Sultry Salkanty

Trip Start Sep 15, 2008
Trip End Jan 01, 2009

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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Monday, November 10, 2008

Machu Pichu, the famed city of the Inka's, the 8th wonder of the world... the anticipation was incredible. 

There are quite a few options for trekking to Machu Pichu.  The classic option is walking the Classic Inka Trail with a million stairs and some additional ruins.  This trek is 4 days and 41kms long and books up almost 4 months in advance...which we didn't do.  Another option is to trek past one of Peru's highest peaks, Salkanty, at 6,271m above sea level.  This trek is 5 days and covers a whopping 90km plus hiking in and around Machu Pichu on the last day.  We signed up to leave the next day at 4:30AM.

Day 1
After a short bus ride we had breakfast and met the group we would be travelling with for the next 5 days.  A major selling point for us on this trek is that few people attempt Salkanty due to the fitness required, therefore you see few travellers and spectacular views.  It ended up our group had 6 in addition to another group of 14, that makes 20 people on  the trail and around campsites with us.  This in comparison to 500 per day on the Inka Trail.

In our group of 6 we had us, a canadian couple from Calgary, Jankees a vaccationing dutch tour guide, and Sarah an Australian physiotherapist on a round the world trip.  For guides we had a Quechua guide named Juan-Carlos, 3 donkeys, 2 cooks, and the donkey driver.

The first day started out in blazing heat and ended at a campsite at the base of a glaciated peak - spectacular!!  In all we hiked 21kms on day one.  At breakfast, lunch and dinner our trek support team had a thee course meal and tables or tents set-up before we arrived - great service.

Day 2
The second day was slated to be the hardest day of the trek with a morning hike climbing from 3000m to 4600m at the Salkanty Pass before declining almost 2000m into the valley below.  In total we trekked 22kms in just under 11 hours.  The scenery was beautiful, the air was thin, and we saw some Andean rabbits.  We also were introduced to the Andean past time of chewing coca leaves.  Arik threw in a big dip and was first to the top of the Salkanty pass.

On this day we also realized our guide and support team were the creme de la creme, while the other group of 14 who joined us at campsites and on the trail had a significantly less supportive team.  To make this easy let's just call the other group the B Team.

We caught a little bit of rain before lunch, but good as they are, our guides had shelter, tea, and soup ready for when we arrived.  The B Team had nothing to hide under and no food so they akwardly squeezed into our tent to wait while their guides slowly put up theirs.

One of the B Team members, later dubbed the Nudeweigan from Norway, decided she was going to change her wet pants beside our group under a tent stuffed full of people.  Everyone was a bit surprised when she got down to her undies...  Minutes later her boyfriend, who dressed somewhat like an underwear model and gained the nic name Norwegian Zoolander, also decided his pants were too wet to wear and walked around in his ginch for an hour.  So Euro!

The trek was really hard with steep inclines and thin air.  Due to the challenging hike a few girls from the B Team had to be carried by donkey up and over the summit. 
At 6:00PM we strolled into camp, this time hanging onto the edge of a steep valley, and settled in for a relaxing night of recouperation.

Enter the Nudweigan - once at the campsite she decided to walk around in her lace bra and then change it in clear site of everyone there, including a few mountain children.    We guessed there is a much different culture in Norway...

Day 3
Even though we were entering a sub-tropical region waking up at 5:30AM was a bone chilling experience.  Every morning the guides would wake us with hot coca tea in our tents.  A luxury that will be missed for the next 10 months.

After breakfast we decended another 1000m into the Sacred Valley that surrounds Machu Pichu.  As soon as the sun came out we were sweating buckets and swating mosquitoes.  Todays hike was a mere 12kms and after lunch were rewarded with 3 hours at a beautiful hot spring in a town called Santa Teresa.  This was much needed as the last 60kms of trekking was starting to take its toll on most of the group. 

Our campsite for the third night was operated by a local Quechua family and populated by the cutest 2 month old squirrel monkey and a non-stop swarm of mosquitoes.  The monkey really took to Charis on the first day, and the campsite owners 3 year-old granddaughter really took to Arik.  

Tommorow we get to sleep in, so we celebrated around the fire late into the night.

Day 4
We awoke to find out the town of Santa Teresa was on strike and that we wouldn´t be going anywhere for a few hours until it passed over.  Our guide, Carlos, explained that striking is a national past time in Peru, especially in the Southern Andeas. 

After killing a few hours playing cards and chasing the monkey around we were able to pass through the town and contiune another 12kms around the base of Machu Pichu to the tourist trap town of Aguas Calientes, the entrance point to the famed ruins.

By the time we arrived in Aquas Calientes were all stiff, stinky, and satified with our accomplishment of making it this far.  It felt like we had run a marathon, when in actuality we had walked for two.
Everyone took an early night dreaming about tomorrow's visit to Machu Pichu....
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arikandcharis on

Yea, the hike was really cool. In the last few months we've seen about 1000 micro climates.... but camping at the base of Salkanty was something special.
RE: Cuy - I haven't been able to do it yet. It's been on the menu since Ecuador but I can't take the last step. Alpaca was delicious, but c'mon, a freakin Guinea Pig!?!?!

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