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The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

a 5-day adventure in the Andes

overcast 62 °F

Now, I know there have been promises of other blog posts from Costa Rica, Lima, etc. The bottom line is that we just don´t quite have the time to write on every single place we go, and we´ve realized that over the last couple of weeks. Now, we present to you all faithful readers a post to bring it all back and highlight what has easily been the best part of our adventure so far: our 5-day, 4-night trek through valleys and streams...over mountains and bridges...in the pouring rain in the wee hours of the morning...to Machu Picchu. Check out the day-to-day breakdown below!

DAY ONE: The Long and Winding Road

A 3:45am wakeup and 4:25am pickup kicked off our first day, and we hopped into a full van before dawn for a three hour drive to our starting point, the sleepy town of Mollepata. After a quick carbo-loaded breakfast, we were on our way. Most of the day´s hike was uneventful and followed a winding dirt road up the Apurimac River Canyon. Still, along the way we were treated to some breathtaking views of the valley, the river, and the snow-covered mountains in front of us.


The day consisted of a solid ten hours and 21km / 13 miles of hiking. Needless to say, we were pretty exhausted by the time it was over, but ten hours is plenty of time to get to know your fellow hiking buddies, which included five Brasileños (!) and an Australian along with our Peruvian guide, Walter.

Walter´s Group, from left to right: Jair, Diani, Alejandro, Rafael (1), Vince, Rafael (2)

Once at camp in Soraypampa, we ate a filling chicken dinner followed by some tea and were sleepy and ready to rest up for what would be the most challenging day of the trek...

DAY TWO: 15,253 feet
About 9 hours; 19 km / 12 miles

¨Mate de coca amigos!¨was our wakeup call from Manzanas, our group´s cook. We were greeted in our tents to a piping hot cup of tea from the coca leaf (very common here in Peru and in Bolivia, and no it´s NOT cocaine..). After a pancake breakfast, we saddled up and marched off into the foggy morning, working our way towards the highest point of the journey: the 15,253 peak with views of Salkantay Mountain. Unfortunately, we weren´t sure if there would be any views at all since there was a thick fog draping our entire trail up. As we slowly snaked our way up the switchbacks, the weather began to clear a bit...just in time for our summit? Not quite, but just in time to take in some gorgeous views as we rested before the final climb.

With Salktantay in the background

Unfortunately, the weather wasn´t quite so friendly for our final ascent to the peak. The fog rolled in with the wind, and the temperatures dropped. Keeping warm was all the motivation you needed to keep motoring to the top.

Almost there! Hillary, with Rafael, taking the final stretch with gusto

....until finally....

We made it! 15,253 feet!

Walter, our guide, explaining the beliefs of the Incas

Our descent from the top was as breathtaking as it was eerie. The trail undulated through the thick fog, navigating through giant chunks of volcanic rock and bright green fields of grass. Soon, the fog disappeared and the rocky terrain gave way to some more forested hillsides. We were making our way into the forest, now! But first, we stopped for a much-needed sleep in Collpapampa.

DAY THREE: Over the Hump
8 hours; 15 km / 9.3 miles

It was nice to sleep in (7am) and wake up knowing that the toughest part of the hike was behind you. Now, it was just a matter of battling those pesky issues (wet socks and blisters, sore thighs and shoulders) and trucking your way, bit by bit, to the final destination. We wouldn´t be reaching our final destination today, of course, but it was progress nonetheless. Oh, and the views weren´t so bad either.


This day featured a full-on descent into the rain forest, which included a lovely waterfall and some layer-reducing warmth, which was a pleasant change from the wind and cold. It rained for a good amount of the day, rendering our colorful collection of panchos pretty much worthless.


Once we arrived at the bottom of the trail, our group enjoyed yet another delicious meal along with some celebratory beers!!


From here, we take a van to the town of Santa Teresa, where it´s a night full of relaxation, Cusqueña beer, and squirrel monkeys.

DAY FOUR: Aguas Calientes
3 hours; 8 km / 5 miles

This was our lazy day, I suppose you could say. From Santa Teresa, we caught a van to the hidroelectrica station to walk along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes, the town that sits just below the Machu Picchu ruins. Not really a whole lot to say about this day other than the anticipation was mounting, the bugs were out in full force, and at the end of it all we enjoyed our final meal with the lovely cooking team of Manzanas and Sandra. Fried Andean Trout with potatoes and yucca - yummmmmmmm!!!


Should be all we need to tackle the early morning hike to the final destination...

DAY FIVE: Machu Picchu

Another 3:45am wakeup. This time the rain is pouring down relentlessly! Equiped with our (ill-equiped) panchos we struck off into the madrugada to complete the final hike from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. Each morning, hundreds of tourists wake up to either hike or bus up the hills to get their ticket to hike the famous Wayna Picchu mountain, which is beside the city of Machu Picchu. We were among the bleary-eyed hiking drones trucking up the hundreds of steps for our chance.

After almost a couple hours of hiking in the dark, we clicked off our headlamps just as the sun (and by sun I mean light coming through the thick morning clouds) began to light up our path. Within a few minutes, we reached the top and got our Wayna Piccuh stamp - success! Unfortunately, our hike up the venerable mountain would have to be cancelled due to some unfortunate digestive issues.

Despite that, walking around the ruins and taking in all of the views was a truly one-of-a-kind experience that you cannot put into words or pictures. It was (with the trek included) without a doubt the most profound experience of our adventure so far. Enjoy the pictures in the gallery, and we hope it inspires you to perhaps venture out here yourselves if you haven´t already!

- Hill and Kyle

Posted by HillKyle 14:33 Archived in Peru Tagged machu_picchu

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Thanks for the terrific narrative and pictures of your excellent adventure. You'll remember this for the rest of your lives. Congratulations!

by Dad

Gorgeous photos. Glad you made it al the way and had such an amazing experience! Thanks for sharing it with us!

by Aunt Liz

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