It was written on the side of the fridge – Part 2


It was written on the side of Heather’s fridge. “Walk the Inca Trail”. This was one of a dozen things she had to do “before I die”!                                           .                                            

Heather now  continues the story!

Part 2: The Salkantay Trail

Present: Heather & Tim Eastwood, Sandra & Mel Wilkinson.

With the Colca canyon conquered we returned to Arequipa for a brief afternoon of sight seeing with an amazing visit to the museum to see Juanita the Ice Princess who was sacrificed on the summit of Ampato over 500 years ago.

All too soon it was time to move on to Cusco, another 4am start (a theme was starting to emerge at this point) and Mel’s military organisation saw us arrive at the airport before the airport staff had arrived. After a minor hitch at security - Mel trying to sneak dangerous weapons (very small nail scissors) onto the plane we flew onwards to Cusco with fantastic aerial views of Puno (the Peruvian lake district).  A short journey from the airport saw us dropped off at the bottom of a narrow street which would take us to the hostel. Never has 200m seemed so long, we had definitely landed at altitude. A few days to acclimatise, sample the culture (and the beer) and then another 4am start and we were on our way to the start of the Salkantay Trek.

Salkantay means 'savage mountain'. At a height of 6271m (20573 ft) it is the highest peak in the Vilcabamba mountain range and one of the highest in the Andes and is situated to the north-east of the city of Cusco. The aim was to climb up to 5100m/16495ft, taking in the beautiful views of beautiful Andean landscapes with the possibility of observing condors, alpacas and other Andean animals in their natural habitats, before connecting with the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Arriving at Mollepato breakfast was taken while the porters and horseman got organised. A leisurely walk of about 4 hours saw us to the first campsite at Marqocasa (3500m/11482ft ). With the first day complete, tents pitched and bowls of hot water delivered to our tents happy hour was called. No this was not cheap drinks at the local bar but time to replenish the energy stores with hot chocolate, popcorn and other assorted goodies, unfortunately this was shortly followed by our evening meal  (3 courses of the most amazing food) and it soon became clear that any hope of loosing weight by trekking at altitude was a none starter.

Resting at the Incachiriaska Pass

Day 2 saw another early start with one of the longest and hardest days ahead. From Marqocasa we were heading up to 4600m to Pampa 500m below the pass. After a gentle start my naff feet didn’t fail to let me down and within the first 30 minutes my blisters had already started to develop. Feet fettled, we followed some of the ancient Inca water channels before lunch was taken at Soray Pampa (another 3 course extravagance) with impressive views of the snow-capped mountains of Humantay (5917m/19412ft) Tucarway (5910m/19389ft) Rayuska (5350m/17552ft) and Salkantay (6271/20573ft). That after dinner feeling was intensified as the terrain became steeper and rocker, our pace slowed and the higher we got the slower we got, all with the exception of Sandra who like a little mountain goat bounded ahead and shouted words of encouragement. Even our guide complained “Sandra you are killing me, you walk too fast”. Shortly after hitting camp over looking the glaciers a large thunderous sound of an avalanche was heard in the distance.

On route to Paucarkancha,

Day 3. Yes you guessed it another early start and a short walk to the highest point at Incachiriaska Pass where we had a magnificent view of Salkantay as well as of remarkably-coloured small lakes which are located on the sides of this imposing snow-capped mountain. By this time my feet were failing fast so, when in Peru do as the Peruvians do - boots off, sandals on, then onwards to Paucarkancha, camp 3. On route we began to see the first signs of the Inca civilisation with look out posts and ruined buildings.

Day 4 saw us descend further into the valley towards the archaeological site of 'Paucarcancha' where magnificent agricultural terraces can be found, then on  towards the village of Wayllabamba. After 3 days of seeing no other trekkers we now began to see more groups. At Wayllabamba we joined the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and our horseman and mules were replaced by porters. A short distance beyond the start saw our campsite for the night. An early finish gave us chance to relax and do a little washing, Sandra still marvels at Tim’s dedication to washing my socks and the porters chuckled as the filthy river of water ran from my socks. Another early night ready for another early start but I’ll leave that section of the journey to Mel.

Heather Eastwood


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