Peru Day 9: Salkantay Trek – La Playa to Aguas Calientes

Start: La Playa 2,064m (6,771 ft)

Finish: Aguas Calientes 2,050m (7,986 ft)

Trek Time: 9.5 hours (including a short lunch)

The final morning of our trek began earlier than usual, and it was our first day starting out in pouring rain. We packed our stuff in the tent and did our best to keep things from getting wet and muddy, had a quicker than usual breakfast and then said goodbye to our chefs. Despite the rain and impending 3 hour ascent, everyone was in great spirits as we headed out on our last day of hiking.

The trail took us about 45 min down a van road to what was supposed to be our camp the night before — Lucmabamba, 2000m/6,561 ft. From there we began our 2,800ft climb up to the top of a ridge. The trail was covered in lush greenery which helped keep the rain off our heads for awhile. Near the top of the ridge we passed a huge potato plantation before making it to Llactapata, an Incan ruins site at 2700m/8,858ft. On a clear day, you can look across the valley to Machu Picchu. We were able to see a little of it as the clouds rolled by, but more so we could see Machu Picchu mountain and Huayna Picchu Mountain where we would be hiking the next day! After our break at Llactapata, we started our 1000m descent to the town Hidroelectrica which is at 1,890m/6,200ft. We made the descent at a snails pace because of the entire trail was slick mud and rocks. I fell at least three times, which was when I realized that I was sick. All at once the mental fatigue, chills and lack of appetite hit me and I realized it was going to be a long afternoon for me. After what must have been approximately 3857389 switchbacks, we made it down to the Machu Picchu check point in Hidroelectrica. We showed our passports and put our names in the log book, then started our 3 hour walk down the railroad tracks to our hotel in Aguas Calientes. Unfortunately, I was not a fun hiking partner on this part of the trek, so I stayed silent in the back of the group while everyone else frolicked along the tracks, happy to be that much closer to our hotel and a shower. When we all began to grow weary, Alex kept telling us we only had “10 minutes more,” and that the town was “just around the corner,” which we soon realized was his way of keeping our spirits up and was not an accurate time estimate! Nevertheless, we did make it into town and to our hotel (which, of course was upstairs). We got out of our super muddy wet clothes, took a shower in water that could only be described as “not cold” and then got ready for dinner. Dinner with everyone was really fun, and delicious….Alex got all of us a pisco sour and we cheers’d to an awesome trek, the best guide in the world, and hope for dry weather in Machu Picchu the following day.

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