Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

May 15, 2014 § 6 Comments

And again, what a week!

This time, a five-day hike from Mollepata to Machu Picchu via the Salkantay Trail:

SalkantayFlowers

Left early on Thursday morning from Cusco, took a bus over to Mollepata, where we started hiking toward our first base near the Salkantay Mountain. The first day was pretty easy, with lots of beautiful flowers:

Then, a turn in the road, and, all of a sudden, glacier mountain!

SalkantayIceMountain

We passed lots of horses:

SalkantayHorse

And alpacas:

SalkantayAlpaca

After a candlelit dinner and a very cold night (warning: summer sleeping bags are utterly useless at zero degrees Celsius, no matter what they say), it was another early morning to hike up through rocky terrain:

SalkantayRockyView

and then evntually the Salkantay Pass, which was a pretty exciting accomplishment:

SalkantayRockyTop

Then, three climates in about the same amount of hours. Snow:

SalkantayGlacierTop

Fields:

SalkantayIrrigationCreek

And, all of a sudden, rainforest jungle:

SalkantayOrangeFlower

Another damp night in the leaky, holey-mosquito-neck tent with bloated toes and spider-bitten ankles, and then a lovely stroll through banana/avocado/coffee bean/passion fruit/gooseberry/quinoa country:

SalkantayQuinoa

All of the rest stops on this day were filled with chickens and really big turkeys:

After the very memorable lunch (thanks to the playlist and the fact that hiking boots were finally changed to flip flops), we all got stuffed into/on top of a little van that started breaking mid-way and were transported to Santa Teresa… which was a blast; singing along to old, tacky songs and getting wild fruits handed to us through the window.

And then we were treated to a few hours at a hot springs, which was the first time that I was actually warm at night:

SalkantayHotSprings

And then the fun merely continued at Santa Teresa, where we built a bonfire and danced until midnight to an eclectic assembly of songs. Of course, that wasn’t enough for us, so Us Brave Few headed over to the village’s discoteca for a few more hours of salsa and beer. Because a South American dance session followed by a mere three hours of sleep is the best idea before another early day of 21 km to hike, no? : )

Last day of hiking was from Santa Teresa to the hydroelectric plant, which was rather uneventuful. Though the second half of the hike, from the hydroelectric plant to Aguas Calientes was beautiful. The trail followed the train tracks and brought you through more banana trees:

SalkantayBananaForest

And so many beautiful butterflies:

SalkantayButterfly

And just lots of pretty views of the train tracks:

And then we got to sketchy Aguas Calientes:

SalkantayAguasCaliente

Aguas Calientes is a town that is composed 99% of hostels, touristic-menu-restaurants, and massage parlours. I spend all of my time in the other 1% (okay, it was still touristic, but at least no one was herding you inside with a neon sign): the ‘authentic’ Italian restaurant:

SalkantayAguasCalienteCappuccino

Their cappuccinos sucked, but the pizzas and salmon dishes were wonderful. And the perfect place in town for an engagement dinner (I am inspired and am officially not accepting any marriage proposals unless they happen on ancient ruins above the clouds, thank you very much).

[here was also a little detour from the plans, as a friend and I went to the main plaza to take cute photos of us in front of Happy Cusquenena Mother’s Day and next to the traditional statues in front of the fountain. Of course, knowing my luck, as I was pulling away from the statue I was posing with and pointed (not touched!) at the bowl of fruit that she was holding, it broke off and all of the fruits rolled around the plaza and the police officer that was on guard came over and brought us back to the station and another ten police officers showed up, and, to make a long story short, my name is now on the Peruvian mini-criminal records and I hope that I don’t get any blackmail letters for running away from hefty fines).

AguasCalienteNighttimePlaza

Last day, Machu Picchu day!

MachuPicchuStandard2

So… lined up before the first check-point up by 5 AM, and then a 40-minute, non-stop dash up 1,772 steep, slippery steps. I am proud to say that I was the 6th person to reach the top, and the three people in front of me were also part of my Salkantay hiking group. Hola, hola, Coca Cola, represent! : )

Machu Picchu was breathtaking, and pretty much a very real manifestation of all of the post cards you have ever seen. The first two hours (our early morning tour) was ridiculously cold and foggy, but then the sun would peek out occasionally and things were good:

Other than just sitting there and pondering and writing and reading, my favorite part was chasing after all of the llamas and alpacas (as well as getting run over by them):

MachuPicchuLlama4

But, in the end, I decided that this was the most fitting alpaca photo, because these creatures are stubborn and rough:

MachuPicchuLlamaButt

Then, back to Aguas Calientes, where we caught a train back to Ollantaytambo, and then a combo van back to Cusco. I would say all ended well, except that some of us spent the next 24 hours with the most miserable food poisoning virus ever, so the next day was pretty miserable.

But, that’s all over with. Time to plan the bus escape to Puno!

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