Peru and Machu Picchu has always been high on my bucket list. This year I decided a big fat tick in that box was what I needed. And what better way to inhance your experience of the world wonder than taking 4 nights to get there. With the orginal Inca Trail fully booked up in advanced I decided to take the alternative Saltankay Trek. The trek crosses the Salkantay Pass at 4600m, descends into the cloud forest and passes the Inca ruins Llactapata, with a view of Machu Picchu.
This trek for me is (I’m gonna say it) my favourite thing I have ever done. Demanding both mental and physically, being outside and sleeping in the great out doors, witnessing mother earth and on a trail so famous for its mystery and history from a time and place so renouned for its spirituality.
If you are thinking of doing the trek here’s some handy tips (I’ve also added a few for each day):
- When in Cusco collect your change. There are toilets available on the trek available for 1 sol
- It is advisable you get to Cusco a few days earlier to get acclimatised. Unfortunately we only made it there the day before and only wished we had this luxury
- Pack Light. One pair of thermals for the first night is all you need!
- Take sandals or flip flops to be comfy at the camps. We also packed PJ bottoms which were HEAVEN after full days hiking.
- Pack ear plugs. I know this might sound crazy but some noises you might not be used to will keep you up at night (or the hostel you stay in the day before in our case) Rest is important!
- SNACKS! Take plenty with you, those little burst of energy are something to look forward too.
A Photographic Journey: Day by Day trek to Machu Picchu
Day 1 – Soraypampa – Salkataypampa – Salkantay Pass- Wayracmachay
Distance travelled: 15km
Elevation gained: 850m
Elevation Descended: 850m
With the two huge mountains of Salkantay and Huamantay in front of us we start our journey up to the Salkantay pass. Salkantay translates to savage mountain and I now understand why. With an altitude of 4650 metres high (the highest point of the trek) this for sure was the most challenging day. There were times when my chest became so tight I thought my heart might actually burst, and times when maybe, just maybe, I might have stopped breathing all together. But that did not stop me from enjoying all the natural beauty around me. The land, the mountains, the waterfalls. Surrounded by the magic of this place I was filled with nothing but gratitude. Grateful for my life and what brought me here. But most of all I was so freaking proud of myself. For acting and doing. I was at the top of this pass wanting to scream to the world and let anyone know they can do anything they god damn chose too if they put their mind to it and JUST DO! And what pushes me to do it? All I think is What If? and let that what if create so many pictures in my mind that the thought of not doing it, of in action scares me more than the thought of going out there and seeing it all myself.
We carry on down the valley for another two hours and the site of camp was just glorious. This however is also the coldest night. Dropping to -6 I was glad to be wrapped up in a huge sleeping bag, layered up snuggling a hot water bottle!
- Walking Meditation – when times got tough for me the only way I battled with that negative mind was to count my steps until 100. It literally just kept me going
- Water – its H2o right? that little “o” is the thing your lacking so take a bladder in your pack and take small sips often. Trust me it makes such a difference
Day 2- Wayracmachay – Chaullay Ccollpapampa – Loreta
Distance travelled: 22k
Elevation Descended: 1400m
Waking up freezing in the mountains with no feeling in my hands I was definitely ready to descend and get my day started. This day is the longest day of the trek. A 22km mix of up hill climbs and descent; slowly swapping the glacier views for thick vegetation and a warmer climate. Whilst on the trail I saw caterpillars, snakes (not a fan) butterflies and even ate wild strawberries. All the time in my own little world, calm mind, warm heart I kept finding myself thinking of my dad and how I wish he could see me now. So at peace and present in the peruivan mountains. Wishing he could see what I was seeing as I was moving through it. I felt so small in comparison to my surroundings, witnessing nature unfold in exactly the way it should be, the way it always has been and will be even when I leave this body. LIFE – The never ending story.
Maybe nows a good time to mention the people you meet on these trips. I was lucky enough to go with my best friend from here in Dubai. We were part of a 8 person group (the rest couples ofcourse) All of us from different places, living lifes of different paths but all here to experience the same thing, its that common interests that binds you. I can not help but feel super lucky to have experienced this with these guys. They were such a awesome group of people and I think in our times of challenge we helped eachother through. I love the fact that 8 strangers, together for one purpose now take an experience and memories of each other home. How people so far away from eachother are now bound together; forever a little part of each others life story and journey.
- It may be hot but where long leggings! you will get bitten by insects, and they WILL itch like crazy for days.
Day 3 – Loreta – La Playa – Inca Trail – Llactapata – Campsite In Front Of Machu Picchu
Distance Travelled: 13km
Elevation Gained: 400m
Tired legs, more up hill in the blinding heat, we all struggled this day but boy was it worth it. For this I will simply share my journal entry as it says it all:
“I’m now sat with a view of Machu Picchu in the distance. The birds are chirping all around me. I can hear running water in the canyon and the guys are playing football behind me. This is seriously one of the most magical places I have ever been. There is so much stillness yet so much wisdom in the air around me. For how many thousands of years has this place drawn people? Even seeing Llactapata and how its perfectly aligned with the sun dial at Machu Picchu. They must have been so connected and in touch with the earth. Todays hike was tough, all up hill climbing, but all that kind of stopped when you see what greats you above.
How many stories live in these mountains? What secrets do they hold?
Now watching the mountains meet the clouds I can’t help but wonder where earth stops and the sky begins. Maybe that’s the point, there is no separation when you look at things from a whole. Just as there is no separation between us and all that surrounds us.
Sometimes I feel all I’m doing is dreaming. Like I’m sat back watching my soul pull the strings. How is it all possible? Then I realise its me. My mind, Body and Spirit that brings me too these moments of awe.
So thank you for this dream I call life.
Live through your experience and through your experience you find GOD.”
Day 4 – Walk to Aguas Calientes Hotel
Distance Travelled: 14km
This is the most tedious part of the trek. You’re tired, its hot and your butts screaming for a rest! You follow the river on a railway track for four hours to make its to Aguas Calientes. I was tired, my mood I’m not proud to say was low. So I put my music in my ears and zoned out to the task in hand with the vision of an actual bed and a proper shower at the end. All it took was one song, one song to change my mood: All you need is love – the beetles. And in that moment I imagined all the people I loved in my life in all the different ways. So I thank all of you for carrying me through that day. Just one song, one message and My mood was transformed.
- You get into town pretty early and don’t get your duffel bag until night time. so take one “normal” outfit with you and pack it in your day pack for this day
Day 5 – MACHU PICHU DAY!
I really don’t know where to start. Ascending the steps that lead here. The air was cloudly and kind of ominous. I round the corner to reveal the world wonder itself. Now I’ve experienced the saying of “breath taking.” I was in awe, the place I’ve seen in so many photos and read about copious amounts of times was finally in front of me. Nestled on top of a mountain surrounded by sacred valleys was ruins of this ancient civilisation. My eyes actually welled up. Its exactly that – A wonder. so stunning, so peaceful yet housing so much knowledge within. The day gets sunny and I see Machu Picchu in all its glory. Visions I’ll hold with me forever.
- If you are getting the buses to Machu Picchu and want to be on one of the first few you will have to start queing around 3:30am. We held our place in line and took it in turns going for breakfast. Hotels here will start breakfast around 4am due to demand. if you do this leave your passport and bus ticket with the people in line as an officer comes around to stamp them – NO stamp No bus.
- Take snacks in your bag, it could be a long day inside and there are no toilets or food or water once you enter.
- DONT FORGET YOUR STAMP! As you leave the ruins on your left will be a small table with the infamous Machu Picchu stamp for your passport.
I want to mention the tour company I chosen here. Because they were amazing. Alpaca expeditions work with local communities, have years of experience and our guide Reynawldo really helped make the trip that extra special. Also for your vegans out there they catered to my needs and I wasn’t stuck just eating bread rice and vegetables for the days. So if our looking to book take a look at there website : https://www.alpacaexpeditions.com/
On this trip I tested myself both mentally and physically, lived along side and got back to nature. Met people who will now always be a part of my life story, witnessed life so far from my own reality yet somehow all sharing the same undercurrent. I saw another world wonder and did exactly that. Ive learnt, I’ve learnt so much; about Peru, about others. But most of all I’ve learnt more about myself. Who I want to be and the type of life I wish to live.
Nature, it has the power to fill you up again if you let it.
Peace and love