trekking through the clouds to Machu Picchu


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South America » Peru » Cusco » Machu Picchu
October 4th 2010
Published: October 18th 2010
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We decided to do the Salkantay 5 day 4 night trek to Machu Picchu. At $225 it is half the cost of the Inca Trail (which has to be booked months in advance) and is more remote and beautiful. The night before our departure we had a meeting where we met our guide and group - ours is rather small, just us two and three canadian girls.
We were picked up at 4am from our hostel, drove a few hours to Mollepata where we ate breakfast and began our hike. Morning 1 was mostly gradual uphill along a dirt path with the occasional steep shortcut through the shrubs and trees. The hardest part was the heat. After 4 hours we stopped for a generous lunch. The horseman (carrying 5 kilograms of our belongings) and the cook arrived at the lunch site before us and were already preparing the food. It was hard to get going again after lunch but our eyes were set on the glacier ahead of us, which was our campsite for the night. It was a long afternoon of walking through a valley to the campsite, getting progressively colder. As soon as we got there we collected our bags and layered up. We were warned it could get as cold as 20 degrees F tonight. With long underwear, sweaters, vests, fleeces, hats, and gloves we ate dinner and curled up in our sleeping bags by 8:30pm. Fortunately I had been warned by someone in my hostel to bring earplugs because there were tons of dogs around the campsite howling throughout the night.
The dreaded day 2. This morning is meant to be the hardest because in the morning we trek 3.5 hours uphill reaching 4600 meters. I was out of breath from the trecherous slope and couldn't catch my breath because of the altitude. When we finally did make it to the top, we were at another glacier and above the clouds. It was surreal - definitely worth the pain. The rest of the day we were decending down the other side of the mountain heading towards the jungle. After 10 hours of trekking we reached our campsite just as it began to rain. The campsite was beautiful and we would have fond memories of it if it weren't for the roosters - which do not only crow at dawn, no they crow allllll morning long.
Day 3 was a short day - which suited my newly formed blisters well. We trekked along the jungle until we reached a small town for lunch at 1:00. During lunch we were commenting on how all the van drivers were drinking and how there are apparently now laws against drinking and driving. Soon enough we found out that these were our van drivers. I was uncertain I was going to survive this van ride - not only had the drivers been enjoying a few beers, but the path itself was dangerously narrow, curving along the jungle with a very steep dropoff. I didn't think it could get worse.... until we approached another van that is. Somehow, with much passenger input, the two vans were able to maneuver past each other. Phew. I should also mention that the van which could comfortably fit 9 people somehow squeezed 16 people, picking up random locals along the way, including a screaming child. All in all, not my favorite part of the trip.
We finally reached Santa Teresa, where we set up camp. We quickly changed into our bathing suits and headed for the hot springs. After some much needed relaxation for our tired muscles (and many mosquito bites later) we headed back to the campsite - only this time our driver was wasted, couldn't even see straight. Luckily the ride was only 10 minutes, albeit a very scary 10 minutes. Back at the campsite we had dinner and sat around a bonfire with some other trekking groups.
Day 4 we had two options. 1. Walk along the road to Hydroelectrica or 2. Take a bus there. We opted for the bus, which we later learned was the wiser decision. The road wasn't very pretty and it was extremely hot out. The porter had left the night before so we were now responsible for carrying all of our belongings. From Hydroelectrica we walked three hours along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. This walk was beautiful but our blisters were definitely hurting. When we arrived at Aguas Calientes we ate lunch and enjoyed a nice cold beer. Aguas Calientes only exists as a tourist town, its located at the base of Machu Picchu, so it's extremely overpriced. We got to our hostel, showered (finally!!!), and napped. After a group dinner it was early to bed.
Morning 5 we woke up at 3:45am so we could get to the bus. They don't leave until 5:30 but people start lining up at 4:00. Our tour was to start at 6:00. Our tour was very brief, it was voting day so they guides were anxious to get back to their home towns and vote (they are fined big time if they don't vote). We however hung around Machu Picchu for 8 hours. After seeing countless pictures I didn't expect to be so awestruck, but it was completely mesmerizing. Once the clouds finally lifted and the sun came out it was beautiful. After many many pictures, we went back to Aguas Calientes and caught the night train back to Cusco.


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18th October 2010

your pictures are awesome!
keep 'em coming! glad you guys are having fun :)
19th October 2010

Breathtaking more photos please. Your adventure made me laugh out loud. What an experience. Write-up is excellent; hilarious; and insightful for future visitors to this area.
19th October 2010

Crowded van, steep drop, drunk driver
I didn't think it could get any better than that.....until the other van came along. After that adventure you really deserved to relax and enjoy a couple of beers in Aguas Calientes. Excellent writing Sarah and your pictures are awesome! Looking forward to reading your next entry. Travel safe. Hugs, Ellen
9th November 2011

welcome to peru sarah
Hi sarah, i hope you return to my country soon, here is your friend miguel, greetings

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