Salkantay Trek And Machu Pichu 2018

SALKANTAY TREK AND MACHU PICHU

The Lost City Of INKA Civilisation And The Inka Trail (3-7th Jan 2018)

 

 

 

Mount Salkantay

 

 

Introduction

 

 

The Salkantay Trek is named after the 6000m peak Mt Salkantay, under whose shadow the trail runs. From a pure trekking perspective, it is considered to be better than the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It takes one through the beautiful Mollepata Valley, goes over the Salkantay Pass at 4600m before descending to cloud forest with a sweeping view of the plains. You will encounter hot springs and walk the last stretch beside an abandoned railway track to the town of Aguas Calientes, the base town for accessing Machu Picchu ruins. You will have experienced 5 different climatic zones in a matter of days, seen jagged Andean peaks, vast plains in the valley, trekked through sub-tropical jungles and paid homage to the precariously perched citadel of Machu Picchu. The Salkantay Trek is a journey packed with adventure and this is its ultimate guide.

 

 

 

HUMANTAY LAKE

 

 

 

The good thing is that despite fantastic scenery and a walk through many ecosystems, the Salkantay trek is a less crowded alternative Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It is usually preferred by the more adventurous or when the permits to the classic Inca Trail trek are sold out. At times, they do get sold out up to 3-6 months in advance! But trekking on Salkantay don’t need a permit and only need to pay entrance fees at the entry gate.

 

 

Machu Pichu

 

 

 

Salkantay and Inca trails are part of the extraordinary Inca Trails or Qhapaq Ñan, which refers to the network of trails covering about 30,000 km that were constructed over centuries by the Incas for communication, trade and defense purposes. They are recognized as a UNESCO heritage site, linking the Andes to the coast, running through Amazon rain forests, fertile valleys and deserts. Both Salkantay trail and Inca trail, experts believe, were meant to be a holy pilgrimage to the holy site of Machu Picchu. The truth is, no one knows the true purpose of Machu Picchu or why it was constructed in such a remote place since the Incas left no written records. The Salkantay trail connects the city of Mollepata, a couple of hours away from Cusco, to Machu Picchu. This route is generally done over 4 or 5 days.

 

 

Beginning of the Salkantay Trek

 

 

 

Itinerary

Day 1 – Cusco – Mollepata – Soraypampa

 

 

Mount Salkantay on the background

 

 

An early morning start from Cusco will get you to Mollepata. Depending on the operator and the trip cost, you will be taken on a public bus or shared taxi or a private car. Henrique, one of the guides was on the same bus with us. The journey to Mollepat was a 2 hours drive. At Mollepata we had our breakfast and meet another guide, Gilber.

 

 

 

 

They were having breakfast while I take the chance to go around the village and take some pictures of the village and its local people. Sitting next to me during breakfast was another Asian from South Korea. After breakfast, we continue our journey on the bus for another 1 hour. We reached the last place where the busses have to turn around.

 

 

 

 

We get down and gave our sleeping bag and extra clothing to the horseman for the horses to carry. In total, there were 22 people in the group lead by 2 guides. In that group, I get to know a young man from South Korea, named Shim Jung Hee. We become friends after I wish him in the Korean language…Ann Yong Haseyo.

 

 

 

 

We start the trek on a wide gravel track towards a small village. We will be passed by occasional villagers on horseback and in about 1 hour, we gradually ascend to Soraypampa situated at 3900 meters. There were few camping grounds and tent with the signage saying private property and we pass them and Henrique continues to guide us to our first hike and visit Humantay Lake.

 

 

 

 

We hike for approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes, enjoying the beautiful views of the snowy mountains Salkantay and Humantay. The hike to the lake was a tough climb and the team started to split up. The young trekkers who are not aware of Acute Mountain Sicknesses (AMS) were moving fast and reached the lake early. The others who have the knowledge on AMS, were moving up slowly and reached a bit later but in very relaxed condition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halfway through the trek, the rain starts to drizzle and everyone was with ponchos and raincoat.

 

 

 

 

I use Salomon S/LAB X ALP ENGINEERED Jacket which is a good waterproof jacket and very breathable. One of the best jacket from Salomon.

 

 

 

 

 

Soon Jung Hee started to follow my pace and was relaxed during the first-day hike. I also get to know Lucas and Grace from Switzerland and Vivian from Brazil.

 

 

I move at a slow pace and relaxed due to altitude

 

 

We get the chance to hike to one of Peru’s most magical lakes and be surrounded by the impressive Salkantay and Humantay Peaks while gazing at the unbelievable turquoise water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the middle of the challenging trek with deep breathing, I see a small Inka girl coming down with her horse from the lake….a very beautiful picture….in my mind and truly inspiring many people who were struggling to hike up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We reached the lake and it was a beautiful Glacier Lake and we enjoyed the majestic of Humanity Lake. In my 20 years climbing alpine peaks around the world, I have seen many Glacier Lakes….but this one is really beautiful and clean. It was misty but still can see the alpine peaks standing strong and majestic.

 

 

Humantay Lake

 

 

 

The Humantay lake altitude is 4250 m.a.s.l and this makes an unique weather and temperature in this area. The Humantay lake temperature can arrive at 5º C during the day and at night drop down to 0º C. 

 

 

Humantay Lake

 

 

Lake Humantay is a turquoise green natural resource and sacred site for the local Inka culture. Hike to one of Peru’s most magical lakes and be surrounded by the impressive Salkantay and Humantay Peaks while gazing at the unbelievable turquoise water.

 

 

 

 

After many personal pictures and group photo with Jung Her and others, we began to descend. The weather was still the same…at times drizzling and at time humid.

 

 

 

 

In the afternoon, we descend and regroup at the base and arriving at Mollepata with 30 minutes hike down. We continue to hike up for a 30 minutes hike to our Camp 1.

 

 

 

 

 

We were served with soup and we enjoyed a delicious hot lunch prepared by the kitchen crew and Henrique introduce the kitchen crew to us.

 

 

 

Descending View

 

 

The Camp 1 is a fixed camp and using an A shape permanent strong structure in the shadows of the Andean giants. We settle down in our A shape accommodation and the weather changed to sunny and bright blue sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We trek higher up and enjoyed the beautiful sunny and blue sky background with our first view of Mount Salkantay. I started to say my thanks to Pachamama (Mother Earth) for the beautiful weather and chance to see the full and clear Mount Salkantay.

 

 

 

 

 

Jung Hee was having a little bit headache and I take the chance to share my knowledge of AMS and altitude. I explain on some of the mountaineering techniques to Jung Hee….especially on “Going High & Sleeping Low”. I share with him on the importance of staying active and going to a higher altitude before sleeping. He was following and paying lots of attention.

 

 

 

 

Then we head down back to our tent for our evening tea.

 

 

 

 

As the sun was out and it’s getting warm and sunny, I am always with my Bolle 5th Element Pro eyewear to protect my eyes from the sun glare and also reflection from the glacier snow and ice. The Bolle eyewear reduces lost of energy through eyesight.

While waiting outside our tent and enjoying the view, we met Ms. Elaine or Michelle from Canada. She approached me by asking if I am a doctor. I was laughing for a moment but introduce myself and my area of knowledge in mountaineering. She complains of having a mild headache and asking about taking medication. She slept inside her tent after return from Humantay Lake and after she wakes up, having some headache. I have seen many of such case in the mountains. I propose to her to take her medication from her sister who is a qualified doctor but at the same time propose to her to walk higher altitude for another 30 meter and back down.

Upon reaching every camp, it’s my habit to check the altitude using my Suunto Traverse Amber, which is a GPS outdoor watch with versatile navigation functions for hiking and trekking.

 

 

 

 

 

Soon evening tea was served and I get to sit with my new friends, Elaine, Grace, Lucas and Jung Hee. They were great people with great personalities and sharing all their experiences and journey. The most outstanding was Elain….great personalities and very easy going and always friendly to everyone. The group becomes best friends helping each other.

 

 

The beautiful Mount Salkantay

 

 

Its time to hit the sleeping bags as the temperature drops fast and things were cold. I was placed sharing a tent with Jung Hee and Elain was placed with Vivian. Vivian who cant speak any English and only speak Portuguese …was having a tough time but Elain and others were helping her to settle down. Henrique and another German girl in the group could speak Portuguese and be doing all the translation.

 

 

 

Staying active and moving at altitude. Ravi with Bolle 5th Element Pro eyewear

 

 

 

The chef and the kitchen crew were fantastic and we had a three Course meal for dinner starting with soup and a very nice dinner. Some were Vegetarian and the group was getting into one very enjoyable team.

 

 

 

 

Moments after dinner, at about 8:30 pm, I crawled into my sleeping bag and passed out. We had four-person tents for every 2 people, so there was plenty of space to place out backpack. I was carrying my Deuter Guide 45 Plus Backpack which was big and taking space for this South America Expedition (Aconcagua) and Trekking (Chile and Peru) trip. We each got two sleeping pads that were each at least two inches thick, so sleeping was comfy.

 

 

 

Day 2 – Soraypampa – Salkantay Pass – Huayrac Machay – Chalet

 

 

 

 

 

We wake up early at 4.30am. It was a cold day outside the tent and after visiting the toilet and getting ready, I have to go back inside the tent as everyone was not ready. The guides were supposed to send Cocoa Tea to our tent but were a little late and the temperature was so cold.

 

 

 

Spending time with the Inka girl and her horse

 

 

 

We had out cocoa tea served inside out tent and soon everyone was awake and busy getting ready for the tough trek on Day 2. We are hoping the weather will improve and another early start will give us a chance to witness spectacular scenes as the sun illuminates the jagged 6000m peaks in the Andean range.

 

 

Morning Weather

 

 

 

Today, we have been reminded of the tough climb and a long day that will take us over the Salkantay pass which is at 4600-meter altitude. I was hoping and praying for a beautiful sunrise and will give the chance to see all the snow capped peaks nestled just behind our campsite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But as we start to trek, slowly the rain starts to drizzle on and off and the clouds covered most of the beautiful 6000-meter peaks.

 

 

 

 

 

The air is getting thinner and the walk was getting harder and harder every meter we ascend to a higher altitude. The climb to the pass takes more time from 3 to 5 hours comprising of steep, narrow switchbacks and steady uphill paths until the pass. Loose gravel and stones do not make the walk any easier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Salkantay” is a Quechua word, meaning “Savage Mountain”. The peak likely earned its name due to the notoriously swift change of weather conditions on it. Every time we turn back and see the valley where we started the journey and groups of people trekking on the trails to Camp 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 11.30am, we reached the high pass and sit there for a while for a group picture. We moved slowly as a group and we spend lots of time taking pictures and getting to know each other. Lucas and Grace including Jung Hee were the best of people and they were so happy to reach the highest point in that trek. Followed by Elain, who was trekking with Gilber at the back and was taking it is easy. The group and all its members were happy to have crossed most difficult part of the trek on Day 2. The mist and clouds covered the peaks all surrounding but we could see the lakes and beautiful landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all helped each other in taking pictures at Abra Salkantay and I could see their feeling of proudness for their achievements of reaching 4600-meter height. That was a great moment.

 

 

 

Group Photo at halfway before the pass

 

 

 

The team reached the high pass about 11 am and everyone was in good condition.  The pace was very nice and everyone takes their time and keep walking until we reach the top of the pass at 4600-meter altitude.

 

 

 

 

 

Reaching The Top Of The Pass at 4600 Meter Altitude

 

After 30 minutes on the high pass, we start our descend for our lunch break. We walked down for about 1 hour 30 minutes to reach our lunch place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cook and kitchen crew have started to prepare our lunch and slowly all members were reaching the hut one by one. Lucas who is tall and using a beanie hit his head on the roof of the hut and got injured and bleeding. Grace and others were there to help and to stop the bleeding. I could sense the teamwork and everyone helping each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The weather was getting a little warm and much was fantastic. Had the chance to spend some time with Henrique and kitchen crew inside the kitchen and see them preparing the food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We start our journey after lunch for 3 hours to Camp 2 located at Challhuay. Along the way you will see beautiful views of the plains below before heading to the cloud forest.

 

 

 

 

Day 3 – Challhuay – La Playa – Santa Teresa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trail from Challway to the lunch stop at La Playa is distinctly different from the previous day. No longer is the air getting thinner, the temperatures colder and the views comprising of sheer mountains jutting into the sky.

 

 

 

Elaine

 

 

 

The semi-tropical characteristics result in raging waterfalls and streams. During this jungle hike you will be able to see cocao, coffee and several native plantations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henrique was busy telling us about the flora and fauna and also all the animals in the forest. Such climate also fosters mosquitoes and other insects, so at one point the guides ask us to start using insect repellents to avoid bites.

 

 

 

 

 

We continue our journey with 2 stops and rest. We also get the chance to use the cable car where the local use to transport their vegetable produce across the river to the mail road for transporting to the city for sale. That was an experience. Grace and Elaine also get the chance to experience that and improve their confidence on height.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Due to a landslide, the team have to cross the river via a bridge and join the main road. After a walk for about 1 hour, we reach our bus and for a 30 minutes bus ride downhill and reach the village of Santa Teresa.

 

 

 

A beautiful waterfall and a wooden and old crossing bridge

 

 

 

We were served with lunch and we get to rest for 2 hours. Everyone are looking for forward the thing most famous in this town, its hot springs where you can go and relax in the bubbling mineral waters.

 

 

 

 

 

While not very hot, the springs are definitely warm, located right on the banks of a raging river. The local villagers also sell cheap beer which you can enjoy while warming up in the Santa Teresa hot spring. The Santa Theresa Hot Springs turned out to be pretty great! After three grueling days of trekking, we had the best moments to rest for 3 hours in the water and I had the chance to share my experience on mountain climbing and frost bite and how I removed my fingers by myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had dinner and then we rest near a camp fire. With the camp fire we were never attacked by insects. Then later in the night, the trekkers starts with dancing and it was great to see all of them enjoying themselves to the spanish beat. Henrique and Gilber was there to accompany the group and dance together with all members.

At 11.30pm, while resting near the tent, had some time to speak to Grace and Jung Hee and many things before we hit the sleeping bag. It was a great finishing to the day as tomorrow, its time for me to say good-bye to the team that gel very well.

 

 

 

Day 4 – Santa Teresa – Hydroelectric – Aguas Calientes

 

In the morning, we were busy packing and had our last breakfast together. The team will split many ways and Jung Hee, Grace, Lucas and Elaine will join the Zipline and experience something new. At 9am, I have to say good bye to everyone and waited at the Camp 3 for my transport at 3pm for my journey to Cusco. They have to hike for another hour before they get their chance to use the Zipline. While they are on the Zipline, I and Henrique were busy trying to arrange transport to send the bags to the Hydro-Electric station for their next destination. Since the transport never arrive, Henrique decided to take a taxi to Hydro- Electric and take me with him so I don’t have to wait and can have lunch there with the team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The team was so happy to meet me again and we had our lunch and saying good bye was difficult. It started to drizzle and the train arrived. But our members will be walking along the train track to Aquas Calientes for 3 hours.  The beginning of their Machu Pichu Trek. Viswa should have completed his lifetime goal of reaching Machu Pichu which was scheduled for 3th-4th Jan 2018 and currently resting in Cusco, Peru.

 

I waited for another 1 hour before getting my bus ride and reached Cusco at 10pm. It was a quiet journey thinking about the trekking members, my new friends, our 4 days journey together on Salkantay Trek and the experience I gain along this journey. It was one of my best trekking and mountaineering experience.