13.05.2011 - 20.05.2011 22 °C
Mirja and I recovered from our various ailments in Cusco and relaxed a fair bit before starting out on the 80km Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. We organized the trek through Chaska tours in town and started out extremely early (5am pickup) to go to the trailhead. Our group consisted of 3 French Canadians and 1 German in addition to me and Mirja. The agency also provided mules to carry most of our gear so we only had to carry water and a jacket over the 4600m pass and other big climbs. I did the Inca Trail 10 years ago and was happy to do this because it is completely different. The biggest differnece is this trek goes higher through more snow capped high peaks. We also saw Machu Picchu from a unique viewpoint the day before we arrived there and went by an old Inca ruin that very few people see. Another highlight was seeing 5-6 Andean Condors up close. They flew just a few meters over our heads, and later circled back a little higher before eventually landing near a dead mule. Our group was also a nice surprise. Everyone fit well into the group and we shared a lot of laughs.
Of course Machu Picchu is a big highlight as well. The last time I was there I only had a disposable camera, so I only have 5-6 pics from that trip. This time the weather was misty in the morning and cleared after 40 minutes to bright sunshine. The photos are amazing and I look forward to sharing them when I have the time to upload. Our guide gave us a 2.5 hour tour of the site, then later we hiked away to various viewpoints and sights of interest before heading back to Cusco on the train. If you haven´t been to Machu Picchu, there´s no words to describe it. It´s situated on a high saddle between 2 mountains with the Urubamba River ox-bowing around the peaks nearly 400 vertical meters below. The peaks are all lush green, and the surrounding peaks are much higher, so you feel like you are in a jungle of mountains. The site itself is 75% original and filled with temples that align perfectly with the sun on solstice and equinox days. Even with the overflow of tourists, its big enough to explore in peace and a little solitude if you are willing to climb some steps. I hope to go back in another 10 years.
We rested another day in Cusco after getting back from the trek. Cusco is our favorite S. American city thusfar. It´s clean and not so big and has all the creature comforts a westerner could ask for. We ate a lot of great meals there, and were able to plan out the transportation for the rest of our trip trhough Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.
Today we flew to Lima where we are spending as little time as possible before continuing northwards to Huaraz where we will do more trekking.