Cuzco, Salkantay Trek, Machu Picchu
Cusco Travel Blog› entry 5 of 15 › view all entries
After hanging out in Puno for a couple days I was very excited to get to Cuzco and check out all the old Inca ruins, do a trek and ultimately visit Machu Picchu. Once I had arrived at my hostel, the girl I had sat beside on the bus to Cuzco, a Welsh guy and I all went to get some pizza at a pretty nice restaurant in the Plaza de Armas. The Plaza is amazing, very old, much like the rest of the city really. Cobblestoned street, patios on all the restaurants and bars, and people just milling around not doing much, it´s a very relaxed atmosphere except for the constant stream of people trying to sell you stuff. After dinner I met up with a few guys I had met in Huacachina and we played some pool in the bar at the hostel. The next day I woke up and was really sick, but nonetheless tried to walk it off, but to no help. The other girl I went to dinner with was also sick, so we assumed it was the salad. That will be the last time I try to eat healthily while down here I think. So most of the day was a write off, except for booking my trek for Salkantay, a 5 day 4 night hike up a Salkantay Mountain, down into the cloud forest and then to Machu Picchu.
The next day, feeling much better, I got up and went up to the Inca fortress which overlooks the city, called Saksayhuman, pronounced like "sexy woman. It was pretty cool, massive stones, some up to 300 tons, all fitted together without mortar or anything. The Incas were pretty crazy masons it seems. After a couple hours up there I hung out in the city for a while and got my stuff together for the trek the next morning. We were to be picked up at 4am, so naturally I went out to the bar with some guys I met from the hostel and didn´t get back to the hostel until 2. So after a 2 hour power nap, I got up and waited for an hour to get picked up. Quite a pain in the ass, but I have come to realize nothing happens on time down here. By 10 we got off the bus and started our trek, with a group of 3 people from Barcelona, older than me but they seemed nice enough, a couple from Lima, a 23 Israeli guy, a Serbian guy from Switzerland and a crazy Irish woman.
We walked a long way the first day, mostly along a road for about 18km. We spent the night at the base of Salkantay Mountain, at an elevation of around 3700m. It was incredibly cold, which they didnt really tell me, so I had to sleep with all my clothes on and stuff towels and shirts down my pants to stay warm. It wasn´t all that bad though, I was exhausted and slept from 730 to 530 when we got up and started hiking again. About 2 or 3 hours in we had reached the Salkantay Pass, 4300m up and it was pretty tough to get there. the lack of oxygen is pretty noticable up there. From there it was all downhill whcih was great, down through a cloud forest for the rest of the day, which was a long one, 22km. The next day we got up and went further down into the jungle about another 20 km and rested that night in a hot springs which was great. THere was also a hilarious little monkey at our camp taht would drink beers and steal your food, so watching him helped to pass the time at night. The following day was on to Aguas Calientes, a small tourist village, similar to Whistler about 20 years ago I would imagine. It´s only reason for existance is tourism as its right at the base of Machu Picchu. That night we went to bed early and Ianiv, the Israeli, and Dejan, the Swiss Serb, and I all got up at 315 to start hiking up Machu Picchu
You have to get up that early in order to secure one of the 200 spots to go up Wayna Picchu, the mountain behind the ruins in all the postcards. It was a long way up, I heard 900 steps, like the Grouse Grind, but we got there to be second in line. It seemed a little overkill to get there early, but within about 30 minutes, 100 young people had scrambled up the steps as well so we were fine with it. at 6 they opened the gates and we got into the ruins which was even more amazing then I could have imagined. The day was perfect, a little bit of cloud but mostly clear skies. We watched the Sun rise up over the mountains and the rays through the clouds and over the mountains have very cool effect as it lowered through the ruins. After many pictures we headed up to Wayna Picchu. It was a crazy climb up, very very steep, i think people fall off semi regularly and would definitly die from the 400m drop straight down. From the top it was a graet view as well, the ruins from a different point of view, but also the entire trek we had done for the most part. After a while we walked through the ruins, checked out he llamas which live there and keep the lawn short. I put one in a headlock, which didnt make some people happy but me and my friends thought it was hilarious. Then headed back down teh steps to Aguas Calientes, took the train back to Cuzco and headed out for a night in Cuzco before my flight to La Paz, which I almost missed.