August 3, 2011
IMG’s first Salkantay Trek was a great success and a real adventure. It is hard to believe we were only out of the country for 10 days, we sure packed in a lot of memories, miles, and laughs. Here is a short recap of our trip.
Our local guide, Jamie, clued us into lots of interesting customs and history as we visited Inca sites, Catholic Cathedrals, and open air markets in the Cuzco area. We visited Sacsayhuaman, an Inca military fort above Cuzco, which is made of granite stones, some weighing several tons. These massive stones were all moved there with backbreaking labor of men – amazing. We saw how artwork and religious traditions in the area are a blend of Inca, Pagan & Catholic. At local markets the group found wonderful gifts and souvenirs, opportunities to interact with local people, and a chance to support the local economy.
The first day of our trek turned out to be pleasantly warm as we climbed up toward the glaciated peaks of Salkantay and Tucarhuay. The next morning we woke up at 5:30AM to a steaming cup of the local coca tea and then hit the trail a little after 7:00AM. The group did well as we climbed higher and we reached Salkantay pass 15,200’ in good style. After a making an offering of a prayer and coca leaves to the mountains, an old Inca custom, we headed down the other side of the pass. We were lucky enough to see two large icefalls and the ensuing avalanches fall from Salkantay’s broad shoulder. After 13.5 miles, nightfall found us a slow mile from camp, an adventurous ending to the day. We all made it to camp safely with sore knees and feet for a long sleep. The next day’s travel brought us down through the jungle where bananas, oranges, and avocados, hung from trees. On the last morning of our trek, our cooks produced a scrumptious cake for Judie and Doyle Hill who were celebrating their 50th anniversary with this trip. In Aguas Caliente, the logistical base for Machu Picchu, we enjoyed well earned showers and a delicious dinner in one of the town’s excellent restaurants.
As picturesque as Machu Picchu is, there is no replacement for being there yourself. Some of the group opted to climb Mt. Machu Picchu for a panoramic view of the site in early morning sunlight, while others enjoyed a more extensive tour. The sophistication of the Inca architecture, understanding of celestial bodies, and culture can be learned in books but can not be felt until you are actually standing there. A truly amazing experience.
More photos of the Salkantay/Machu Picchu Trek can be found here.