Thursday, June 28, 2012

Peru: Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

This post is an insert to our main Peru trip blog post located here.

Cusco, Peru
Jason and I did a 5 day/4 night trek to Machu Picchu called Salkantay. It parallels the Inca trail for a good portion, but is significantly more difficult and ascends to higher elevations than the Inca Trail. It was one of the hardest, but most rewarding things we've done! If I had known ahead of time though that it was about 72 km (or 45 miles...) I might not have been so excited, but we were very glad we did it!

Day 1
We began the trek bright and early with a 3-4 hour bus ride to Molletapa, where we had a small lunch before riding in the back of a truck with all our luggage to the starting point.

Our guides told us that the second and fourth days were the hardest. I disagree. Even though they were the longest days, the first day was the steepest ascent as we climbed ~12 km (~8 miles) from 3600 meters (11,800 ft) to 4000 meters (13,100 ft) and made camp.

Mt Salkantay

It was absolutely freezing that night - literally! The temperature was around 20 degrees as we layered ourselves and curled up tight in our sleeping bags. Jason braved the cold and took some fantastic pictures of Salkantay and the stars.

Day 2
The next morning we met the crew - this responsible for our amazing meals and setting up our tents at each campsite. We had porters (horses and donkeys) that would carry all of our stuff and go on ahead of us with shortcuts and alternative routes. All we had to carry daily was our day pack with snacks, water, and layers of clothes. We're very grateful that we did not have to carry all of our stuff during the trek!

We ascended another 400 meters through the mountains before starting to descend slowly. We hiked ~23 km (~14 miles) the second day. The transition from rocky, tree-less terrain changed abruptly right before our lunch stop. We hiked in more jungle-like terrain and descended to an altitude of about 3200 meters (10,500 ft) to our campsite.

The whole group doing the "puma". Roberto said we had to pick one of the Inca's three sacred animals - condor, snake, or puma. We chose puma and the rest of the trek were the puma clan. We consisted of five Americans, three Germans, two Canadians, and two English tourists.

Our lunch stop - we are in the jungle terrain now!

The food on the trek was some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten. We had pancakes and toast and oatmeal for breakfast. Lunch was as big as dinner with soup, salads, and rice or quinoa and meats. They even made a cake one  night! 

Day 3
We had an easy day in order to rest before Day 4. We only hiked about six hours and ~13 km (~8 miles) on semi-flat terrain through some of the prettiest terrain on the trek. Day 3 was definitely my favorite day.

We tried passion fruit! You peel the outside to make a hole and then suck the inside out. It was so good!

In the afternoon we had the option to either rest in the campsite or go zip lining. They told us it was the second highest zip line in the world (after Costa Rica) and since we'd never been before we jumped on board along with the Germans and another American.

Jason received a GoPro camera for his graduation gift and the place we went had a helmet that had a GoPro attachment!! We got video of us zip lining that Jason edited and is attached below. It was incredible!

There were six lines going across a huge valley. The first two lines were for practice and then the rest of the lines we were allowed to free-hand, spin, and go as fast as we wanted!

Here is the valley that we zip lined across -

Jason zip lining!

I'm zip lining!

After the third line they clipped you in and you had to rock climb 20 meters to get to the next line. It was very steep and looks amazing on the video!

Here is another the view of the valley we are zip lining across - 

Look I can free-hand!

Group shot! Unfortunately it's blurry... :-(

And here is the amazing video that Jason did a phenomenal job editing!!

Day 4
This was an incredibly long day. Jason would probably say this was the worst day because he fell sick and was dehydrated. Not good since we were hiking up 900 meters and then down 1000 meters... He was a trooper though and made it!

We've come a long way...

We saw coffee plantations and got to try the coffee plants. I ate the red berry in the upper right corner and inside were two unfrosted coffee beans! I found it very exciting as you can see below.

Here's a shot of the coffee plants and the machine they use to separate out the beans before drying them and then roasting them.

We arrived at some Inca ruins that had a view of Machu Picchu!

You can't really tell, but that's Machu Picchu behind us! And we still have to hike quite a bit to get there by tomorrow...

We continued hiking until we reached Aquas Calientes.

As if being dehydrated wasn't enough, then Jason got bite by something and his eye started to swell! Good thing we were close to reaching Aguas Calientes.

After arriving to Aguas Calientes we checked into our hotel and headed to the natural hot springs the town is named after. We had a relaxing night and were thrilled to be sleeping in a bed again!

The following day we rose early to visit Machu Picchu!!!

You can read about our visit to Machu Picchu and hiking Huayna Picchu here.

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