Summoning Salkantay

Day 1

Waking at 3:55am for a 4:30am pick up, I whisper to Elvar, “see you in 5 days”, frantically grab my things and climb down from the bunk bed, to embark on my Salkantay trek.

A bus takes us to Mollepata, where we walk 12kms to camp at Soraypampa (3920 meters asl). It’s relatively easy walk, thankfully, as I have contracted a cough/ flu.

An hour uphill climb from our camp is the spectacular Huamantay Lake (4600 meters asl). Clouds dance around the ice capped mountain tops letting sunlight shine down on Huamantay Lake, turning the water from turquoise, to gold. Some kind of magic.

Day 2

Waking in Soraypampa, it’s so pretty, I have to pinch myself. Temperatures overnight dropped to -5 degrees.

The cough I have has worsened to a possible chest infection. Yasmin, my Swisse camp mate was up all night vomiting due to altitude and is too unwell to continue the trek. The guide tries to persuade me to take a horse/ donkey up to the Salkantay pass. I strongly decline, seeing this option as cheating. 22km’s of coughing. Bring it on.

Three hours uphill along a path nick named “the tourist killer”, to reach the Salkantay Pass (4650 meters asl). We begin the ascent. A rumble echoes through the valley, as an avalanche on one of the mountains in the distance produces a powdery cloud. Avalanches remind me of life and the importance of balance… too much pressure in one place can impact many others.

Our guide Carlos stops us to provide an impromptu lesson on Peruvian horticulture. Holding up a stinging nettle, he explains if consumed, it can cause a natural abortion. Kind of a Pachamama plan b I guess. Carlos asks if anyone wants to be stung by the stinging nettle. Many of my fellow trekkers look at me, “sure” I say, as I take a glove off and walk forward to receive my nettle beating. It’s a warm, tingly, stinging sensation and I kind of like it.

4650 meters asl, I reached summit of the Salkantay Pass. Time to rest and take it all in.

We make an offering to Pachamama in the way of coca leaves and are instructed to let go of things weighing us down and put our intentions out. Some might see this as wanky but I believe there is something special and important in taking time to be appreciate for the earth, what it provides and also focusing and manifesting good and letting go of the bad (even if that’s hard to do at times).

Pachamama is the Andean goddess of the earth. The Peruvian people have a particularly strong relationship with the earth. More so than Bolivians in my opinion. It’s deeper though… the Peruvians seem to understand and respect the earth for what it gives them now, and for what it will give them in the future. From the sun to the rivers… they’re connected… we all are… Peruvians just seem to acknowledge it more ritually and be grateful.

Sometimes, words fail.

Sometimes, pictures do not do a place justice.

Both reign true in the case of the Salkantay Trek.

Scenery from Lord of The Rings, New Zealand or Iceland. Boulders and beauty ever so breathtaking (it’s high altitude… literally out of breath… every step exhausts you). Icicles dripping from strands of grass by glacier fed streams. Rocky, raw and real.

What goes up, must come down. We spent 6 hour or more on a downward path to our campsite in the town of Chaullay.

Day 3

Get down low and go, go, go. At lower altitude, in a higher temperature, no more jackets required. Welcome to the jungle. Insect repellent replaces tights. My chest infection has gained a new friend too. Oh hey nausea, headache and cramps 👋🏽

This morning I was strongly encouraged to go via car to Hidroelectrica. I declined, once again.

Wild strawberries can be seen along this tropical section of the trail. Rivers run strong adjacent to much of the trail today creating a white noise. The natural diversity of Salkantay is amazing. You really get it all!

Lunch is at Santa Teresa where I lay in a hammock, shivering and waiting for the next leg of trek. A short car ride to Hidroelectrica, we walk another 2.5-3 hr along the railway line to reach Aguas Calientes. Not going to lie, I was so unwell, there was a point I didn’t think I’d make it.

Off to bed, no dinner and dying. Somehow, despite no breakfast or lunch, I still had food to throw up during the night. Using a rubbish bin as a teddy… Hopefully my condition improves tomorrow so I can make it to Machupicchu.

Day 4

I’m alive! Completely drained, I get the bus up to enter Machupicchu, as there’s no way I’d make it walking another few hours uphill in my condition.

Honestly, Machupicchu is amazing… the placement of the construction, inspiring… yet I’m disappointed. Hundreds of thousands of tourists pumped through to take the same photo (and I’m one of them). The annoying part is the majority haven’t done any trekking to get here for this Perú right of passage.

3 hours of walking the train line from Aguas Calientes to Hidroelectrica.

For the first time on the trek, I turn to cough medicine and music to distract and get me through… it works.

Grassy ass by Kyle.

Squashed in a bus for 6 hours, I’m back in Cusco. Hot(ish) shower and comfortable bed, come at me!

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