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Published: July 22nd 2018
Cusco and The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu (16/06/2018 - 28/06/2018)
Cusco, the former capital of the Incan empire, is chock-full of charming cobbled alleyways and beautiful historic architecture at every turn. The city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is brimming with museums, galleries, and other interesting places to visit. Located in the 'Sacred Valley' of Peru, it is the gateway to the famous Machu Picchu, and now one of my favourite cities!
It was the perfect time to be in Cusco with the annual Incan Festival of The Sun happening 24th June and with the World cup on (Peru hadn’t been in the World Cup for 36 years!). The streets were buzzing with people and fun festivities... parades, dancing, music, and floats! The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu
Ahhh - the famous Machu Picchu: the huge ancient Inca city, high in the Andes of Peru. Located at 2,430m, this UNESCO World Heritage site is often referred to as 'The Lost City of The Incas´, undestroyed by Spanish conquest.
Spoilt with choice on how to reach this impressive lost city, I ruled out the Inca Trail because it is very expensive
Quechua language for ´Savage Mountain´... as it is almost impossible to climb!
and requires considerable planning by booking months in advance. I opted for the Salkantay Trek; named one of the 25 best treks in the World by National Geographic. Although there are less ruins, this trek has far more interesting nature and beauty and is less touristy.
With so many companies offering this trail, and with huge price differences, it was pretty overwhelming. But hearing and reading excellent things about them, I picked the company Salkantay Trekking
at $460. It wasn't the most expensive but it was still a splurge, but hey... this is a once in a lifetime, tick off the bucket list, kinda thing.. 😊
The trek is at high altitude and totals 74km / 46miles over 4 days (you can choose 5, but I opted for 4). With Miguel "The Golden Guinea Pig" and Carlos "The Mountain King", the ´Sexy Puma Warriors´ (I didn´t come up with the name, haha) were led through this beautiful, ancient footpath. The route started at Mollepata, a small town 100km from Cusco. We were taken through breath-taking scenery; where massive snowcapped mountains collided with lush tropical rain forests. It finished with a soak in some beautiful and remote hot springs, before
getting to the incredible Machu Picchu for sunrise the following day. Highlights:
• Spending the first night in the glass sky-dome - watching the stars and Jupiter from the comfort of my cosy down sleeping bag was super cool.
• The food was incredible.. and endless! I ate like a horse. One morning we even had a huge cake for breakfast, despite there being no oven!?
• Finally reaching Machu Picchu at sunrise - it was stunning and a huge tick off the bucket list! Lowlights:
• It was minus 7 the first night - yikes!
• Being in a group with 5 couples - yes, I was 11th wheeling, but luckily my group were all really fun.
• Getting used to the walking poles, although initially cumbersome, they eventually turned out to be useful.
• Too many tourists for my liking - *sigh*. Fun Facts about Machu Picchu:
• Built around 1450, and abandoned just over a century later in 1572 (after the Spanish arrival in Peru); it was re-discovered by Hiram Bingham (an American explorer) in 1911.
• It was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the Modern World in
The Sexy Puma Warriors!
• Make sure you pronouce picchu, not pichu.. as the latter means something very different, something too rude for the blog, hehe.
Full of adventure, early morning starts (4am), and breath-taking scenery, the Salkantay was an incredible and unforgetable time. After the trek, I headed back to Cusco for a few more days for further exploring and recovery time! The Sacred Valley
I purchased the Cusco tourist ticket and spent my last days here exploring the art galleries, museums, and ancient Incan sites located just outside the city. Visiting Saksaywaman (an Incan citadel first built in the 11th with a hilarious name), Moray (a series of concentric circular agricultural terraces for experimenting with crops), Salientes (an impressive Incan salt mine full of salt pools on a hillside), Pisac (fascinating ruins of a mountain city), Ollayantambo (some exceptionally well preserved ruins) and Chinchero (for an interesting textiles demo). The rest of my time was spent watching the football (hard to believe I know, but Peru´s enthusiasm was infectious), exploring the cute cobbled streets, and indulging in epic sandwiches and fruit juices at San Pedro market... Yum!
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