Peru has captivated our attention as of June 29. After a short week of acclimating to 11,000 ft. in Cusco, and a few training hikes into the surrounding hills, we set out on a five day trek to Machu Picchu via the Salkantay Trail.
And what a TREK it was. The group consisted of me, Bob, our guide Abelardo, two cooks, 2 horse handlers, four mules and one horse. And the fun began.
Day 1 – Hike 6 hours – 9 miles
We are excited, fresh and ready. We hike motivated by the newness of the astounding views and I must admit, a bit of I-can-do-this attitude. As we stopped for a snack around noon, we are both feeling great and thinking it’s just a bit longer. NOPE! We arrive at the first campsite around 3:30 starving.
Faultlessly, a hot and tasty lunch is waiting for us in a small kitchen tent and our tent is set and waiting for us. After lunch, we rest, as day 2 will be the most challenging. After a quick dinner, we’re tucked into our tent and fast asleep with stocking caps on our heads and hot water bottles at our feet. It’s cold at 13,000 ft., and we are toasting in our sleeping bags. We are feeling ready.
Day 2– Bob’s birthday, Hike 10 hours – 12.5 miles
We were greeted at 6 am with hot tea and two basins of warm water to wash. We dress, pack, eat a hot breakfast and are ready to start the big ascent by 7:15.
It is cold. All layers–hand warmers cold. We are prepared.
We begin the climb. I’m built for the up. I’ve got a rhythm in my head. I’m in the zone. It’s a walking meditation. Slow and steady gets me to the top. (Suzanne P, Thank You. You were with me this whole day.)
The final asset to 15,000 ft. was slow, yet rewarding. 50 steps, rest, breathe, believe. 50 steps, rest, breathe, believe, repeat. We arrive! What a birthday for Bob! We celebrate, and soak in the views.
Time to start the descent. The next 9 miles are mostly down. For Bob, down is a piece of cake (for Bob, a piece of chocolate). But for me, not so much. I don’t like down and my big toes dislike down even more. Shortly after beginning the descent, I developed blisters on both big toes. I’m now practicing mind over matter (mind over painful toes).
My pace slows, my hiking sticks become essential and any moment of level ground is a gift from the Inca spirits. At lunch, my boots come off, Band-Aids are applied, which I know is only going to be a “Band-Aid” and not a solution. Three more hours of hiking, and simply put, “it sucked.” By 4:30 I was close to a meltdown, had no idea how much longer and no idea where I would find the strength to continue. But… I went on. I turn a corner on the trail, see the campsite and almost cry.
The campsite was all set, cold water was waiting for me to immerse my feet and warm water to wash. All was once again good!
Dinner was the best ever. Victor, the cook, baked a birthday cake for Bob and the celebration began. Oh yea, the campsite sold wine, and yes, I had some!
Day 3 – Hike 6 hours – 9 miles
A great night’s sleep, a little lamb’s wool, great tape, and new socks and I was ready to hike again. This hike was a less arduous 9 mile hike through rain forest, next to a roaring river, waterfalls, and small rest areas where locals sold fruit and water. We hike with delight and smiles and were once again greeted by a prepared campsite and a wonderful lunch and dinner.
Day 4 – Drive 1 hour, Hike 6 miles
The horses have left us and we were loaded into a van, along with our gear. I must admit, I was happy to not be hiking at that moment. We were driven to a train station that was the trail head for a 6 mile hike into Aguas Calientes. This is where we catch the bus to Machu Picchu. This is also our one night in a hotel. And hotel means SHOWER! Oh yea, hot running water, fresh scented soap and clean white cotton towels. All is good. We rested and regrouped in preparation for our final day.
Day 5 – July 12th – My Birthday
Today we were classic tourists. We toured the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu and hiked to the top of Huaya Picchu. It’s a 45 minute hike straight up, a piece of “chocolate” after the last 4 days. We had a memorable birthday lunch back in town and catch a train back to Cusco.
Our Salkantay Trek was an unforgettable five days. We are both stronger, wiser, and wouldn’t have missed it for the world.