AT LAST. I have returned to the land of hot showers, mattresses, wifi and people who don’t smell like they’ve been trekking for 5 days. Truth be told it’s bittersweet re-entering civilisation, I’m certainly going to miss being woken up every morning by a jolly Peruvian man handing me a steaming cup of coca tea, trekking through the wilderness with a constant change of scenery and no influence from the outside world. I’m not the biggest lover of technology as it is so I leapt at the chance to turn my phone off and flee to the forests to some much needed clean air and brain TLC. If I had it my way there’d be no phones, no computers, no TV and we’d all be sat round a campfire inventing crude limericks and playing word games. BUT I must admit it is nice to sleep in a bed with a proper duvet and wake up knowing I can wash myself and not freeze to death in the process.
So we were picked up outside our hostel at 5.45am on the morning of Monday the 25th, still half asleep and only moderately organised. We all bundled into a mini van and set off to collect the other guys, we were 7 trekkers and 2 guides in total. The dream team consisted of myself, my friends Meggie and Carl, two guys from NYC, Raj and Onaib and two guys from Sweden, Fredrik and Henning. Our guides Ernesto and Jorge (pronounced hor-hey) were two local guys who were both brilliant and helpful as well as being extremely tentative to all our needs (especially me with my annoying dietary requirements!) they were with us every step of the way, being a top source of banter in our weary moments and offering little scraps of knowledge here and there when we came across something interesting.
We were a team of mixed abilities, a few of us were used to regular exercise and had trained hard for the hike, and others who were not so sporty were keen to try something new and test themselves. However it is important to remember that no matter how fit and able you are you never know the struggles you may encounter along the way! Such as altitude sickness, muscle aches, joint cramps or in my case I knew that the cold may be an issue. For someone that sleeps in a big jumper all year round (even when living in Australia!) I knew that being chilly was my biggest weakness- I just can’t keep warm! But luckily I was sharing a tent with Meggie and Carl so I made sure I was sandwiched between the two to absorb as much body heat as possible.
The first day we started off with a moderately difficult 13km trek over 6 hours that took us to our first campsite of the night. The food on the whole trip was delicious and we knew were in for a hearty week after our first four course dinner was beautifully presented to us by our own personal portable chef (who to my amusement actually dressed in full chef attire – hat and all!). After finally crawling into our sleeping bags we had one of theeee funniest nights, playing games such as having to incorporate poo-related words into celebrity names or film titles, for example; Leonardo DiCraprio or Mary Ploppins (you have to be immature to understand the hilarity) and song word guessing games.
The second day was supposed to be the most challenging, 22km and 9 hours of climbing mostly vertically up the mountain over some seriously rocky terrain left us all a bit breathless and ready for a rest- but with a cracking view of the snowy caps and a growing anticipation to reach our goal morale remained pretty high. After stuffing our faces again we continued on and on in the miserable rain and snow until we finally reached our second campsite for the night. Another hilarious night of card games on tarpaulin with the rest of the team, Bullshit and Irish Snap being among the favourites.
Luckily, the third day was a little more relaxing – we were finished walking by midday and after lunch and a rest we headed to some nearby Hot Springs. Super relaxing and great for the muscles, but after the realisation that everyone in there had been trekking and therefore hadn’t showered in days made the whole thing a big fat blob of gross.
Day four was personally my least favourite day, Raj and Onaib had left us, my legs were getting achy and I was getting a bit done with the whole walk for miles thing. Buttttt being the vibrant source of energy I am (har-har) I continued on moan-free for what turned out to be a painful hot and sticky 9 hour trek to Machu Picchu’s local town – Aguas Calientes. When we finally arrived at our hotel we peeled off our mud covered socks and boots and had our first hot shower of the week. Holy Mother of Mary it felt sooooo good to be clean and although I had done what I could in terms of hygiene it felt so amazing to wash off days of sweat and grime that had been accumulating in places I didn’t even know existed. But unfortunately we couldn’t enjoy the little bustling town for too long as it was an early night for us, we were up at 3.30am to catch the bus to Machu Picchu so we could be amongst the first to arrive and beat the heavy crowds.
The fifth day…. Machu Picchu! What we had all been waiting for, the whole purpose of the hike and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Surrounded by a crust of mountains coated in low floating clouds sat this epic Inca city, untouched for so long due to its secluded location only to be re-discovered and admired by thousands. Although the obvious main attraction is the city itself, for me the most amazing part was the breathtaking scenery. The Incas used to think of the mountains as Gods, providing them with the means to live such as water from the rivers for drinking and crop growing and food to hunt. The early morning haze hadn’t yet burned away so we were essentially caged in a 360 panorama of fearsome peaks and encircling fog, epic for any nature freak like me! After a tour around the city and beasty snacks in the bar we were ready to head back to Aguas Calientes, grab our bags and get going. The drive home was super scenic and Carl’s DJ-ing made it a smooth ride back through the mountains to Cusco where we were reunited with the rest of the dream team and had a pretttty heavy night out that we are all still recovering from (Carl’s still asleep and it’s 14.42pm).
I have had the most INCREDIBLE time here in South America, blending beach and bathing in Rio with the quirkiness and challenges of Peru has been an unforgettable experience for me and I’m sooo gutted that I have to return home and do ‘adult’ again – but it won’t be long before my next trip! I’ll let ya know when I book it 😉
If you want to see more snaps from The Salkantay Trek please feel free to follow my Insta: @charlotravel where I tend to post more personal pics of my adventures.
Enjoy your sleep as much as I will (yawn)