19.04.2008 - 23.04.2008
Early on a dark Saturday morning a taxi comes to transfer us to a bus which will then shuttle about 50 of us to the start of what will be a five day treck, culminating in the climb up to now, new official wonder of the world, Machu Pichu. This is the Salkantay Trek and this is the tale of an adhesive group of 7 making it all the way.
Meeting for the first time over what can only be described as an expensive cup of coca tea and bread, we acquired sticks for the road ahead before meeting our guide for the trail Ricardo. Ricardo was only a year or so older than most of us at 26 and spoke great English, straight away you could tell he would be a good guy. With occasional stops for information either offered or was asked for from Ricardo, we walked an average track warming up ready for what was to be a more challenging trek tomorrow. The sun was hot on this first day, this wasnt a problem on the main trail but the shortcuts we often took were of a much steeper incline and no one would be embarassed to admit they were breaking sweat. Upon reaching the camp at the base of the snowy mountains we were to walk up through, (including the mighty Salkantay) that evening we set up tents and purchased some rum for the cold night that was ahead of us.
The next morning was very cold but we were woken for our early start by cups of coca tea coutesey of the cooks which certainly made getting up easier. It is worth noting at this point that the cooks and horsemen that were with us were brilliant, we ate basic whilst amazing 2-3 course meals, 3 times a day. Straight into the second days trekig and one of the Australians, Tracy, was struggling with an injury to her hip eventually leading to a lot of us going ahead whilst the only Kiwi in our group George stayed with her along with Ricardo. The path up to the mountains takes some steep windng routes and so upon reaching the sumit, Tony, Sam (both Australian), Elorie (Canadian), Kyla and myself took a well earned rest. Pondering the situation Tracy was in with such a challenging walk, our conversation was interrupted by the sight of her coming over the crest mounted upon a horse. With no chance of managing the ascent without aid and not wanting to turn back, Ricardo had found Tracy a horse man willing to help her to the sumit. Ricardo and George soon joined us after walking a feverish pace up the trail.
Now we all know what comes up, must come down, and so after walking our way through the mountain ranges, we began our descent. It had to threatened to rain all morning but as (bad)luck would have it, it managed to hold off untill we began to wind down along a muddy trail which acted as the run off from the mountain. Now slippery under foot, we carried on down into a raincloud forest where the cloud hangs low and moist in the air. Everything appeared to glisten with the drops of liquid covering the surfaces. Even with our sticks, now vital, the wet mud slowed the pace a bit, but this allowed us to enjoy the surroundings, even spotting a humming bird at a flower. We crossed water falls and rivers one such particularly muddy area lead to my demise at one point, slipping onto my back, luckily my bag taking most of the fall. The day was exhausting but never hard work because everything about it was amazing. We reached a much lower and warmer hight than the night before come the end of the day and so toasted our success with beers and some card games after dinnner.
The days were to be considerably easier after yesterdays conquering of the mountains. We treked through, once again stunning scenery but along a much more commonly tread path. Come the evening we stopped at a sight, form here some people chose to head out on a bus to the hot springs however I had no board shorts so missed out, instead opting to chill out for the evening chatting to the cooks over a beer. Come the morning we walked a very little way from the previous nights resting point until we reached a zip line bridge. Once all across we followed the trail passed various sights including a waterfall which come out of the middle of a cliff face, the water had dug its way through and burst out the side. After a lunch stop we followed the train tracks all the way to Aguas Calientes, the last stop before leaving the next morning for our ultimate goal, Machu Pichu. The monotony of the train tracks was a completely different experience from the environments we'd took on so far but our chatting and joking made the walk a great laugh. I thank the guys, as that evening the 7 of us went out and enjoyed a cocktail or two for the special events of tomorrow, I wasn't just seeing Machu Pichu but it would be the 23rd when we reached the ancient Inca ruins. Time to fashion a special hat I think.