Peru’s Salkantay Trek in Pictures

by Amy Rogers on October 27, 2013 · 7 comments

(UPDATE! 5/14/14 I’ve gotten so many questions about the Salkantay Trek, I’ve created a whole page to answering the frequently asked questions from you! Click here for everything I know about water/food/money/camping/itinerary/safety on the trail! )

So we arrived in Cusco, Peru to do what pretty much everyone there goes to do: visit Machu Picchu. But since we’re thrifty drifters and we like to do things a bit more off the beaten path, we opted out of the well-trodden Inca Trail and decided on the Salkantay Trek.

This hike isn’t entirely off the beaten track, of course, and it’s quickly growing in popularity. It’s easy to book a Salkantay tour if you don’t have your own equipment, but if you are carrying your tent, some cook gear, and a sleeping bag, it’s quite easy to do this one independently. And we did.

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Amy at the beautiful Plaza de Armas in Cusco.

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The Route

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Another one of Peru’s rather vague signs. Who is this sign for? To where does this road continue?

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We had taken a collectivo to Mollapata and spent most of the day on a long and dusty road into the valley. Here, we are just about to reach the juicy part. 

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Here we are, earlier in the day. Full of pep!

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And here I am a bit later in the afternoon…taking a quick snooze.

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We are glad to have finally reached the trail and be off the road. Nevado Salkantay looks down at us.

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Our first campsite. Looking back down the valley. Just us.

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Looking the other direction towards Salkantay at dusk. The valley is falling into shadow.

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Adam enjoying the open space. Interestingly, the following morning we awoke to the sounds of many feet outside our tent. A tour group of about 30 passed by and a number of them ogled us curiously. One woman asked us how we could stand to “rough it” as we were. Having just crawled out from a warm and cozy down sleeping bag, I responded by saying “roughing it? Ma’am, I thought we were living in luxury!”

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The following morning. Gearing up to go over the pass. 

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 Boulder fields are cool.

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About to make a big push.

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Almost there! The Pass is about 20 minutes away to the left and behind the big boulder in the center.

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We made it! 

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It’s a great time for photos, snacks, and water.

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...and a little bit of showing off!

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From here, it’s downhill for two days. Check out this little house. I would have built my house in the exact same spot!

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Adam is happy. The air has warmed up, the valley has flattened out, and I’ve just fed him his lunch. Could life get any better?

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Our second campsite, the Ruinas Andenes. Yes, these are actual Inca ruins and we are camping on them. 

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We slept pretty well that night, except for these neighborly pigs (domesticated, not wild) that squealed bloody murder from time to time. Slightly disconcerting.

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Here we are beginning day three. An easy downhill trod as the scenery changed dramatically from cold and high to warm and low – the jungle, or something like it.

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These orchids take the cake, but there was a lot of lovely fauna as well as loads of butterflies.

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We took a snack break by this lovely waterfall.

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It gets junglier. Sometime between when this photo was taken, and the next, I was stung by two angry bees. It was not a shining moment for me. I dropped my pack, flailed my hands in the air, and ran like a madman, thinking I was being attacked by a swarm. Thankfully, there were only two. I still lost some of my dignity that day.

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We reached the town of La Playa and spent our third night  at a fairly ritzy camping spot.  Hot showers, flush toilets, and a hot meal with cold beer were all available – alongside bouncy music playing playing alongside Rocky VI on the television.

 

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We were glad to go back into the wilderness the next morning. Most tour groups hike down the valley towards Santa Teresa, but we opted for a 800-meter climb along an old Inca road to a campsite that promised views of Machu Picchu. Would it deliver?

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Old Inca stairs. 

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Such fine construction!

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It took us about 4 hours of tough uphill climbing. Here we caught our first glimpse of Machu Picchu. See it?

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Here, let me help you. ZOOM! See it now?

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We arrived at Llactapata, just above our campsite. 

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The center door points directly towards Machu Picchu. You can just see it over my left shoulder. 

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And here we are at our fourth campsite. It was everything we’d hoped it would be. A stunning view of the ruin. Can you see it?

Dawn.

 Dawn over Machu Picchu.

Another 800 m decent brought us to the valley floor and past the hydroelectric plant. This water fall, blasting out of the side of a mountain was pretty impressive. Next it was 800 meters back down to the valley floor. We joined up with a road leading to a still-under-construction hydroelectric plant. This stunning manmade waterfall shoots out of the side of a mountain.

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Finally, we reach the railroad track. The train comes at 3pm and it’s only 11:30. Plus it’s $18 per person for a 20 minute ride. Being thrifty drifters, we didn’t have to think twice. We tightened our hip belts, chomped down on a granola bar, and set out alongside the tracks for the last two hours of walking to Aguas Calientes.

Next up: Our Photos of Machu Picchu…

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