That said – much thanks (as always) to Kelly for the write up below and allowing me to post it here. I’ve inserted some of my own pictures inline below but all are available at https://picasaweb.google.com/wolpin under ‘Salkantay Trek’. There is one more post to get polished and ‘published’ about our trek in the north. Will try to get that done in the next day or two.
7/8 email excerpt from Kelly:
Hello loved ones!
Seth and I are overnighting in Cuzco on our way back from Machu Picchu and the mountains around it, so I thought I’d check in quickly and let you know we’re still alive and well and having fun. Last week was much more adventurous than the week before. Read on if you want to hear what we’ve been up to.
On Saturday morning we set out on our unsupported Salkantay trek in the midst of a surprise storm here in what is supposed to be the “dry” season. We got to the town of Mollepata in a drenching rain and caught a truck ride partway up a dirt road to the town of Cruzpata. That truck ride in itself was an adventure and by the time we got off, we were soaked through and my quads were burning from 30 minutes of wall-sitting as the truck pitched and slid around the mud.
|Nothing like gunny sack seats!
We were befriended by a guy with a horse who accompanied us most of the way through our first day’s hike – we saw no other trekkers except for one organized group who, it turned out, was hiking from “eco-lodge” to “eco-lodge”, thus dodging the camping bullet in the awful weather. Our first night, we camped around 12,000feet in a sodden patch of grass next to a river, which was semi-miserable since we were trying to keep all our sopping wet gear INSIDE my tiny 2-person backpacking tent for fear of things getting snatched in the night.
The rain hadn’t let up by morning and we spent some time deciding whether to continue on with this trek, since the pass was obviously covered in snow, and possible dangerous, and we were wearing lightweight running shoes. But onward and upward we went, opting out of renting a horse to help with our packs, and promising each other to turn back if it ever got sketchy, and a few hours later we could be found ankle-deep in the snow and driving wind at 15,232 feet crossing Salkantay Pass, taking in absolutely NO views of the surrounding 20,000 ft peaks, which were completely hidden in the clouds.
Slipping and sliding through the mud and snowy slush down the other side was fun for a while, but by around 3pm we were pretty exhausted, soaked through, and colder than was really OK. We couldn’t find anywhere to camp that wasn’t in standing water, so we kept traveling down and down the valley until, finally, we came upon a tiny house tucked into the woods and asked if we could camp on their land. They did us one better and let us set up our tent inside their chicken/potato shed, which normally I wouldn’t consider 5 star accommodations, but that night I was so grateful to be able to step under a roof and out from under the rain, even though Seth mentioned we were likely to be accosted by rats and mice all night long, I was thrilled. We unrolled our dripping wet tent and hung the rain fly up to “dry” from a rafter in the chicken shed, and then I spent a long time sponging down the rest of the tent, trying to towel off the standing water. Eventually, we bedded down inside and I slept through the night for the first time in a week.
In the morning, the skies looked to be clearing a little, and though it rained on and off, it was a significant improvement from the last two days. Since we were getting lower and lower, the temperatures were rising, too, and we were able to hike without wearing everything we had at once. The sun broke through a few times and the day got nicer and nicer. We stopped for a drink in a small town called Collpapampa and then hiked on down a beautiful trail until, nearing dark, we arrived at the town of La Playa, which was supposed to have camping. Both of us felt very unsure about how the camping was supposed to work there since it seemed like we were in the middle of a run down, poverty-stricken town and the idea of these two gringos throwing their tent up in the middle of their soccer field and bedding down for the night seemed a little strange. After a few stressed-out headlamp-lit trips back and forth to some other potential campsites that turned out to be too sodden to work, we asked a woman running a small store whether it would be safe to camp along the river. Instead, she offered us her backyard and so there we camped, under an avocado tree.
|Wrapping around backside of Machu Picchu
The next morning the sun was definitely out (hallelujah!!) and we hiked to a nearby bus stop to grab a bus to take us most of the rest of the way to Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu. From where we got off the bus, it was only about a 3 hour walk along a beautiful train track to reach the town, where we spent the evening dealing with the complicated logistics of ticket-buying for Machu Picchu and our return home.
We slept in a hostal that night, very grateful for a hot shower, and got up Wednesday morning at 3:30am to begin the hike up the hill to Machu Picchu, in order to be one of the first 400 through the door so we could get the stamp on our ticket that would allow us to climb up Huayna Picchu, the peak overlooking the ruins. What a fun day we had there! We burned the heck out of our quads, climbing up more than a few thousand feet of stone staircases, but it was a gorgeous day out and despite the 4,000 tourists at the site, and the massive preparations going on for the following day’s 100-year anniversary celebration, we were able to find several places to escape the crowds and enjoy the place. My camera started having problems as soon as we arrived, but I’m hopeful I still got some nice pictures from our day there.
Finally, yesterday, after another night in Aguas Calientes, we made our way back through the Sacred Valley, stopping for a few hours in the beautiful town of Ollantaytambo and then moving on to a quiet place for a night of rest outside the town of Urubamba (thanks for the recommendation, Auntie!). Today we made it back to Cuzco, and tomorrow we fly back to Lima where we’ll catch an overnight but to Huaraz in search of more mountain adventures. Let’s hope for better weather this time around.
That’s what we’ve been up to!
More pics at https://picasaweb.google.com/wolpin under ‘Salkantay Trek’.