Peru Day 6: Salkantay Trek – Sayllapata to Suyroqocha

Start: Sayllapata 3,400m (11,154 ft)

Finish: Suyroqocha 4,480m (14,698 ft)

Trek Time: 8 hrs (including lunch)

We all woke with excitement when our alarm went off around 3:30a.m……Tish and I went downstairs to the lobby to get the last bit of work done before we lost internet for a week. Tonya joined us and we had a hearty breakfast and plenty of coffee and coca tea, then went back up to our room to put the final touches on packing. At 5, we met our guide, driver and the rest of the group in the lobby and we were headed to the trailhead! After a few hours in the car, we arrived at our starting spot. Alex, our guide, shared his coca leaves with us and taught us the proper way to get the juice out of them (which was similar to chewing tobacco). The coca leaves were supposed to help with altitude sickness and help keep us energized. We were all a little nervous to try it,  but rolled up the leaves and stuck them in our lips with gusto!

After a few hours of fairly mild hiking with intermittent rain, we arrived to our beautiful lunch spot at Soraypampa where we met up with our chef, assistant chef and two horsemen. The chefs already had the table set with warm drinks for us and were pouring warm water in bowls for us to wash up in. We ate an amazing lunch: broccoli cheese quiche, traditional corn soup with garlic bread, and rice with meatballs and veggies. Everything was delicious! The glacier began to peak out from behind the clouds, and as we started back on the trail, Salkantay came out to welcome us. Our first day was originally supposed to be from Sayllapata to Salkantaypampa (elevation: just over 11,000 ft to 13,100 ft), however we ended up getting to our lunch spot early and our guide suggested we go farther so that we could make the most of our first day. The newly proposed camp was at a higher elevation and added 2 extra hours of ascent to the end of our first day on trail, but promised spectacular views and a shorter/easier second day.  We were a bit reluctant at first because Tish and I and two of the other members of our group were already feeling the elevation, but we were convinced to continue on! As soon as we set out after a break at our “original” campsite, freezing rain and a relentless wind pummeled us for the next 2 hours. By the time we made it to our first camp neither Tish nor I could feel our fingers, toes or face. We were a bit disoriented from the altitude and utterly exhausted from the ascent; it was dusk and dinner wouldn’t be for awhile because two of group were still on their way in…but we were in camp safe and sound.

Tish went to bed immediately, but Tonya and I stayed up in the dining tent and chatted with the others in our group about the day. The clouds cleared, the wind died down and the super moon rose right over Salkantay, it was incredible!  I went to bed freezing, and nervous I wouldn’t sleep, but fortunately I packed enough clothing and hand warmers to keep me Tish and I comfortable in our mummy bags. It was our coldest day and night and by far our hardest day of the trek, but we survived it and slept like babies through the night.

Start: Sayllapata 3,400m (11,154 ft)

Finish: Suyroqocha 4,480m (14,698 ft)

Trek Time: 8 hrs (including lunch)

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