Trip Start Jun 13, 2008
51Trip End May 25, 2009
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So after arriving in Cusco, we went to the Pachamama Explorers office and confirmed our trek - it was called Salkantay and took five days...
18th June - Day 1
The first day we woke up at our hostel in Cusco at about 4am... I had a banging headache... the result of the altitude and the lack of time we had to adjust to it! We were picked up by our guide, Alfredo and put on a bus with a lot of other sleepy tourists...
After a nail-biting bus ride to Mollepata (2909m), the first small town, we bought some walking sticks and started our trek. The first part was relatively easy, even though we were going up-hill.. We saw a couple of humming birds, which absolutely made my day, and then we stopped for lunch... it was a bit odd cos me and Tom were the only people with our company, so we had a cook and wrangler to ourselves, an dour guide was treating us like royalty!
After lunch my hip started hurting - not enough cod liver oil young lady! So it was a bit tougher, but still totally worth it... We climbed up to 4000m on day one.. That night we walked towards a glacier and camped next to it, which was awesome... When we came out of our little dinner hut the moon had come up over the mountains and the glacier was completely illuminated... totally stunning... unfortunately I didn't have my tripod and so couldn't get a decent photo, but it was gorgeous! We didn't stick around too long outside anyway, because it was absolutely FREEZING... but our cook gave us hot water in our water bottles to put inside our sleeping bags, which helped!
19th June - Day 2
Day two was much, much harder... We got up at 5 and had a quick breakfast and started trekking straight away. Alfredo offered me a horse to take me up, because my hip was still causing me a bit of pain... but I decided to give it a go... It was such hard work, virtually a vertical climb and we had to keep stopping to let horses and donkeys come past us... On the way up to the pass there was a mini-avalanche from the glacier, which looked pretty scary, but was pretty far away... By 12.00 that day we were up at 4600m, so it was a bit harder to breath than usual... I have to say that the only things that got me through were Tom egging me on, and the songs I was singing (mostly) in my head... So thanks to Tom, Bob (Marley) and Nina (Simone). Anyway, we made it up there and it was absoutely spectacular...
Tom and I were really lucky because our guide took us on a one hour detour to a lake in a crater next to the glacier... it even more hard work to get to it, but it was absolutely breath taking, and we were the only ones that went there... The climb back to the path was bloody knackering as well, but once we got that far we sped ahead, as it was mostly down hill... We stopped for lunch and then carried on going down into the jungle... That's one of the greatest things about this place, the landscape it just so varied... earlier in the day we were freezing next to a glacier, and then by the afternoon, sweating in the jungle. We saw some beautiful orchids and bamboo and followed a dusty path along side a river to our second camp site... which was much warmer!
20th June - Day 3
Day three was much easier than the rest... we were allowed to sleep until about 6 and then only had to walk for five hours. We went through lots more jungle which was mostly flat and my hip stopped hurting, which was pretty pleasing... We went past a few coffee plantations, banana and passion fuit trees, and for our break, Alfredo gave us some passion fruit, which is bloody lush!
We set off again to get to a small town where we had lunch and had to say goodbye to Victor, our wrangler... We gave him a cigarette and as big a tip as we could afford, and then got on a mini-bus with an American family, to go to the next camp site. The bloke sitting next to me fell asleep and lost control of his upper body, meaning I had to dodge several potential headbutts!!
We got our stuff off the bus and into our tent and when we came back out, there was a little monkey there! Apparently he was found without a mother and the family at the campsite were looking after it... it was so cute, but it bloody stank... this type of monkey, apparently, rubs its business on its head... not sure why though... haha
Anyway, after that we got back on the bus and went to the hot springs... and oh god, they were heaven! Hot water from volcanic rocks, poured into a pool, and 30 or so tired hikers soothing their aches and pains... it was brilliant!!
That night, all the different tour groups got together for a few drinks at the campsite, which is where I met Paul, Dan, Neil and Kelly... who you will, no doubt, hear more about soon :) That night Alfredo told us lots of stories about Inka and local traditions... for example, in some of the local families, when a couple get married, the groom picks his best man, and it's him that spends the wedding night with the bride... Get your head around that one!
21st June - Day 4
We didn't get up until about 7 and as soon as Tom got out of the tent, the smelly monkey jumped on his shoe and scared the crap out of him!
We had a little bit of breakfast and then Alfredo took us round Santa Teresa, the town we were staying in. He showed us everything they sell and bought some 'mana', which is like sweet popcorn, but tastes a lot like sugar puffs... You can see the ruins of old Santa Teresa, a town engulfed by a land slide, the only thing left in tact being the perfect orange and white school.
Alfredo told us about a really good mayor who built a bridge so that cars could get to the new town. Apparently he did lots of good work for the town, but he was killed a few years ago, when an opposing political party left a log in the road for his motor bike to hit. I know political parties have rivalries and want power for themselves, but I can't help but feel that it's actions like that, that keep some countries poorer than others. If those people just worked together, Santa Teresa might be progressing even more than it is now, and more of the survivors that moved away could come home... Then again, I suppose that way of thinking is probably a little naive and applies to almost every country...
All that said, they've been rebuilding this town for just 8 years and they're doing a fantastic job. The square has just been finished and they have statues depicting all the local produce and how it's collected.
On the way back from the town, just outside our campsite was a cow being slaughtered... I know it's necessary and traditional, but I had to run past - wimp - it really gets to me!
After out tour of the town, we got into a car and drove to the railway station. We had some lunch, and said goodbye to Raul, our cook, and trekked for another 3 hours along the railway tracks. It was pretty boring walking for most of it, because it was just long and straight, but Alfredo did take us down to some amazing rocks in the river... they've had water washing on them for so long that they're just perfectly smooth and beautiful.
Then... finally... we arrived in Aguas Calientes... also known as Machu Picchu town... No camping for us that night, we went straight to a nice hostel for a loooooong hot shower, and then to a restaurant for dinner... The town is built entirely around the railway track, which is really cool... You have to cross the tracks to go to the other side of the street...
After dinner we met up with other people from our trek and had a few cocktails... More pisco sours, Inka sours (which we then found out were non-alcoholic), pina coladas, mojitos and daquories... all of which were excellent and dirt cheap! We got to bed for midnight though, because the next day was the climax of the whole trek...
22nd June - Day 5
We got up at 4.30 again and went to have breakfast and meet Alfredo... He took us on a bus up to Machu Picchu... It was spectacular... I can't describe it because it would take bloody ages and probably be quite boring... I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...
When we first got up there it was really misty and we couldn't see much, but it soon cleared up and the sun shone through. We walked around with Alfredo who was giving us descriptions of everything and teaching us more about the Inkas... And then we had to say goodbye to him aswell... which was a bit sad, because he was a really, really nice guy and had taken care of us really well... We have some pictures to send him though, so maybe we'll keep in touch :)
After looking around and taking it all in, we decided to do the hour and a half walk down, rather than get the bus... which was probably a mistake, because it was all down steps, but hey, a little more exercise is all good...
Then we grabbed a bite to eat and had a look around the markets before getting on a train heading for Olyantambo, where we were picked up by a lovely taxi driver, who wanted to practice his English all the way back to Cusco... which is where he dropped us, and we crashed out...
The trek itself was unbelievable and I can't reiterate enough what good care our guide took of us...
P.S. You can find all of my pics on Flickr, here: http://flickr.com/photos/discozo/collections/72157605774290284/ and all of Tom's, here: http://flickr.com/photos/discozo/collections/72157605779172881/
ciao! x x
Where I stayed