By Karl Thurlow, Head of Business Operations
Published: Jun 07, 2012More by Karl
International Sales Manager, Karl, recently took to the Salkantay Trail in Peru on his latest trekking adventure. Here, he shares his dairy with us.
Where: Cusco – Mollepata – Soraypampa
Altitude: Cusco – 3399m, Mollepata – 2803m, Soraypampa – 3869m
Trekking: Dirt track – steep uphill switchback
Highlights: Tarawasi – a pristine ancient Incan site – views of the Humantay and Salkantay Peaks – hot tub under the Andean night sky
High in the Peruvian Andes, the cool, mountain city of Cusco greets you with an easy laidback vibe, even if its elevation does leave you struggling for breath! Light meals, agua a-plenty and siestas are a must on arrival, into this city of the gods. Winding out of the city, we pause to take in the small villages where market life bustles with locals setting themselves up for the day over a hearty bowl of Peruvian bean soup.
Descending to the ancient Incan site, Tarawasi, in almost pristine condition with amazing, perfect geometry, we wonder how such an ancient civilization were able to create such a mastery of stonework.
Weaving our way back up into the Andes, on dirt track and steep uphill switchback, we make our ascent, frequently pausing for breath, to our first lodge at Soraypampa.
Altitude: Soraypampa – 3869m
Trekking: Acclimatisation walks
Highlights: Plunging into the glacial pool just below the Humantay Peak – airshow of six condors – lesson on the making of the local drink, Pisco Sour
At such high altitude the effects on the human body are noticeable, and an acclimatisation walk up the valley towards Humantay was the perfect walk to help the body adjust.
We followed the path to Humantay, and it’s amazing glacier and glacial pool – the steep gradient of the path increased the effort required to lift each respective foot, but was rewarded by an impromptu airshow of six condors.
On reaching the glacial pool just below Humantay, we stripped off and plunged into the near zero degree waters – I wondered why I ever thought this would be invigorating, rather than just plain stupid! At least the sun was shining, and immediately took the chill away.
Where: Soraypampa – Huayraccmachay
Altitude: Soraypampa – 3869m, Huayraccmachay – 3840m
Trekking: Challenging switchbacks – steeps ascent and descent
Highlights: Ascending to over 4600m – encountering 16 different bio-zones – picnic lunch on the valley floor amidst lush vegetation – wildlife sightings: condors, caracaras and chinchillas
The sun casting its glow over the surrounding snow capped peaks set us up for a big days trekking – Salkantay as our guiding peak for the first few hours.
As we ascended, the weather moved with us, a constantly changing cloud base and the changing illuminations as the sun rose higher in the sky provided a constant variety of breathtaking vistas.
The vegetation returned as we descended, and it felt quite like entering another realm – like something from Lord of the Rings – high jagged peaks on either side, and gently flowing streams led us through the mist to the valley floor, to the most remote of lunchtime locations, where we were greeted with a delicious three course meal.
Downhill to our next lodge for the night, resting weary feet under the needle like point of Humantay – glowing in the moonlight, with thousands of stars dancing across the night sky.
Eight hours of hiking from 3800m, ascending to a pass at 4600m, and then descending almost 800m to our resting place for the night made for an epic days trekking.
Where: Huayraccmachay – Collpapampa
Altitude: Huayraccmachay – 3840m, Collpapampa – 3180m
Highlights: the Salkantay River – Pachamanca prepared guinea pig – wildlife sightings: hummingbirds and parrots
Following the Salkantay River we descended deep into the valley below, and watched as the waters increased in speed and volume, decreasing through verdant scenery to a cloud forest below where numerous flora lined our path. At the confluence of the three rivers, we reached our low point for the day before the short trek up to our lodge for the night, set within lush green mountains with an almost tropical feel. We were treated to a Pachamanca prepared lunch of the local delicacy; guinea pig!
Where: Collpapampa – Lucmabamba
Altitude: Collpapampa – 3180m, Lucmabamba – 2000m
Trekking: Alongside riverbeds – suspension bridge – new roads – mostly descent
Highlights: Comfortable trekking – striding along an original Incan trail – ascending through coffee plantations, banana plantations and under avocado trees
We followed the route along a newly built road for much of the day, although controversial, as it impacts on the natural beauty of the area it is clear to see how much of a lifeline it provides to the local villagers, who although content with their simple lives, would have to trek for hours to get supplies without the new road.
Where: Lucmabamba – Aguas Calientes
Altitude: Lucmabamba – 2000m, Aguas Calientes – 2040m
Trekking: Steep uphill – downhill – switchback
Highlights: First view of Machu Picchu – arriving in Machu Picchu Town – falling asleep to an Urubamban lullaby
Persistant rain had passed during the night, and left a heavy mist hanging in the sky obscuring views of the valley, however, the drop in temperature was a welcome change for the mornings uphill slog along an original Incan trail. On reaching the Incan ruin of Llactapata we were greeted with our first views of Machu Picchu to the west, raising anticipation for tomorrow when we would be within touching distance of this new 7th wonder of the world.
Downhill, switchback led us to the valley floor and on to our train connection to Machu Picchu Town. Luxury accommodation awaited our arrival – aqueducts, springs, flowers, birds and a complimentary Pisco Sour with dinner.
Where: Machu Picchu
Altitude: Machu Picchu – 2430m
Trekking: Gentle stroll
Highlights: Wondering round the most iconic ancient Incan ruin
Looking over Machu Picchu I have to pinch myself, such an amazing feat of engineering so high in the Andes – perfect terraces, temples aligned to the sun and Apu’s – a pristine complex, that makes the mind boggle.
Machu Picchu is truly one of the world’s seven wonders – it’s impossible to communicate its’ wonder in words or images – you really have to experience it for yourself!
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