After 6 Month travelling through Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and California coming to Peru has been kind of challenging for us. There is always a big difference travelling through countries you can communicate and those where you have no clue about the language – sure it is obvious – but you tend to forget what it really means if buying a bus ticket is becoming a major challenge for you. Also travelling that long was making us very lazy, as we had seen so much stuff in the last years we made no preparation for coming to South America at all. Basically we chose Peru because it was just the easiest and by far cheapest South American country to fly to from the US.
Arriving in Lima we were kind of frustrated. It felt too big, it felt strange but also not strange enough. Anyhow we haven’t planed to stay there at all – we basically had two goals in Peru: seeing Machu Picchu and the Lake Titicaca ( I don’t know why but I wanted to see this one ever since). To do this there are not too many options, the most common one and the one we chose is to go to Cusco first. That’s where it hit us. Cusco was everything we were dreaming about when thinking of South America in the first place. Yes it is kind of overrun with tourists and of course for many of the 200.000 locals in Cusco tourism is their business. But on the other side Cusco is just so beautiful also the choice of restaurants is pretty awesome. So during the first days we did nothing but having breakfast and dinner – cause Cusco already is on 3,200m altitude you just don’t have the power to explore anything at all. Thanks to our trip to Lhasa one year ago we were happy to be prepared and followed the rules to get used to the altitude as soon as possible:
RULE 1: drink drink drink … on 3,200m you need a lot more water – 5 Liter will be the minimum per day
RULE 2: relax… every step is like a complete workout, so keep calm and move slowly
RULE 3: eat healthy and not too much… As moving is hard so is digestion, thus don’t eat heavy stuff and don’t eat too much
After we gathered some information we made the plan to make a 4 day hiking trip to Machu Picchu instead of just taking the bus. We chose to book this trip with an agency. However we met people who did this trip alone but you should speak a bit more Spanish than we do 😉 Because of the altitude we spend 5 days in Cusco before we left for Machu Picchu. We got picked up at our hostel at 5 am in the morning. After 2 or 3 hours by car we had a little breakfast at a very small town close to the start of the Salkantay Trek. We chose the Salkantay Trek because the traditional route to Machu Picchu was just overbooked. Thanks to our horse man we only had to carry some small backpacks with water, snacks and some clothes (including rain jackets).
Day One was pretty relaxed – we did not had a lot of vertical meters to climb and our small group of 4 arrived at the campsite quite early and most important just before the rain started for the first time. The food was decent and they always made a vegetarian dish for me as well.
Day Two – or why I also hate Peru -has been much more challenging. We went up to above 4000m, it was cold and rainy. We started with a lot of other groups and the first part of the day was really crowded. After the lunch this changed we were totally alone – our guide was in front of us with the 3rd guy from our group and we had hardly seen him for the whole time. It was a really beautiful hike but it wen’t down for ages. The Salkantay Trek is very unbalanced – while you have a short and mostly flat walk on day one and 3 and nearly no walking on day 4, day 2 is having it all. Roughly 24km – starting with a very steep and exhausting uphill section to 4,000m and then most of it down down down – after 18km I felt my knee pretty badly and as I have problems with this damn knee for many years I knew that this will give me a hard time just when I felt the first pain ( This was a pretty important day for me as it completely killed my training for the last year and let to canceling the planed Trans Alp challenge later this year ).
Day Three: Thanks to day 2 I spent this one in the car – which for me was a huge nightmare – there is nothing worse for me than having to give things up and not be able to finish a challenge I once started – however since the last year what I do in those moments is to tell myself:
Common you cycled to f##king China, don’t bother with that shit
Day 4 started with a real challenge if you feel about heights like I do – I went to a tree climbing park before and I was close to shit in my pants for an 8m high zippline. That day it was a height of 300m !!!! I guess the only reason why I did this was that it was just too unreal – it was more like playing the last Tomb Raider all over again – just without extra lifes. After this challenge we started hiking again… mostly along an old but still used train route getting closer and closer to Machu Picchu. Crossing a big bridge over the river you could already see some of the remains just on top of the mountain.
Day 5 we decided to not walk up to the entrance of Machu Picchu and saved our energy for the top of Huyana Picchu, the mountain you can see on most postcards in the back of Machu Picchu. Being to Machu Picchu you can do some extra hike which bring you above the ruins and allow you to take awesome pictures – we highly recommend to make the „Huyana Picchu Hike.“ You have a much better view – but it is kind of challenging and very steep in some parts. Also there is a limited number of people allowed to ascend per day thus you have to book the trek in advance.