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Published: October 9th 2008
My wife and I recently hiked the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu without a guide. The Peruvian government has now made it a requirement to pay an entrance fee to hike the Salkantay trail. We managed to avoid the fee. Here are some tips on how to hike the trail without a guide, and how to avoid the fee. A Few Things to Keep in Mind
1. Hiking in the high altitude (15,000ft) with 30+ pounds of weight on your back is VERY difficult. You will feel like you're going to die, but you probably won't..... so it's all good.
2. Running water is abundant along the hike, so you can easily purify water along the way. Gas for the new high tech camping stoves that they sell at EMS (JetBoil etc.) is not readily available in Cusco, so you are better off using a stove that takes regular unleaded gas. I personally got very sick from the altitude, so I didn't eat for three days, therefore I actually didn't need to bring any food aside from a few power bars.
3. Study the maps carefully. There are signs on the trail directing you where to go, but they are
not posted at every crossroad. We purchased a GPS trail map, which listed the Salkantay Trail. Links to download the PDF version of the maps we used are listed at the end of this blog. A link to purchase the GPS trail map is also listed at the end of this blog.
4. Read the blogs listed on this website. Memorize the landscapes in the pictures. Also carefully follow the itineraries as described by the tour companies whom offer the Salkantay Trail Treks on their websites.
5. Learn some Spanish. Hola, Buenos Dias, Cuantos Soles, Donde Esta "Soray" or the next town on the map are essential phrases.
6. Although there are TONS of warnings aimed at tourists reminding them that they are often victims of assaults and thefts, I found Peru to be relatively safe. The people are friendly and the culture is much more laid back than many other places that I've visited. Stay in tourist areas, don't wear expensive things (I geared up a WalMart not EMS), don't get drunk and stupid, and be “home” before midnight. Getting to Mollepata
After you spend a few days in Cusco to acclimate you can take an early morning
collective taxi to Mollepata. They are found on Arcopata. We took a taxi from the Plaza de Armas to Arcopata for 3-5 Soles and told the driver that we wanted to find a ride to Mollepata. He set us up with the transfer. The ride to Mollepata cost 60 Soles ($20) and takes about two hours. We let our driver pick up other passengers so he could make some extra money along the way, and we tipped him an extra 20 Soles because he was a cool guy and he showed us a secret trail to avoid the entry fee to the Salkantay Trail. Avoiding the Salkantay Trail Fee Station
There is a cattle road/trail on the left just before entering Mollepata. You walk on that trail, over a rock wall and thru a field for livestock where you turn and start walking uphill toward town. If you're facing up toward the town, you want to stay on the left side of the village. Most of the residence will tell you to go to the center town, as they want you to rent their horses etc., but that is where the fee station is, so hang to the left.
You will see an Olympic sized swimming pool with muddy water in it. It's probably a reservoir. An aquaduct is near the reservoir. You follow a single track trail along the aquaduct thru peoples backyards ect. It's a very pretty section of the hike. As you begin to leave Mollepata, the aquaduct trail becomes less inviting and you can now bring yourself to the road below which will take you to Soray. You will soon find a fork in the road where you want to take a right and start walking downhill. Both roads go to Soray, but the lower one has a better view of the mountains etc. At any time, if you have any doubts hang around until someone comes by and ask them for directions. Avoiding the Soray Fee Station
Rumor has it that there is a fee station just over the bridge past Soray. We didn't cross the bridge and stayed on the left side of the trail, so we never went close to any of the buildings where guards might be posted. The left side of the trail was the quickest route to the pass, so no harm was done. Camping on the
Each day, we walked until a half hour before nightfall and camped as we saw fit. We did not stay at official camping areas or on peoples maintained property. We always founded hidden areas off the beaten path to camp, so as to not impose on others. Things in Peru are very chill, and camping on farm property is probably not an issue, but we avoided it anyway. The Trail Near Colpapampa
The trail near this village splits in many directions so buy a drink from the locals and ask for directions. La Playa and Lucmabamba
By the time you get to La Playa (on-season) you should see more tourists than you ever cared to. Nice flat pay to camp areas are available in peoples backyards, but we chose to avoid the masses of trekkers and kept on to Lucmabamba. It's a well marked half hour walk to Lucmabamba. We camped at a sketchy spot on the road halfway between the two towns. The Final Day
Although the trail past Llactapata to the Hidro-Electrica is easy to find your way on, we decided to stick near tour groups and follow their lead on this final part
of the trek. The train often departs the Hidro-Electica late, so if you still have energy, you might opt to walk the extra two hours on the tracks to Aguas Calientes. In any case, we hung around the train station and ate fruits and rice cooked by the Peruvian ladies and watched people. A train ticket is required, so ask some locals where the ticket office is. Links to Download Maps etc. Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu Maps Lima, Cusco, Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu Maps GPS Travel Map for the Salkantay Trail
Tot: 2.908s; Tpl: 0.031s; cc: 12; qc: 51; dbt: 0.0375s; 2; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb