Published: June 7th 2011June 7th 2011
The Salkantay Trail serves as an alternate to the Inca Trail. The traditional Inca Trail was sold out until September. Unlike the Inca Trail, the Salkantay requires you to enter Machu Picchu from the main gate as opposed to the Inca Trail which brings you straight into the park via the Sun Gate. The Salkantay Trail deserves an entry of its own so I will use the Machu Picchu experience for a entry of its own also.
We began at 4:45 AM with a pickup from the hostel and then hopped on a van for a 2 and a half hour busride. An hour or so was on a dirt road with drop offs that would certainly cause death should you fall off. Only a few times did that seem possible but it was a terrifying drive regardless. The trek started with some drama due to tour operators trying to change the length of the trek to a shorter amount of time right before we got started. This would become an issue with food if it wasnt sorted out before departure. It all got fixed and most people were still pissed when we began. Some of it I can understand.
There was one girl who purchased a completely different tour who wound up on this trek. Her tour originally was a bicycle and walking tour that was not difficult and the Salkantay is rated most difficult. I got ripped off by about 75 bucks but when I did the math of everything that was included I don´t understand how the tour guides, porters, chefs, etc. are making any money anyway. I guess there is a middle man that is raking in the nuevo soles.
So we get to the town for our last breakfast and we are served stale bread and coffee. It was a poor last meal. I thought the first day overall was pretty easy but it had great views. I decided that I wanted to be in the moment and hauled ass away from the group. I think those experiences are meant to be spent in a quiet, reflective mindset as opposed to the constant chatter. I was facing a snow covered mountain the entire afternoon and then as I approached the camp, a second snow covered mountain shot from a gap to the side. This was Salkantay Mountain, which we would halfway climb and then
head through the pass at 4800 or so meters. Apparently day 2 was the hardest work so I was looking forward to that. I am a sucker for pain I think. I like to complain in my head about it but I really enjoy it. Lunch was Lomo Saltado and soup. Dinner was chicken and rice.
Day 2 started at 5 am and when I awoke I thought there would be ice on the tent zipper. It was freezing. We began climbing almost immediately with a river/stream to our side. I kept climbing and because I had spent a lot of time in La Paz and higher elevations, I was acclimatized so I was not feeling the altitude like everyone else in my group. Once I got to the pass, an amazing view lay before me. It was quite an experience standing between glacial covered mountain tops with long range views and sun shooting down. After the pass, everything was down hill for the remainder of the day. We went through cloud forests and a high jungle that got pretty warm. The river grew and grew and eventually got pretty damn large and powerful. There were sheep, horses, mules,
chicken, pigs...I guess there was a lot of food walking through the spaces. One we finished the 21 kilometers that day, we got to a little village on a cliff so I got to play a little bit of soccer once I demonstrated that I could easily play with the 16 year olds. The old guys invited me to play with them and eventually they started calling me by my name. It is not easy playing in horse dung and bermuda grass fields with rocks the size of baby strollers protruding in the middle of the field.
Woke up on day 3 with roosters and dogs volleying calls back and forth at each other. The sleeping conditions were much warmer. We started again around the same time and we walked through banana and coffee plantations, saw avocado trees (with avocado sizes being much larger than I have every seen), passion fruit, and a bunch of medicinal flowers. Apparently Brazil mixes avocado, sugar, and milk in a blender and serves it as a drink. The Brazilian guy on the trek was disgusted with putting avocado on a salad. It was pretty funny. We finally dropped down into a town and
got a bite to eat. The folks on the five day continued on foot while the folks on the four day trek continued in a bus for a bit down hair pin turns with huge drop offs. We do get to the train station where we are supposed to walk with our bags but some people were under the impression that a horse was going to carry their stuff for the last 11 kilometers. This began another assault on the guide with someone from our group cussing out the guide pretty bad. It was really embarrassing. One guy came walking by and looked at me because I was walking away and said, "She must be an American," which I quickly retorted, "No, that is the Australian variety of tourist. All Americans aren´t that bad." I neglected to tell him she was the number one drag king in Australia...yes you read that correctly. Some magazine or news thing rated her the number one drag king in the whole damn continent. Perhaps that may help a little in understanding how ridiculous it was. It was so bad folks were walking by who did not even speak English were staring in horror. Again,
I took off down the trail because I could not take it anymore. This is a vacation and I don´t have time for the drama and screaming. Fortunately, I ran into two English guys that were on my Colca Canyon trek last week and they are pretty cool so I hung with them for a little bit.
I got into Aguas Calientes and it reminded me of Dillsboro a little bit. A river, with these rustic looking places that are fairly modernized. This was not Peru and the price tag on everything is remniscent of Asheville. I walked around for a bit and had a pizza (because all they have is pizza and hamburgers here) and watched the US pretend like they were competing with Spain. I guess it was payback for 2009 Confederations Cup. There is a huge powerful river that runs through town and about 5 feet from the cliff of the hostel we were staying in. Headed to bed and got ready for a big day ahead of me at Machu Picchu. Quite frankly, that was what brought me down here. I have always wanted to see it and I had a hard time sleeping that
I highly recommend the Salkantay Trail for those that may want an alternate trek with more views than the Inca Trail or those not wanting to drop 550 dollars on it, which seems to be the going rate. The Salkantay goes for about 190 US Dollars for 5 days and 4 nights and includes almost everything (unless you are me and enjoy getting ripped off). It was a beautiful trek and good exercise. I am still sore and my socks had holes in them but I threw them out. I also have some laundary to pick up as my clothing is in a putrid state right now. I can´t take the stench and it takes a lot to bother me in that regard.
There are more photos below