pm our legs had given in so we sloped off to our tent before the rest of the kids. Ready for our 5am start!
Day 86 - 4th Trek Day
Today was going to be a long day. We had an early start, with the usual breakfast festivities (coca tea, coca tea, coca tea). We jumped into the minibus and they drove us back up the mountain for 45 minutes to the start of our walk. This part of the Sakantay was also part of the famous Inca trek, a lot easier terrain (less loose rocks and purpose made steps). We first walked through a coffee region where there were lots of little stalls all nicknamed ‘Inca Starbucks’! After a brief stop we continued up for around 3 hours, very steep but we finally reached the Machu Picchu viewpoint. Amazing views of the mountains and of a distant Machu Picchu. We then walked to some ruins, which were believed to be some Inca rest stops, which also had views of Machu Picchu.
What goes up must come down, the next 2 hours was a long and tortuous downhill walk to the bottom of the mountain. We arrived at Hydroelectrica around 12:30pm where we had lunch, guacamole, garlic bread and an omelette. After lunch we were pretty zapped but we had a further 3 hour walk along a train track to get to Aguas Calliente, where we were to stay that evening. To kill the time we played a game of ‘Black Stories’, which Andre, the Brazilian guy, introduced us to, it was a fun game where you have to figure out how a certain scenario occurred by asking yes or no questions! It did the job and we eventually got to Aguas Calliente and to our hostel, where Jess and I got a private ensuite room and an amazingly comfy bed!
We had our last dinner as a group and some birthday celebrations as it was Melanie’s (the Swiz ladies) birthday. A celebratory cocktail and some birthday cake then we were ready for our bed.
Day 87 - 5th Trek Day
Our ticket to Machu Picchu was for 6am and it was a 1.5 hour walk to get there - another early rise, this was the most difficult as we were so comfortable in our beds. Our alarm went off at 3:30am and we began our walk towards the Machu Picchu Puente (bridge at the bottom of the mountain) at 4:20am. The bridge is the first passpoint checkpoint and it only opens at 5am, we got there around 4:45am and there was already a queue! At 5am the queue began to move and we passed the checkpoint around 5:10am to begin our ascent.
We were exhausted already. 4 days of trekking and 4 days of early mornings had really taken it out of us. What we really didn’t need was 1400 steep, windy steps to get to Machu Picchu. This was by far the most difficult thing we’d done on our travels. Just as you thought you were near the top you’d turn a corner and see more steps, it was exhaustion coupled with the psychological pain of believing the steps would never end. We thought we were in hell. Poor Jess had been feeling under the weather too which made it even more difficult for her, at one point it nearly brought her to tears, wailing ‘I JUST WANT TO BE THERE’ (we can laugh now!). After the tortuous climb we finally smelt something like pancakes, we assumed this meant we were getting close to the top, or we were having strokes, luckily we turned another corner and saw the main entrance to Machu Picchu.
Tupac was waiting for us at the entrance, the rest of the group had already made it up the stairs and were inside the ruins taking their photos. He showed us through and took us to meet the rest of the group. Tupac gave us an hours history lesson about Machu Picchu, it’s believed it was built as a gateway town into Cusco from the rest of Peru, or possibly a gateway into the jungle. It was also build on the mountain to be closer to their Sun God, although Cusco is actually at a higher elevation then Machu Picchu mountain, so this may also not be true. Turns out it’s quite difficult to accurately determine things from 600 years ago.
After our lesson we were then left alone. We walked to the Inca bridge, which we’re not too sure what the purpose of it was, seemed to be some logs over part of a broken path around a mountain. We then began to walk to the Sun Gate but this was to be 1.5 hour round trip and we were tight on time so we decided to walk through the urban area instead, where we passed a sundial and some pools of water the Incas used to view the sun and the stars. We finally walked towards the exit and decided to get a bus down the steps rather than walk down again. We then had a final 3 hours walk back down the train tracks to Hydroelectrica, we arrived around 1:30pm, grabbed some food and got our bus at 3pm.
The bus journey went quick even though it was 6 hours, we were so tired we were asleep for lots of it! We arrived back to our hostel and passed out again!
In total we had walked 95km in 5 days, with a highest elevation of 4630m and lots of ups and downs. It was an amazing and challenging experience and one we will never forget!