Salkantay

Salkantay trek

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If you are like me and you like grand mountain sceneries, the Salkantay trek is surely a must-do trail ending in Machu Picchu. While it is certainly possible to do the trek on your own, I did it with an agency (not needing to carry a tent and food is a nice plus).

July 22

Yesterday evening I got a call from a medical centre -- apparently my insurance company was quick in getting things done. So in the morning I am visiting the centre. After a brief questioning by a doctor I am sent for blood and stool tests. A hour later and my results are ready. Apparently they found nothing. But my IgV is unusually high which means that there is/was some infection. To make sure everything will get back to the normal, I am getting a set of antiparasitics and antibiotics.

Next I am on a roll with sampling travel agencies. When I was talking to the others during the Vinicunca trek it became apparent that unlike Chilean adventure companies which basically track each-other's prices Peruvians seem to be different. There is definitely a big spread between the prices and apparently the first company I visited was a rather high-end deal. After a few samplings a lady on a street catches me with a quite good deal on Salkantay trek. Given the fact that I kind-of wanted to do the trek (but then dismissed it due to the high price), the fact that the full cost is about the twice of solo Machu Picchu and the fact that I am not officially five days on antibiotics and thus should rest, I am definitely in. For the record, I really do categorize the Salkentay trek as a "resting" activity. Compared to my usual 8-hours of tough biking a trek without a heavy backpack (tents, food and other stuff goes with horses) and with only two full days of hiking and two half-days seems like a holiday anyway.

In the rest of the day I am finishing other things that I need to do. One of them is a regular yearly dentist checkup. This proves to be a good idea because apparently my teeth doesn't fare very well and I need three fillings. Then I am just wandering around the Cusco centre which is very nice. The last thing I need to do is to get to the trek breefing with a guide.

July 23

Unlike my Vinicunca morning, this time the bus comes on time. And I can sleep my way through the long journey towards Mollepata. The road is paved and busy and I am glad I can avoid riding it on a bike. When we finally reach Mollepata it is time for a breakfast. Locals surely know how to set tourist prices though. At this time we can also give up to 5kg for horses to carry. I settle on my two sleeping bags which basically take all of my backpack. Afterwards we ride a bit more with a bus and we are ready to start the trek. Which starts with a rather grandious vistats of (H)umlantay mountain. I already know the trip is going to be worth the money.

Views above Mollepata
Part of our hiking group
The trail quickly opens spectacular views of Humantay

We settle on a trail which first goes rather steeply up until it flattens and follows a water channel. In the meantime I am learning that this trek is nowhere a lonely affair. The guide tells us that there are around 200 people per day taking this trail. This is still comparately low with the famous Inca Trail which is limited to "only" 700 people per day. Fortunately, in the forthcoming three days I don't have such owercrowded feeling though there surely are a lot of people doing the trail.

Eventually Salkantay comes into the view
The glaciers are surely impressive ...
... but there are some impressive views even without glaciers

By the lunch we arrive to Soraypampa, our first campsite. We wait a bit longer for the lunch than I would like to but the food is nice. Afterwards there is an optional side-trek steep uphill to laguna Humantay Cocha. The lagoon is very nice but with the late lunch the Sun is already on its way down and the high peaks start to cast shadows. So with the vistas done we head back to Soraypampa.

We set off to a side trip to Humantay Cocha
Mountains are really grand around here
Humantay's glacier
Humantay Cocha has beautiful colors
I walk a bit around the lagoon but then the trail just dissipates
Instead I quickly come to a viewpoint above the lagoon just as the shadows are slowly going engulf it

When we get back the dinner is ready. But first before it, we have a tea & popcorn party. Afterwards a buffet meal which is a fresh combination of traditional and western-like food arrives. It is really good though it features the more traditional meat vs rice ratio. I patiently wait (not to look like a total glutton) until I can no longer look at the last piece of chicken and go for it.

It is time to go back

July 24

The trekking resumes early in the morning. When the Sun hits the mountains around we are already after a breakfast and ready to walk up to Abra Salkantay. The hardest climb of the whole trek has only 800m of ascent. Being used to making this much and more with 50kg of a loaded bike this seems like an easy target. Some people around seem to disagree with this.

Next day we start hiking really soon
One of Humantay's peaks
Looking back from the ascent
A rare flat section to Abra Salkantay
The views are always shifting but snow in them is a constant
On a closer look this small lagoon is frozen solid.
Peaks around Salkantay

With Abra Salkantay comes a snack break while looking at the majestic Humantay and Salkantay mountains and their glaciers. In the distance we can also see glacier field around Saksarayuq. To top up the views we make a little detour to a beautiful lagoon.

By the noon we are already up
With so many peaks it is hard to decide where to look at
Glacier field around Saksarayuq
I wonder how many mountaineering routes are around here
Salkantay
Humantay panorama
By the color Salkantay Cocha is definitely a glacial lake

With the ascent done it is now time for a descent. And this one is a beast. It goes 1700m down over more than 13km. And in the middle of it, in Huairaspampa we have lunch.

Descent to Huairaspampa
A little break with Salkantay views
Terrain flattens around Huairaspampa
The chain of peaks around Salkantay is quite long
I feel so little around these grand sceneries

After Huairaspampa the scenery changes from high Alpine-like mountain scenery into progressively more and more green jungle-like looks. In fact, the valley we follow suddenly develops steep sides and it starts resembling what I have seen back in Yungas. With the descent comes inevitably more heat. And moskytoes -- it is time to use some repellent. By now my legs are really tired -- I hate descents and I would gladly go the opposite direction if possible. Fortunately, a hour or two more and we are finally in a small village of Chaullay where our tents are already ready.

Last views of Humantay before the road goes into a steep valley
We are slowly entering into a lush green valley
There are a bunch of solitary houses around the trail
Descent is nowhere to be done yet
And with each meter the vegetation gets greener and temperature hotter
Glacier mountains? Bare mountains? Forested mountains? What if I told you that you can have all of them!

July 25

The third day of the trek is a nice walk in a deep valley/canyon. With all the greenery it almost feels like a jungle though it is still too far from the real film-like deal. The trail goes along one side of the valley and undulates a bit, never going too much up or down.

We again resume hiking early in the morning
The advantage is that even now it is reasonably warm
The beautiful landscape is somehow spoiled by the electricity power line
The road does down into the canyon ...
... which is quite nice
We pass by a nice waterfall

Our guide let us know that we will have a snack break in a shopping center. I mean, what shopping center, here? Well, sure enough, along the way there is this small tienda with a big "Shopping center" sign which cannot be missed :-) Snacking on a passion fruit (for a surprisingly good price) I watch others play football.

One of the rare not-obstructed-by-trees views
Other times we can see mostly only the trail (which is beuatiful in its own way)
I like this tree. Given it's yellow color I name it "corn tree"
It is buzzing with bees
A bit technical part of the trail
Being in a semi-jungle there are lots of streams around

After the break is done we resume hiking until we gather around a river and cool (mostly legs) in it. To my dismay this is end of the trekking. I hoped from here we would climb up to Llactapata archeological site before descending to Hidroelectrica (see next post). Instead, we gather in a car, go a few kilometers on a bumpy road until we reach our lunch spot. Here some of us who are taking the 4-day version of the trek say goodbye to our superb cook who even prepared a funny little creatures for this occasion.

A bird is watching over our lunch
As well as Mickey

With the lunch done we get back into a car and rattle our way to Santa Teresa. The afternoon is left as a free time. Or visiting local termas. With nothing to do I decide that termas sound like a good idea. The termas are very good relaxation with only one problem -- goddamn moskytoes as soon as you get out of the water. So it is best to stay in the water for all of the time.

With the evening coming we return back to our "campsite" where a dinner is ready. Afterwards an unexpected (by us, not the organizers) party with music and alcohol starts. The favorite seems to be "Inca Tequilla". As I am still on antibiotics and antiparasitics I get only one mandatory shot. Quite nice and smooth but definitely less strong than I expected (but then it is hard to beat homemade Slovak slivovica).

Route

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Download simplified GPX of a route here

Stats by activity:

Activity Distance
(km)
Ascent
(km)
Pedal rotations
(thousands)
hike 47 1.5 -
Stats by day:
Date Distance
(km)
Ascent
(km)
Avg. temp
(moving, C)
July 23, 2017 11.4 0.59 21.1
July 24, 2017 21.0 0.70 15.0
July 25, 2017 14.5 0.22 13.8

Elevation data

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(drag over a region to zoom in, right-click reset)

The next table is only for cycling activity.

Grade(%)Ascent (km)Descent(km)
< 2 0.0
< 4 0.0 0.0
< 6 0.0 0.0
< 8 0.0 0.0
< 10 0.0 0.0
≥ 10 0.0 0.0

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