‘Every new friend is a new adventure… the start of more memories’ – Patrick Lindsay.
The Salkantay Trek is a five day, four night hike to the Machu Picchu. It covers 80km and reaches an altitude of 4600m. It is one of the more challenging hikes though still popular and an ideal alternative to the Inca Trail which needs to be booked six months in advance. I am by no means a sporty person so was a little anxious about the walk, particularly the second day which consisted of a ten hour hike, four of which were uphill. It certainly didn’t help that on the first day the group shared what sports they regularly participated in, I was the only one to answer with ‘the gym’.
The hike, in fact, was not as bad as I feared. The first day broke us in nicely with five hours of a fairly flat path. On arrival at the camp we had the option of hiking to a lagoon, an extra two hours. Eager to adjust my body to long hours of walking I chose to do it, fortunately the view made the long climb up worth it. The second day was tough, particularly the hike back down from the peak. The six hours went on for what seemed like forever and there was a continuous risk of slipping on the loose stones. I spent the whole time looking at my feet when I wanted to gaze at the views.
The third day’s trek came as a welcome relief, just five hours of flat. I was aching from the previous day so still found this difficult, it was a treat to jump on the bus to the hot springs that afternoon.
The final day of hiking was the shortest. We began in the morning at the zip-lines, five lines of various lengths. They were huge amounts of fun and you had the opportunity to hang in various positions, the favourite being superman! The afternoon consisted of just three hours of walking, still tough as we were required to carry all our belongings the horses were no longer accompanying us and they had carried 5kg for each person. It felt like luxury to arrive at the hostel in Aguas Caliente and have proper beds and hot showers.
The final day was the Machu Picchu, though it offered no break from hiking. We began the walk up the 2000 steps to the top in the early hours, dripping with sweat with we finally arrived. However the ruins and views were worth it’s. The Machu Picchu is one of the wonders of the world and it is easy to see why. Set on a mountain, encompassed by even bigger mountains, the scene is breaktaking. It’s unbelievable how people created this coty. It was the perfect finish to a fantastic five days.
Whilst the hike itself was, though exhausting, amazing and the reward of the Machu Picchu made all the hard work worth it, it was not this that made these five days the highlight of my trip so far. My hiking group are some of the best people I have ever met. I felt comfortable and at home with them, being together was so natural.
We all clicked fairly immediately and spent the whole time laughing. It was one of the most diverse groups I’ve had so far, consisting of the UK, Brazil, Italy, France, USA, Norway, New Zealand, Canada and Israel. Due to being so diverse we spent the majority of our time comparing nationalities, languages and using our countries to identify each other as oppose to our names.
On the third evening we had a party, a fire was lit, beer was purchased and music was blaring. It was just what we needed and we spent the night drinking, dancing, singing and laughing. It was the Brazilian member of our group’s birthday the following day so we stayed up to see it in, singing happy birthday in all our languages. Continuous speeches were made by each nationality over the few days, declaring how much we all appreciated each other. On our return to Cusco we were all equally eager to be reunited, already missing our hiking family. At the beginning of the trek our guide told us ‘we are not a group, over the next five days we are a family’.