Thursday, September 23 Cusco to Mollepata
Getting up at 3:30 am wasn’t too bad. I had enough time to get packed and ready. Heradio drove us into the city and waited with us in the van until our bus came. We left Cusco at 5 am and drove 2 hours. We stopped for breakfast, and it was good. We have 11 total in our group. This surprised me because the last I had heard only 2 others were on this trip. Everyone seems to be in their 20’s. We chatted with a gal, Laura from Germany and another young man from Amsterdam named Max. I was happy there were a few folks that speak English. Our tour guide, Holguer had good English too.
After breakfast, we had another hour to drive to our starting point. The porters took our duffel bags with our sleeping bags, and we took our packs. I had my rain jacket, ball cap, knitted hat and mittens plus water and my camera. It was cool but not be gathered around before we started to hike. We did instructions around the circle of folks. Our Guide thought we should have a team name for our trip. He asked for suggestions, no one said anything. Then I shouted out ‘vicunas’. These are the wild llamas. The group agreed. We are the Vicunas! We put one hand in the middle on top of the next. “Four, three, two, one…..Vicunas! Break”. We were off hiking.
The sun was out at first but then went away. We got sprinkled on a few times and I put on my raincoat, hat, and mittens. I was hoping that it wouldn’t rain too much or too long. My pack isn’t too heavy but a bit uncomfortable. We climbed a steep hill right away and briskly. I was able to keep up for a while but then I was last. It wasn’t easy but the pace was too fast for me. We hiked for 2 ½ hours to arrive at our first camp at Soraypampa. (LINK) 12834 feet We have nice single cots in a tiny camp-thingy with a plexiglass roof. There is no electricity, heat, or anything. They have bathrooms but no lights. The dining hall has lights…seems like the only place. It’s quite cold. The mountain around us is covered in snow. It’s beautiful but cold.
We had a nice lunch of soup, rice, and veggies. Lots of food in fact. They give us hot water for tea but didn’t make any coffee. After lunch, I wanted to take a nap. Did I mention…..It’s cold?! We had more rain. The guide told us we should hike to the lake (Humantay Lake) (LINK) on top of the snow-covered mountain. It’s an hour up and an hour back. Larry and I decided not to go because of the rain. When it stopped, we attempted to hike it. We got a little more than halfway and stopped because the rain started again. We were damp but not soaked. I didn’t want all my clothes to be soaked the first day! We quit. We hiked 8 miles today…that’s what my phone calculated. Tomorrow is the hardest day. 13 miles and we have to hike up to 15,000 feet. I’m scared, worried and doubt that I can do it. We found out horses are an option…. for a price. $140 soles or $35 US. That’s just to get us up the hill. We would walk the rest of the way. I’m going to consider this option.
I didn’t go to dinner. I was more tired than hungry and cold. I just wanted to sleep. The cabin was so cold, and the wind was whistling through large gaps in the construction at the roof. Larry used toilet paper rolls, sox, shirts, shorts, hats, gloves and whatever he wasn’t wearing to plug the holes. My sleeping bag seemed to suck the heat from my body, and I was literally shivering and shaking inside the bag trying to get warm. My mantra was……I’m going to die! I’m going to die!” Larry gave me a pair of his thick sweatpants to wear, and I finally got warmer. Neither one of us slept very well.
Friday, September 25 Soraypampa to the summit of Salkantay to Collpapampa (Camp 2) 9350 feet
We got up at 5 am to get ready to hike at 6 am. Larry and I talked about horses last night and I decided to take that opportunity. I asked him to come with me. It sounded so hard. Too many miles after hiking to the top. Horses became a good idea. I did not sleep much as I couldn’t get warm. It’s hard to take your contacts out in the dark mirror with your iPhone flashlight. I did it. I didn’t eat dinner because I can’t sleep with food in my stomach. Dinner was served much later than I wanted so I skipped it. I was more tired than hungry. We got to leave a little later as the horse ride was faster. I had a hard time getting my toes to warm up, so I did a million calf raises. Bad idea! The horses were great. Made it to the top with little effort and much confidence in my horse. The sun was out and warm. My feet finally weren’t numb anymore. We got off the horses right as our young 20 something hiker friends got to the summit. 15,190 feet We took pics. “Four, three, two, one…..Vicunas! Larry and I started to walk downhill just before the others….it was our head start. It was fairly easy at first. Not too steep. We arrived at the lunch spot first as we left 30 minutes earlier than the rest of them. We waited for lunch for almost an hour. Cooling down as the clouds moved in to begin an afternoon shower. Mostly mist to light drops. Still enough to get wet and be uncomfortable. I have on 2 pairs of pants, stretchy exercise pants and my trail pants. I wore my Led Zeppelin rainbow t-shirt, my black Nike long sleeve dry-fit shirt, my happy camper sweatshirt, and my new rain jacket that I’m super glad I bought! Also, crowned on my head was a toque (knitted hat), my hoodies (both sweatshirt and rain jacket) and my new mittens. I still had my St. Croix Virgin Island ball cap on reserve, just in case. Larry wore many layers as well. He had 2 pairs of sweatpants plus his hiking pants and 2 pairs of sox. On top, he had a t-shirt, long-sleeve t-shirt, sweatshirt-bunnyhug, plus a waterproof jacket. To top him off, he wore a toque and his mittens. We were as prepared as we could have been for this unexpected cold part of the trek. We took off before the other after lunch. We need extra time to get a head start. They will catch up. It took 4 ½ hours walking all downhill. I didn’t use my hiking poles the whole time and at the 2 ½ hour mark, my left knee started to hurt. I took 2 Advil’s and kept on truckin. About an hour later, I took 2 more Advil’s. My knee hurt for 2 straight hours. It was very uncomfortable. We finally got to camp # 2 Collpapampa.
Our sleeping quarters were cute. They were green igloo-type huts. Larry and I got a double bed. The first night we had 2 single cots. I could have used some of Larry’s heat! We liked this place much better plus it was a lot warmer. It had to be at least 20 degrees warmer. Hallelujah! They had grass, horses, pigs, and dogs. They had a place for tent campers as well. We all sat outside our green igloos before dinner and did yoga. Laura the gal from Germany led us through it. I skipped dinner again as it began at 7:30 pm. Again, I was more tired than hungry. I had snacks earlier so I knew I would survive. We were getting up at 5 am again.
Saturday, September 25 Collpapampa to Plaza Sahuayacco (Camp #3) 6771 feet
I took some CBC oil last night for my knee and to sleep better. It worked well. I slept great. I took some more before our hike this morning too. It was going to be only 5 hours of hiking, 16 KM. It was still all downhill but not as steep or gravelly. I used my hiking poles too. It was an enjoyable day and I spent time walking with Laura. We arrived at camp at lunchtime 11:30 am. After we ate our delicious meal, part of our group left. They were only on the 4-day trek and had to get to Aguas Calientes. We are left with Laura, Jose from Lima, and another Peruvian girl, Juana who speaks no English and Max the med student from Amsterdam.
After lunch, they drove us to Santa Theresa. A small village that has hot springs. Laura stayed back with Jose and Max, but Juana came to the hot springs. We spent almost 2 hours soaking in the magical warm water. It was nicer than a cold shower which is available at camp. Larry and I enjoyed a beer on the ride back to camp. We got back and there were three tents set up for us on top of a large wooden deck. We all got situated. I did some writing before ‘happy hour’- popcorn, tea, coffee, and cookies. The beer and the CBC oil with THC was enough to relax me. I didn’t have another beer. Dinner was about 7:30 pm again and I had a little this time. We heard about the next morning’s hike. It was going to be 9 or 10 hours! What?! We had a choice to take a van to the hydroelectric station and only walk 3 hours or do all 9. We chose the van. Laura and Max wanted to do all 9. They will leave at 4:30-5 am but we won’t leave until 6:30. We will meet them at lunch.
Sunday, September 26 Plaza Sahuayacco to Aquas Caliente (hotel) 6725 feet
The people at 4:30 am were very loud walking on the wooden floor. I could hear the cook below us chatting. I slept well until 4:30 am and then dozed off and on till 6:30 am. Then I found out they wanted to leave at 7 am. That left me so little time to get ready. My tummy is not so good either. I’ve had to take anti-diarrhea medicine. Thank God I brought some along!
We took the van to the Hydroelectric station and were waiting at a restaurant nearby. Laura decided at 4:30 am not to hike. We waited for Max and Holguer (the guide) to show up. We arrived here at 9:45 am. Larry took some bird pictures, and I did some writing. Juana and Laura hung out in the hammocks. Jose had a little snack. We found out here that we would need to carry our duffel bag with our sleeping bag and personal items for the rest of the hike to Aguas Caliente. This is going to make it a bigger chore hiking. I’m excited that tonight we will sleep in a hotel. We can bus or hike to Machu Picchu tomorrow morning. Then we take the train to Ollantaytambo to catch a bus to Cusco. Only one more day.
Larry and I have been questioning the whole time if we were on the right Inca Trail. This is called the Salkantay trail because the summit is at Salkantay Mountain. The places we’ve been and the stuff we’ve seen aren’t like anything I’ve read about. We explained that at dinner last night and Max said this isn’t the Inca Trail. This is a much cheaper trip. Inca trail is twice as expensive. I’m a little disappointed. I’ll need to talk to Martin about what happened.
We arrived in Aguas Caliente about 2:30 pm. We walked for almost 3 hours. My knee was good, but my tummy was upset. We were able to send our duffel bags on the train so that was helpful but at a cost. I think it was $10 US each bag. We were tired. We all had different Hostels to stay in. Holguer took us to ours last. There was some confusion at the desk. We left after 30 minutes to go to another hotel. We eventually got into our room an hour later. Holguer went to the train station to get our duffel bags and delivered them to us. That was super nice. Larry and I napped for a while. It was nice to have a bed. We showered up too. That was freakin fabulous!
We all met for dinner at Machu Pisco restaurant (LINK). I had a drink that Holguer suggested, and it was tasty. It was a lighthearted dinner with lots of friendly conversation. Interesting how we were strangers only 4 days ago and now it’s like we’ve known these ‘kids’ for years. Ha ha ha. We talked about meeting at Machu Picchu tomorrow at 6 am. We all have entries for 6. Laura and Max wanted to hike up all the stairs so they would need to leave at 4am. We entertained that thought but at this point…..I was all hiked out! Larry and I chose the bus to MP. Jose and Holguer were taking the bus too. We would need to be at the bus station by 5 am. I’m excited about sleeping in a real bed tonight!
Monday, September 27
Aguas Caliente to Machu Picchu, 7172 feet.
Train to Ollantaytambo
Bus to Cusco 10,990 feet
Everything went well. I slept great. Got bus tickets for Machu Picchu. Saw our guide by the bus. Juan Carlos will be our guide today. We met him at dinner last night. Very nice…..older gentleman…more OUR age! Holguer, Jose and Juana took the bus with us. We walked around MP for almost 4 hours. There is so much to see. There were lots of low clouds/fog, but we were able to get some good pictures early. After about 7am, it was mostly covered the rest of the time. We enjoyed the tour and history. Juan Carlos was an excellent guide with a good sense of humor. It was the perfect way to end our trip.
We did walk down the million stairs back to Aguas Caliente. We met for lunch with the rest of our group, ‘The vicunas!’ It was Max, Jose, Laura, Juana, Holguer, me and Larry. I had 3 IPA’s Yum! I‘m done walking/hiking/freezing/being in pain as I was trying to catch up with the 20-year-olds! Done but with 70% satisfaction for the trek. I wish I would have felt better and more successful. We chatted more with the ‘kids’ in the group and exchanged numbers. We offered our house in Ajijic anytime. I also let them (Max and Jose) try some CBD oil with THC. Laura only tried the CBD oil. Ha ha ha That was the end of our time together. Holguer did one more, “Four, three, two, one…..Vicunas! We all went to the train station after grabbing our bags at the Hotel Ilary (LINK) We waited for about 30 minutes outside in a garden area. It was beautiful and had 5-star bathrooms. (1 toilet seat, 2 toilet paper, 3 soap, 4 hand towels, and 5 FREE!) The train was great. It was super comfy, and we had a 4-person table to ourselves. We put our feet on the seats across from us. We enjoyed the scenery as we passed through the valley. It was beautiful and relaxing.
We got off in Ollantaytambo and walked a short block to our bus to Cusco. It was a 2-hour ride and were dropped off at the main plaza in Cusco. We found a cab to take us ‘home’ by 9 pm. We had started this journey of transit at 3:30 pm. It was ok…..we rested. Something we have done very little of during this month in Peru. We’ve been going and going all of the time. Then to top it off, we did this crazy hike with young people. We should have gotten off the bus when we still had a chance. No! It wasn’t all that bad but extremely hard on me. But I lived. We didn’t see Heradio our host, so we just went to bed. It was wonderful to be here. Thanks, Heradio. (LINK)