Friday, July 24, 2009

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

I was lucky to have my two friends Lorie and Lindsay Coker join me for the 5 day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. This trek is sometimes called "the other Inca trail" and it took us through the highlands of the Andes to a challenging climb between the magnificent Huamantay and Salkantay mountains. After descending through cloudforest and rainforest we would arrive at Aguas Calientes, the gateway to the incredible ruins of Machu Picchu.

A Canadian named Vaughan joined us along with our guide Felix, nicknamed "Gato", a cook, Herbert, and two porters, Fabian and Tomas, who were very appreciated for the endless support and great food they provided. Every day we had three vegetarian meals with fresh local vegetables and fruit. Before dinner we played cards and we went to bed after taking in the beautiful stars and llama constellations that we'd never seen before. Besides a day pack, the majority of our things were carried by strong mules which Herbert, Tomas and Fabian lead past us everyday in order to set up lunch or camp for the night.

When we asked Felix, what the name of our outfitter 'Apus Peru' meant, he said that 'apu' is the spirit or god of a mountain and each mountain in the Andes has its own apu. We found this word and belief pervasive in the Peruvian culture and eventually in our own minds after facing the majestic mountains ourselves. Salkantay mountain is the second highest mountain in the Peruvian Andes at 20,569 feet. After acclimating at our first campsite, we spent 3 hours scaling a mountainside of intense switchbacks to arrive at the Salkantay Pass- a 15,000 foot plateau between Huamantay and Salkantay. It was extraordinary. The glacial peaks were engulfed in violent white cloud and there was a stillness in the space between the mountains. Perhaps it was due to the 50% less oxygen available but the view was absolutely breathtaking.

As we descended, the scenery was no less beautiful. We passed huge boulders covering steep hills, tranquil streams flowing past small straw homes, and eventually the start of the jungle. We welcomed the colorful flowers and vegetation as much as the abundant oxygen in the air. After camping in the rainforest, we continued our descent drawing closer and closer to a raging river. At our third campsite we went to an expansive hot springs where we had our first bath in three days. The next day we walked into the town of Aguas Calientes along train tracks where we had beautiful views of Machu Picchu and Huaynu Picchu. We had a celebratory last dinner together in the town before heading to bed in anticipation of the climactic Inca ruins the next day.

2 comments:

foster said...

So cool how you show the change from dry to jungle. I definitely had the feel of virtual trek looking at your beautiful photographs. Bravo!

Addie said...

Nice work T! It seems like you guys were in two different places. I love the clothes on the line such vibrant colors...love it.