Hello from Cuzco!! We have just arrived back to the Incan Capitol last night after an amazing (and completely exhausting) 5 day trek to Machu Picchu. It all started on Thursday night when our tour guide, the legendary Antonio walked in the door of our hostel to give us an overview for the next couple days and a warning to be ready at 6:00 am the next morning. So there we all were, more or less, at 6:00 am in hostel lobby waiting to start our trek with our bags packed (admittedly mine was the heaviest) and waterbottles steri-penned. We loaded up into the van and drove for about 2 hours to have breakfast and then drove for another hour or so to reach our starting point where we broke out the coca leaves and headed up the mountain to check out a lake at about 13,000 feet mas o menos. I´m not sure how acquainted you all are with chewing coca leaves but it´s actually…it´s pretty gross. I did not enjoy it. But we hiked pretty straight up for about an hour to reach one of the bluest lakes I´ve ever seen. After taking quite a number of pictures and knocking my backpack off the ledge, which Antonio, the charmer that he is, hiked down and retrieved, we turned back around to get lunch (all the food was delicious) and to begin our trek on the Salkantay trail. We had about a 2 hour hike uphill which got pretty freaking hard for a while (we also had some trusty steeds ready whenever we got too tired) until we reached the campsite where we had ¨happy hour¨ which consisted of hot chocolate, tea, and popcorn followed shortly by dinner, some ghost stories (with one that started out kind of scary but then lost all of its momentum when Antonio said the ghost was named ¨the fat sucker¨), a quick constellation lesson and then early to bed…
…and early to rise at 6:30 with breakfast and then an hour uphill hike where we saw saw Salkantay mountain up close and personal at the peak of the trail at about 15,000 feet (i was chewing those coca le
aves like no other). and it was beautiful. We then hiked down to have lunch for about 2 hours and then we hiked up a mountain for about an hour and it was pretty steep. But once we reached the top and we had the most beautiful view of the valley so we took a little break and watched the sunset over the mountains. Unreal beautiful. After that we hiked for another 30 minutes down to reach the campsite for some happy hour (claro que si) and then dinner and bed.
Another 6:00 am wake-up with coca tea and a little bin of warm water to wash your face (at this point, i think we all gave up on trying to stay clean though), and we started probably our easiest day (in my opinion because it was just a half day of hiking) which was a couple hours of downhill hiking. Now, while uphill is challenging because it´s hard to breath, downhill isnt a cake walk: it gets hard on your knees after an hour. We then walked along the road for a while until we met our van to take us to our lunch spot where we ate once again a delicious lunch with some good old fashioned Justin Bieber playing in the background. We then drove to the campsite where we dropped our duffels off at the tents and headed to the hot springs to relax a little bit. It felt SO. GOOD. after a couple hours we drove back to the campsite to have some Lomo Saltado for dinner and then sat around the campfire for a bit and then went to bed.
Sunday: our last big trek day. the day before we reached Machu Picchu: so close!! Of course, we had a HUGE day ahead of us. 3 hours uphill, 3 hours downhill, no horses. big day. There was a point where it did get really challenging and it occured to me that i probably sounded like a dying person because I was wheezing so hard but i made it up the mountain, completely soaked from sweat and still breathing hard, but I was proud. My juicebox at the top never tasted so good. We then reached an Incan site where we got our first glimpse of Machu Picchu. We then had our 3 hour downhill hike to our van and it was pretty killer. My knees hurt a lot but we reached the bottom and drove to our lunch spot and then took our train to Aguas Calientes, the town about 20 minutes from Machu Picchu where we took our first hot shower in 4 days, had a delicious dinner, and prepared to see MACHU PICCHU!!
Monday: Machu Picchu: pretty incredible. we had breakfast at 5:30 to got to MP as soon as possible which is absolutely unreal. Looking down at it, you totally understand why it´s one of the new seven wonders of the world. It´s truly breathtaking. After taking a ton of pictures (read: a ton), Antonio gave us a tour of a Machu Picchu and those Incans…they had it figured out. no joke. We then hiked up Wayna Picchu which, if you have ever seen a picture of Machu Picchu, its the mountain behind it, was pretty tough. It was a lot of stairs. The Incans must have had calves of steel, because mine were burning at the top. but it was beautiful. the view: spectacular. It was the definition of feeling on top of the world. We descended and said goodbye to Antonio and then we all went our separate ways with some of us leaving early for lunch and others sticking around to do some Acroyoga which we learned at the yoga retreat (we got a lot of stares). We then all found our way back to the hotel, grabbed our stuff, and boarded a 3 hour train to Poroy where Antonio surprised us in the van to take us back to the Cuzco. We got back at 9, absolutely exhausted, tired, sleepy, and amazed at how far we had come. In 5 days, we had hiked over 40 something miles. That´s a lot of miles. Safe to say, we all crashed pretty quickly after we got back.
But with us conquering the Salkantay trail and visiting Machu Picchu, that marks the end of our trip. 3 months have gone by and we are going to say goodbye to our leaders and some members of the group tomorrow. pretty crazy. and soon, we´ll be on a plane to LAX and after that: home.
Katie and Cade