Day one of the Salkantay trek started promptly to the sound of our collective harmonious alarms at 4:00 AM. It wasn’t that hard to wake up given the enormity of the day’s task. We received a knock on our door from one of the guides and quickly proceeded to check in our big backpacks. All we would bring with us were clothes, extra shoes, sunscreen, snacks, and a lot of insect repellent.
We walked outide the hostel to see dusk over the sleeping city. We were accompanied by two Aussies- a couple, Donny & Steph, with whom we would quickly become friends. We walked down to Plaza de San Francisco where the rest of our group slowly came together. We boarded the bus and drove up a windy mountain to the small town of Mollapata.
We arrived a couple of hours later and sat down for a quick breakfast at a mom ‘n’ pop restaurant. After loading up our 5 kg. limit bags onto the mules, we gathered outside for a quick briefing where our guides, Gean Paul and Daniel introduced themselves. We would come to know Gean as he man constantly attacked by the giggle-moster. Daniel, the quieter of the two, wound up being one of the coolest persons we’ve met so far.
And so our journey began with 5 days and 55.5 miles standing in our way. The hike began uphill through the back alleys of the small town. We eventually reached a mountain road that we would take most of the way up besides the “shortcuts.” The firrst very noticeable thing about the journey was we had to be careful about every step- the rocks were big enough that if you walked on it wrong, you would definitely twist your ankle or take a gracious stumble. Another very noticeable aspect of the roads we traversed was that they all had a significant amount of animal feces scattered in every possible spots. From dog, to mule, to cow, to llama, to alpaca, and Lord knows what/who else, shit was everywhere (excuse the language, you beautiful folks).
After about an hour uphill, we were pretty high up the mountain. The town was out of sight, but the view we could see was of the valley below and the mountains behind and ahead of us. We took a rest on a grassy patch where a brief moment of silence allowed us all to hear the birds chirping and the wind moving by us. It only lasted about five seconds, but it was enough to make everyone realize how farly-disconnected from nature “civilization” we had become.
On we went, up and up and up. We channeled our inner Bear Grylls and climbed rocks, pulled our feet through thick mud, and hiked further up the intimidating mountain side. If these first couple of hours were any indication of the rest of our journey, were in for a long five days. We stopped atop a smaller mountain peak with a panoramic view. It was then we also had the pleasure of experiencing the magic of Francisco.
Francisco, a late 40’s? Peruvian male with a wide-grinned smile, was luckily for us, the chef for our trek. He whipped up some of the best meals we’ve had to date from two portable burners and zero help. Our first meal consisted of a divine creamy chicken broth/quinoa soup, chicken, rice, potatoes, and coca tea. Our hard work had been rewarded with some dank foods.
The sun really began to get it’s shine on and, the multiple layers of jackts and shirts we amassed slowly came off. The next day, we would all feel the repercussions of skin sans sunscreen. Several hours later, after hiking up and down trails, we came to a giant green pasture in the valley of two mountain. Up ahead we caught a glimpse of the Salkantay Mountain that stood ahead.
We walked past a cabin-resort that had a giant satellite and horses roaming the hillside. About ten minutes later, we arrived to our not-so-upscale-campsite. A large tin roof covered our tents and stretched past our dining room tablea s well. Clouds began to gather above and the chiliness of a sunless land crept in. We ate a magnificent dinner by candlelight and soon went to sleep, or at least tried to. Light rain began to clatter on the tin roof like a Shirley Temple tap dance routine. Five minutes later, the rain began to pour down hard. It was somewhat comforting at first, but the lightning and thuner were unavoidably bright and loud. As we lay in our tent, I remember the old rule of thumb about estimating the distance of the lightning… one happened to be to miles away. It felt like, what I imagine to be, a huge bomb exploded near by.
Mother Nature and her fury ran wild for hours. The next morning would bring us blue skies and a clear view of the amount of snow that had fallen that night.