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Written by Christine Gatt

Peru is an unbelievable destination. It offers so much! From the amazon jungle to the desert, from high mountains to deep canyons, from rumbling rivers and waterfalls to beautiful cities and villages, it has it all! So, it was a no brainer that we chose Peru as our next destination. Machu Picchu was definitely on our bucket list and I started to do some research on how to go about and visit this iconic place. There are various options that you can take to visit Machu Picchu and we opted to do the Salkantay trek, a 5-day trek that promised beautiful sceneries all throughout. During my search I stumbled upon TOUR IN PERU and decided to get in touch with them. Immediately they replied back and after numerous emails a date was set for the beginning of October!

We arrived in Cusco five days before the trek so that we could acclimatize to the high altitude. This is extremely important and highly recommended to do, so that one wouldn’t have any health issues during the trek.

The day before the trek our guide came to our hotel to explain the trek in more detail and answer any questions that we had. The following is what we experienced during the Salkantay trek and some tips for you that you might find handy should you decide to undertake this amazing trek.

Day 1 – to the beautiful emerald green Humantay lake

We were picked up early from our hotel and we started our long drive to our starting point but not before stopping over for a hearty breakfast. Once we arrived in Mollepata we put on our backpacks and our porters loaded up all that was needed for our trek such as tents, sleeping bags, pots and pans etc. onto mules. We then started our climb towards Cruzpata (3100m) and continued on until we reached our first campsite in Soraypampa (3900m).

We left our backpacks in our tents and we then trekked up a short distance to Humantay lake, a beautiful emerald green lake in the middle of the mountains. The weather was gloomy and it started to drizzle. However, we still managed to walk around the beautiful glacier lake. If you feel like it, you can climb a bit higher up from the lake’s banks and walk around the lake so that you can view it from above and admire its stunning and beautiful colours. However, this depends on the weather. When we were there it was very cloudy and the colours weren’t that vibrant, however it was still strikingly beautiful. We then started to trek back down to our campsite were a nice hot potato and quinoa soup was waiting for us…exactly what was needed for the cold night ahead. We then went to bed early so that we could rest and prepare for the long day ahead.

Day 2 – through the Salkantay Pass

Early in the morning we heard a light tap on our tent door and we were greeted by one of our porters who offered us some coca tea. This herbal tea helps with altitude sickness and is also widely popular amongst locals. We then started our trek through the Peruvian highlands at around 6:30 a.m. After some time, we spotted the magnificent snow-capped Salkantay Mountain standing tall at 6264 m.

The views were truly spectacular. The trek up to the Salkantay pass was a bit tough and the high altitude made it even tougher. I found myself being out of breath after just a few steps and had to stop regularly to catch my breath and lower my heart beat. I found this experience a bit strange as we have never trekked in high altitudes but fortunately, we didn’t suffer from altitude sickness. I must say that our guide, Jorge Sanchez, was exceptional. He was cheering us on when the trek got a bit tough and always waited patiently (for me mainly) when we needed some rest on the road.

 

Finally we arrived to Salkantay Pass, the highest point of the trek at 4600m. Here our guide made an offering to Pachamama (mother earth) with Apu Salkantay towering over us. It was a surreal experience where we seemed to have traveled back in time to the Inca empire! After some time admiring the amazing landscape that surrounded us we continued on with our trek, however as soon as we started our descent the weather changed drastically. It got extremely cold and it started to rain. Visibility wasn’t good and the paths became slippery and muddy. We increased our pace to arrive to our lunch spot in Huayracmachay.

By the time we arrived we were soaking wet! This is definitely not ideal in any trekking situation; however, it was mainly our fault since we hadn’t brought with us the right gear (more on this later). After lunch we then continued with our trek through the high-altitude jungle until we reached our campsite in Chaullay. Our chef prepared a great meal for us, cake and all!!! We were always amazed at the dishes that were prepared for us for both lunch and dinner during our trek! They were simply mouth watering and we were always amazed how the chef could do so much and prepare such great dishes with minimal equipment and no proper kitchen! After dinner we retreated early since we were dead tired. Although this was the toughest day of the trek it was definitely the most rewarding.

Day 3 – to the relaxing Santa Teresa hot springs

We woke up surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. We started our trek after breakfast. We trekked through the high-altitude jungle called ‘Ceja de Selva’. During the trek we came across various waterfalls gushing water to the nearby rivers. We also passed through a fruit farm where we tasted the Granadilla, a sweet fruit native to South America. We also walked through various remote villages until we reached our pick up point at ‘La Playa’ community. From here we had a short drive to Santa Teresa village. We changed quickly into our bathing suits and visited Santa Teresa hot springs. This was such a treat! I didn’t expect to enjoy myself so much. It was extremely relaxing and just the perfect antidote for aching and tired muscles. After some relaxing time and feeling completely rejuvenated, we headed back to our campsite for another great dinner. We then crawled back into our tents for the night.

 

Day 4 – underneath Machu Picchu mountain

Today, we left Santa Teresa village and we followed the road near the Vilcanota River until we arrived to Oroya and then continued on to Hidroelectrica. The weather was hot and humid! We then continued our trek along the train treks. Be careful here as the treks are still in use and trains do pass from time to time. So, keep an eye out…or an ear out…for an approaching train. In the afternoon we walked just underneath Machu Picchu mountain, where we got our first glimpse of the guard house from down below. It looked tiny but this was the first indication that we were now pretty close to our destination. Today’s trek was easier and very pleasant as we were now at lower altitudes. During late afternoon we reached Aguas Calientes, the last village just before Machu Picchu. We checked into our hostel and had a relaxing evening, walking through the cobbled streets of this quiet and charming village. We had dinner in one of the various restaurants and then went to bed to have a good night’s rest.

 

Day 5 – the majestic and sacred Machu Picchu

On our last and most awaited for day, we woke up at 3am so that by 4am we were already in line waiting for the bus that goes up to Machu Picchu. It is important that you get here early if you want to be the first to arrive at Machu Picchu’s gates. At 5.30am the first buses started to arrive and after we hopped on, we started our drive up the winding road to Machu Picchu. At 6am, just after sunrise, we arrived! We got our passport stamped to mark this iconic day and we waited impatiently for the doors to open. We didn’t have to wait long. The doors flung open and we hurried in, climbed the last few steps and there it was! Machu Picchu! In all its glory! One of the most sacred places for the Inca Empire! One of the New Seven Wonders of the world! I stopped for a bit to take it all in!

 

The Machu Picchu Mountain stood glorious over the Inca citadel ruins. Beams of sunlight radiated onto Machu Picchu as they peaked from behind the surrounding mountains making it look even more majestic and sacred! Although there were other people around, it was extremely quiet and peaceful. Everyone was in awe to see this beautiful place.

We then made our way to the Sun gate (Intipunku) to get a broader view of Machu Picchu. After some time, we trekked back down to the citadel. By now more people had arrived. We then spent the day going around the citadel appreciating the marvellous engineering of the Incas. The citadel is divided into two; the upper town were temples are present such as the Temple of the Sun and the Condor temple and where royalty used to live and the lower town were warehouses and farmers’ houses were present. All around the citadel there are numerous terraces were various vegetables were grown and harvested by the Incas.

In the afternoon we then started to head out and leave this magical and sacred place. Although we wished to stay there just that bit longer, we left richer than when we arrived. The first glimpse of this magical and iconic place will stay imprinted in my memory for as long as I live. Machu Picchu should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list!

List of essential items to pack for the Salkantay trek:

  • Good trekking shoes (a pair that you have already worn as you are going to trek long distances)
  • Good quality trekking socks
  • Insect repellent
  • Sun screen
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat/buff
  • T-shirts or light tops for the hot humid days
  • Trekking shorts/pants/gym pants
  • Fleece jacket for cold evenings
  • Warm trousers for cold evenings
  • A good raincoat/poncho which prevents you from getting wet (don’t get the plastic ones that you find cheaply sold in Cusco. They are very thin and don’t serve their purpose well)
  • Bathing suit
  • Towel
  • Toiletries
  • Underwear
  • Battery packs
  • Camera (you need it to capture the beautiful landscape)
  • Original passport
  • Money
  • Water (no need to take a lot as you will be supplied during the trek)
  • Backpack and its rain cover

Snacks (only if you like to snack a lot during the trek. Personally, the meals that were prepared for us where enough to keep us going during the trek)

 

Some other tips for your road to Machu Picchu:

  • Spend some time in Cusco before the trek to get used to the high altitude and prevent altitude sickness during the trek which can dampen your experience
  • Take good quality raincoats so that you will not get wet during the trek
  • Take some warm clothes as it can get cold during the first 2 nights
  • Take your time. If you feel out of breath or have a fast heartbeat, stop a bit to recover and then continue on. If you are not feeling well at all, inform your guide.
  • Take your original passport with you. You need it to buy the entry tickets. You can also get it stamped to mark this iconic day
  • Take your camera and enough battery packs to charge your batteries as you will kick yourself if you don’t have enough battery charge when you arrive in Machu Picchu
  • Lastly, enjoy every single second of your trek. It is one hell of an experience.

What tour operator should you choose?

I highly recommend TOUR IN PERU. All the staff was great. They were highly efficient in replying to all my emails. They were also highly professional and I also used their services to visit other iconic destinations in Peru. All the guides were professional and extremely friendly and knowledgeable. If you are thinking of visiting Peru and especially doing the Salkantay trek as your to Machu Picchu, then TOUR IN PERU is the company you should definitely choose!


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