Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Salkantay Trek - Day 5 - Machu Picchu finally!

The long awaited day was finally here!

I was up and packed by 4am. The hotel provided breakfast from 4 am to 8am, so we had our breakfast and Alex came and picked us up at 4:30. The gate at the bridge opens at 5 am. By the time we got there, there were already a lot of people in line.

Once the gate was opened, everybody got their passport and ticket checked and then we went up the stairs for 1 hour. Machu Picchu's gates were open at 6 am and the first bus had already arrived so that next to us dripping with sweat, there were people who took the bus up.

Alex gave us a tour of the ruins for about 2 hours and then left us to roam and enjoy the day as we wanted. His job was done, he had to go down and get a train ticket back to Cusco since locals could not book their ticket days in advance like tourists do. We had seats on the 6pm train.

I had secured a ticket to Wayna Picchu, but my comrades on the trek did not. So we parted ways for a few hours, agreeing to meet at noon outside the gate. I decided to go up to Sun gate before going to Wayna Picchu at 10:00. Up and up I went for more than 45 minutes. By the time I got up there, I took a picture and had to go back down and across to the Wayna Picchu entrance. I got in behind a gentleman from Boulder, Colorado and he talked about 2 couples he met and which I also met in Cusco!

Wayna Picchu was steep and the ruins at the top overlooked Machu Picchu. I met the couple from New York up there. People assembled at the top, where there was no railing or anything for safety. One had to go through a crack in the rock to get up there. I carefully made my way down after, having to go down steep steps, barely wide enough to hold my foot, getting to the gate 20 minutes late to meet my fellow Trekkers. The American couple followed us down to Aguas Calientes since the line up for the bus was ridiculous. We went to our hotel and hung out in the lobby for a while after having lunch at a local restaurant. We spent our free time at a bar playing cards before catching the train at 6pm.

At Ollaytambo, we had a cab waiting to take us back to our respective hotels in Cusco. We got in town at around 10pm. That ended the 5 days we spent together going up to Machu Picchu.
One bucket list item could be crossed off for me. Although the trek was in no way easy, I loved doing it. My phone registered an average of 30,000 steps for each of the 5 days we were trekking. The scenery was beautiful and it was the experience of a lifetime. The choice to take a lesser known trail was, I felt, a great decision. The washrooms were not as bad as predicted and the trail, though busy with other groups, were not as crowded as what I imagine the Inca Trial to be all the time. In any case, what an adventure I had in the Andes!

Salkantay Trek - Day 4

Day 4 started earlier than usual. We were up by 4:30.
Our chef made us a cake overnight, decorated with cream and everything.
We had quinoa for breakfast, instead of oatmeal which is quite unusual.
This is where we said goodbye to our chef and helper. The helper was bringing us lunch later that day but we were not to see our chef again.

We left camp at 5:15 and started uphill right away. Alex promised it was only 3 hrs uphill at most.
I had a hard time going up but it was not as bad as Day 2 and we were done with the uphill in 2 hrs.
When we got up there, there was some ruins and we stopped to have a break.
These ruins had a ditch in a straight line directly pointing to Machu Picchu, but because of fog, we could barely make out the outline of Machu Picchu.

We then went downhill from there until we reached the local train station. The sun was high up by then although it was only 10:00 am. We met with our helper who provided our lunch boxes. We were all so hungry that we ate right away.

We walked 2.5 hours along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes.
The agency had booked a hotel for us, but we did not have any change of clothes with us. We were free until 5:15pm when the local train would bring our bags to Aguas Calientes. It was nice to shower and have a nap in a real bed instead of the tent. Alex met us at the local train stop and gave us our bags before dinner.

Dinner was at Apu Salkantay restaurant, just by the local train stop. We had to pay for our own drinks but the agency paid for the dinner. Alex then showed us the cheapest supermarket in Aguas Calientes for us to buy our snacks and water before leaving us for the night.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Salkantay Trek - Day 3

Day 3 started at 5:30 am with the coca tea brought to my tent.
We had a delicious breakfast with oatmeal, cereals and omelettes.

Again, we were the last group to leave camp around 7am, although we were the smallest group.
This is where we said goodbye to our  'horse man'. Our bags were going to be taken to camp and the horse man was going back to where we started.

Today's trek was nice and easy, through shaded areas and valleys.
We saw several waterfalls and had to walk over sketchy looking bridges made of wood and covered with soil and grass.

We found lots of butterflies along the way.

This is where we had a choice to abandon the rest of the trek and go to hot springs for the afternoon, but we chose to tread on. We walked through a small village towards the campsite, under a hot sun. We arrived at the campsite around 1:00 pm to eat lunch.

I then had a nap before Alex woke me up around 5pm for a coffee tour. The owner of the campsite has a small coffee plantation so he gave us a tour, showing us avocado plants and coffee plants. He showed us how to pick avocados with a stick that has a bag at the end. He then walked us through the whole process of how to make coffee, with the roasting, grinding and brewing. We all tasted the delicious coffee after.

Our tour included a couple from New York from another group/campsite. They hung out with us as our guide, Alex, and Mattias played soccer with a deflated ball with the locals. Any out-of-bounds ball meant someone had to run down the slope to retrieve the ball. Soccer seems to be prevalent everywhere in Peru, there seems to be a football field wherever there are a few houses around.

It was another early night for us since we decided to set off early the next day.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Salkantay Trek - Day 2

The day started at 5:15am by a knock on the tent 'Signorita? Signorita? coca tea?'.
The cook always brings us coca tea to our tents in the morning and then we had 30 minutes to get ready and show up at breakfast.

Breakfast was pancakes with fruits. We ate and left just before 7am.
That 2nd day was the hardest of all. The trail was uphill for a few hours as we climbed up to the Salkantay point. It was an arduous climb for me. I had to stop every few steps as my heart was racing as soon as I walked and I was breathing heavily. Alex stayed with me and I finally made it. We spent some time at the top, the highest point of the trek, Alex giving us a history lesson and taking pictures and building towers of rock.

We then went down towards camp. We stopped in the middle of a field where the helpers had set up the tent for us to have lunch. We ate, and then started to walk to camp.

We had time to rest before tea time which was popcorn and won ton's stuffed with cheese. Then we had dinner before heading to bed by 8 p.m. That was an exhausting day for me, especially in the morning. I thought it would never be over. I was glad the most difficult part was over.