We should really clarify at this stage that we did not force Annie’s parents into doing the Salkantay Trek. In fact, we originally suggested to them that we could take the train to Machu Picchu, but they asked about other trekking options and were keen to do the trek! Credit to them both, they did absolutely brilliantly, proving time and time again it was the right decision to do! The trek was split into 5 days, so we’ll split this post into each individual day. We chose to go with Salkantay Trekking, one of the most reputable trekking companies with some of the best accommodations as we’ll show you!
Day 1; 12km, 11,000ft – 15,000ft
The first day of the trek started early – we were picked up from our hotel at 4am. Having been warned at the briefing the night before they may be a little late picking us up, we headed downstairs at 4:15 picturing the Peruvian 4am to be more like 4:30-5am. To their credit however, the tour guides and the bus were there waiting! After picking up some other people we drove for 2 hours into a small town to grab some breakfast. Then it was another hour and on to start our trek. We were pretty instantly greeted with a sharp uphill, which made a few of us question our decision to do the trek! After that it was a pretty steady 3 hours to the first camp however which was a nice introduction to the trek.
Upon arriving to the first campsite we were greeted by gorgeous glass igloos called ‘Sky Lodges’. This was one of the main reasons we’d chosen this company as they looked stunning, and we hoped for amazing views of the night sky! We had lunch and then it was a 90 minute uphill trek to lake Humantay, a gorgeous blue glacial lake. It appeared the rules have changed since Mikey did the trek 4 years ago as swimming was no longer allowed! The hike up was the first test of our acclimatisation, and whilst it was tough everyone did amazingly well. After some photo moments we descended down for our afternoon tea at 4:30pm which included popcorn, fried cheese wontons and hot drinks. Then an hour later we had dinner, although we all struggled after filling up so much at tea time!
This was the highest campsite, at 13,000ft, so was really cold during the night. The company provided us with seriously warm sleeping bags so we were all ok, however the condensation due to the cold meant we couldn’t see too much of the night sky! It wasn’t so important anyway, as we’d be getting up at 5am the next day to start the longest & most difficult day of the trek…
Day 2; 22km, 12,500ft – 15,000ft – 9,000ft
The second day started early, and we knew it would be a long day. This is when we hiked up to the Salkantay pass – the highest point of the trek at 4,650m. The day started straight away with a steep incline for about an hour, but then levelled out before the final haul up to the pass. This took about another 2 hours, and it’s fair to say this was the hardest part of the trek. The thin air made everyone feel they were working twice as hard with every step. There are horsemen who offer to take you up however we’re all too stubborn to have taken them! It was satisfying to see about 12 horses filled with 20 something travellers who couldn’t hack the climb while we pressed on.
Finally, we made it to the pass and all celebrated the achievement we’d made. We were given coca tea and a small snack however didn’t opt to stay at the top for too long as breathing was a real effort! We did see a french couple get engaged at the top which was very sweet. The rest of the day consisted of a 3 hour walk down to lunch, and then a 3 hour walk from lunch to the final campsite. The walk to lunch from the pass was lovely, despite a few tumbles and falls – not mentioning any names! Then lunch was glorious including Lomo Saltado (amazing!) and some low points including spinach cake (why is that a thing!?). The last 3 hours was a bit of a trudge, considering how tired we all were and with full stomachs – however it was largely flat which made it pleasant and also the scenery changed from barren mountainside to thick jungle which made the walk more interesting!
By the time we got to camp it was almost dark, and we were right at the back of the queue for showers. So we all put our names on the shower list (as you can imagine, it was busy and we all needed one!), ate a quick dinner and got to bed early. Our huts to camp in were lovely, and as we were much lower it was far less cold for the night. We all slept well, completely exhausted, but relieved that the longest day of the trek was over. That said, more was certainly to come the following day…