D.I.Y the Salkantay

Trip Start Sep 23, 2008
Trip End Aug 08, 2009

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

I claim to be Polish and Maori with both having exceptional benefits but I have never claimed to be any relation to Sir Edmund but as he said "You don't have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things -- to
compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to
reach challenging goals."

The most challenging part of this proved not to be the actual physical grind, although this was pretty demanding for a 30+ finely tuned athlete such as myself, but the organisation which due to it not being so great resulted in the physical being a little more difficult that originally (un)organised.

The INCA trail was not an option due to the lastminute.com esque nature of this trip so an alternative route known as the Salkantay (Quecha for Savage Mountain) seemed the favourable option. Seemingly a moderate to hard climb made all the more challenging by the requirement to hike the pass which rises to approx 5000 metres above that sea level. Recently named among the 25 best Treks in the World, by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine. So up ya bum.  Located less than fifty miles northwest of the city of Cuzco in south
central Peru by the Cordillera Vilcabamba and rising to 6271 meters (yes 20574 ft)
above sea level (20574 ft) Mt. Salkantay is an outstanding glacier-capped summit worshipped for thousands of years by local Indians and me as her beauty is unquestionable. Not quite Mt Ruapehu view on a good day across the beautiful Lake Taupo but...well maybe. The name Salkantay is a quechua word meaning "Savage

With nothing more than a quiver of Icebreaker kit and some pimped up "trail running" shoes and the possibility of sub-zero temperatures and 4 nights under the sky hring the necessities was completed for nothing more than a crate of Waikato (swap-a-crate so obviously including the own bottles' discount). A gournet selection of meals was selected because of our supposed use of donkeys which would be sorted upon arrival. That lent towards the absolute disregard for weight.

So up at 4am and onto a local bus to Mollepata with the chickens and Allpacas in tow and I was quite enjoying my sleep until been awakened and almost passing out as the arse of a Nun (father, son and the holy spirit) nearly caused one of my gammy shoulders out of its usual position or into its usual position based on the frequency it goes out. To give this situation more clarity, I was sitting and she was in the isle standing and before any comments question on what moral grounds I was sitting and a Nun standing...I was asleep. But arrived we did together with the Peruvian climbing team which provided the perfect smoke screen to both having our packs taken up by their transport to Basecamp 1 and also for avoiding the trek tax. Job done day one as after 6 hours we arrived in Soray positioned beautifully under the watchful eye of  both the Salkantay and Tucarhuay peaks.


One (well me) can have a strange sense of security under or in such an environment although I am perhaps confusing security with serenity but such doesn't really defined exactly the sense of self. A feeling no different in a lot of ways to when you get out beyond the people either skiing, snowboarding  surfing and you are deafened by the silence. The absence of not only sound but cause and that feeling which strangley makes you actually laugh out loud  as you acknowledge you both vulnerability and comfort. I suspect this is what it is all about and what we all call "the search".

Well search we did and find I did. A toyota crown which is both rich in mana and tradition to a PolishMaori that sight of such a vehicle at such a location bought a tear to the eye.

Quite conveniently we were happy to bump into a Quechua offering up his donkeys for the nexty morning assault. Rightio 6:30 am sorted, I think. Unbelievably there were families living up there as we cooked our meal in the kitchen/living room/shop offering up the left overs very well received and enjoyed by our amigo and his cute little kid.

But after a sweet sleep with temperature probably only touch -5 the fun ended when after some good old porridge we hussled around faiuling to locate our porter. Shit. Loss in translation? Yip as we hiked for an hour think his le cassa (house) was an hour away...nup! Pondering out options they all looked grim. Hike over the pass with all the excess weight, food, tent, pots and pans (no porn) wait for another porter, hike back down to meet the only other place he could have been. With many a donkey going past all the porters claimed they were full but luckily we were able to offload one pack to a dude probably 5ft 6.

I was handling the altitude the best (fitness means nothning) so I grabbed the other and up we went. A mouth full of Coca leaves definitely helped and to see the top wasn't to bad either after a 3 hour push.

The air is reasonaly thin up there but not too bad as the reality of the 5 1/2 hike down now with all our packs as the deal was only to the top of the pass, set in.

The contrasting lanscapes incredible as you pass directly under glaziers of epic scale and quite obvious movement. From a rocky, snow blazzoned outcrops to a spongey grassed high altitude desert like valley until reaching the beginnings of the jungle. Passing under the Salkantay we were then walking behind her mate Tucarhuay which seemed to accept our struggling as just another couple of tourist would. It was a happy sense of Kiwi DIY as we strode pass each grouped tour eating their prepared meals knowing that we didnīt decide to fork out US$400+ to end being told wehat time to get up, how fast to walk and how loud to fart.   However, falling into Collpāpampa campsite 7 hrs after take-off questioned our reolve but we met their with the Peruvian climbing team, with welcoming natual hot pools set beside two intercepting rivers. As we walked from the pools to the tent a guiding foray of fireflys create an ambienc of flickering lights not unlike Christmas eve. Together with a night sky full of shooting stars and all but the entire northern as southern hemisphere constellation (with Peru being so close to the Equator making this possible) the meal was cosumed with a quite sense of calm as the pigs and chickens competed for the scaps.

We set the pace early with the end in sight and boeing size mosquitos trailing in our dust (but still biting). A slow run most of the way say up in La Playa along the river within a couple of hours although being told 4 was more likely.

With nothing much there accpet for a great bag of coca leaves which we happliy muched we set stright of on what was to be the onkly bus that day out of there, to Santa Terasa where we lunch with a bunch of Peruvian school tachers whio we managed to buy enough beer for to get them extremely pissed. Practising there little English they got great humour in intercepting the odd gringo women remarking how either Brooke or I loved and at all times questioning did we like boobies. A hilarious lunch and another example of the richness of the Peruvian culture.

But time was limited and onto the bus and eventually the train into Macha Pichu. It is everything and more than pictures can show. We arrived at 6 am with the misty fog cover creating what seemed a veil of secrecy. As the cloud rolled through it occasionally revealed itself to those patient enough.

The beauty pesonified by the lush grean guard like moutain of Waynapicchu which stands a breast of Macha Pichu and then when standing at top Waynapicchu well shit.


The scale and reality of what has really gone on here. Fuckin hell. At least we have the Aotea Square not to mention the Sky Tower.

Thinking we were again where people were taking photos of us and finding this strange when people started exclaiming as if the had recognised  a star turning around a dude was behind us on one knee popping the question. So I put it to Brooke that should w go and have lunch which he accepted ironically so did she.

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