Salkantay Day 1: Wow I was not prepared

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South America » Peru » Cusco » Salkantay Trail
August 10th 2015
Published: September 3rd 2015
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Woke up at 5AM and slipped out of my room as quietly as I could. I went to the kitchen to do some last minute packing. I was told to be picked up at 5:45AM but around 5:15AM I heard one of hostel staff going up and down the hallway calling out a name that sounded like mine. I answered them and they told me someone had been waiting for me at reception for last 30 minutes. I hurried downstairs and put my luggage into storage. The hostel lets you store your luggage while you are on Machu Picchu hike.

The other person on the hike was in the van. Robert was a professor from the Netherlands and had mountain climbing previously. The van picked up our porter, cook and guide. We drove out of Cuzco and towards our head of trail. 2 hours of driving later we stopped for breakfast. It was a small diner but we were able to buy toast, eggs and fruit to eat. I took the opportunity to buy a hat, mittens and rain poncho. Also got some snacks and coca leaves to chew on. We only had about 30 minutes at the diner so we had to move quickly. After another 30 minute ride we reached the head of trails. We got out and Puma advised us on the coming hike. It would be about a 6 or 7 hour hike to a place called Soraypampa.

The 3 of us started hiking and immediately realized I had a problem. The air seemed thin and I was having trouble with the uphill portions. My pack seemed strangely heavy as well. This was all very strange to me as I am an excellent hiker back home and I can easily handle 20 km hikes with heavy packs. I honestly wished I had spent 1 or 2 more days in Cuzco to adjust to the air. I did my best to keep up with my group as we went along. I had to stop frequently to catch my breath. It was quite honestly the hardest hike I have ever done.

We stopped about halfway through the hike at a gazebo where we could buy drinks and rest a bit. We chatted a bit with other people on the same hike. Most of them were with a tour company but one group from Switzerland was doing the hike on their own. The Salkantay hike you are allowed to do on your own. The famous Inca trail hike requires you to be with a tour company. The Swiss group was carrying all their gear on their back so it was about 15 kilos per person.

The view on the hike was beautiful and we steadily approached the Salkantay mountain. It is a snow capped peak and reminds me a lot of the Swiss Alps. I will say despite the beautiful view I was really weakened by the end of the hike. Near our campsite at Soraypampa I was in rough shape and stopping every 100 meters or so. Mentally I wasn't really all there as I contemplated how tired I was. The coca candies and leaves helped a little but more time was what I needed most.

The campsite was fairly large and there had to be over 100 people from a bunch of different groups at this site. The site also sold drinks such as pop, juice and water. There was also a hike to a lake in the afternoon but I was in no shape to hike it. So I gave my camera to my tour guide and tried to rest at the campsite. I was exhausted but my mind refused to go down so I just wandered around the campsite and chatted with a few people. I wasn't the only person who was having trouble and I was feeling better about it. There was one guy who had twisted his ankle before the hike but was still trying the hike. I was determined to finish the hike and make it to Machu Picchu.

Robert and Puma got back from the lake towards the evening and I saw the pictures which were quite lovely. The Swiss group also stopped by our tent and they were good enough to give me an altitude sickness pill. That was helpful as I couldn't find any at the campground store. We ate dinner and chatted a bit before turning in. It wasn't that late but everyone was out of energy. Robert and I shared a 3 man tent which was quite spacious. Our tent was setup in a larger dining hall style tent so we were shielded from the elements. Tomorrow would be the hike to the Salkantay pass. I thought about this during the evening and I came to the conclusion that I could not make that hike. I decided I had to accept reality and just rent the horse. It was not an easy decision but I couldn't think an alternative.

Puma told us it had never rained in that part of August since he started being a tour guide 5 years ago so I was quite surprised that night when a massive rain storm hit. It would greatly affect the trail tomorrow.


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