06 April 2015

The ABCs of Salkantay

A: Alpaca Expeditions

This was the amazing tour company with which I booked my trek. They took care of us and                   made sure we had an amazing experience.


B: Boots

For a trek like Salkantay, my boots were my lifeline. Mine were made  by Keen and well broken in. They were waterproof and comfortable. I bought some moldable arch supports to make them even more  efficient for me.


C: Coca

Served as tea or just chewing the leaves, the Coca helped with  acclimation to the altitude. The flavor was a lot like green tea and we  were awoken every morning with a steaming, hot, sweet glass to get  our day going.


D: Diamox

Worried about altitude sickness, I went to my travel doctor before the  trip and he prescribed me Diamox to help combat the symptoms. It  worked wonderfully and the altitude caused me very few problems  throughout the trip.


E: Elevation

Our Salkantay trek ranged in elevation from 5,971 feet (1,820 meters)  to 15,157 feet (4,620 meters).


F: Five / Four

The Salkantay trek lasted for five days / four nights.


G: Guide

The guide on my trek was Simon Puma. Puma was an amazing trail  guide, he taught us so much, encouraged us and was a friend. Plus he  played  his Peruvian flute for us.


H: Hiking Poles

I was able to rent these from Alpaca Expeditions. They were, for me,  absolutely vital for all of the downhill switchbacks.


I: Insects

Some of the hike is in the jungle and insects (especially the biting  kinds) become an issue. I used a natural insect repellent made with  Eucalyptus and suffered one bite. Many of my co-hikers used Deet- laden repellents and they were bitten up. I also pre-treated my outer  layers of clothes with repellent designed for clothes before I went to  Peru.


J: Jungle

The hike took us through many terrains including the jungle. In the  jungle the humidity was high, plants overgrown and insects were  active.


K: Kitchen

We may have been hiking in the middle of nowhere, but we had a Chef  and 3 porters with us. Our Chef, Herman, was able to concoct the most amazing dishes in the primitive kitchen space he had available. I felt  like I was eating at a 5 star restaurant for every meal.


L: Layers

The weather on Salkantay changed frequently. Sometimes we were  freezing cold, wearing gloves, hats, scarves and several fleeces. Other  times it was hot and the sun was beating down. For that reason, I  always dressed in layers. To further protect my skin from the sun and  insects, my innermost layer was always a long-sleeved, white wicking  shirt from Patagonia.


M: Machu Picchu

This ancient Incan city was the goal of our journey. Being on the  Salkantay trek, not only did I get to see it up close, but also I saw it  from afar, from an side most tourists rarely view it from.


N: Nature

Going from the rocky high-altitude Andes to the Cloud Forest to the  Jungle, the nature we saw was so varied. I got to see Citronella  growing wild, bright colored flowers, butterflies, chinchillas, coffee and  coca plants as well as raging water, mountain peaks and panoramic  views.


O: Only Ones

 During the trek pretty much the only people we saw were those in our group, we rarely saw others. The day we arrived in Hidroelectrico and saw other tourists our solitude ended. I missed it.

P: Porters

Alpaca Expeditions provided us with 3 porters (and 2 horsemen for the  first half of the trek) to carry our gear. These men were amazing – not  only did they carry so much more weight than we did, but they arrived  at our site faster, set it up AND cooked our meal – usually before we  had even arrived.


Q: Quechal

This is the native language of many individuals in Peru, especially those  who live in the Salkantay area. We learned how to say ‘hello’, ‘let’s go’  and ‘thank you’.


R: Rain

My trek took place at the end of the rainy season. It was still quite  rainy. We experienced rain daily and most nights it rained on our tents.  The rain also caused landslides, mudslides, rockslides and washed out  trails and roads. We did have magic ponchos - every time we put them  on, the rain stopped! 

S: Sun

Yes, of course we had rain, but we also had sun. As Peru is near the  equator, the sun was intense. I wore a lot of sunblock, SPF 50. I also  wore long sleeves even in the warmer, more humid climate of the  jungle. I only ended up with a small bit of sunburn on my ears, nothing  more.

T: Terrain

The terrain we traveled was varied. We started at very high altitudes  and rocky trails, we moved into the cloud forest and then into the  jungle. Trails were often muddy, rocky, slick or all three. 

U: Untergrowth

While hiking we saw so much undergrowth on the trails around us. As  a result, we could also see how easy it was for a city such as Machu  Picchu to be completely hidden for centuries.

V: Views

On this hike, the views I had were unlike any others. Our third night  campsite was on a cliff with a panoramic view of the mountains.  During the third and fourth days we had views of Machu Picchu from  the side, unlike those most tourists have.

W: Water

Water is vital to survival. Out in the mountains, we had water all  around us in the form of rain, waterfalls, rivers and more. However  drinking water had to be boiled. Before every meal and every morning  upon awaking, we were given a small bucket of hot water with which  we could wash our hands.

X: eXceeding eXpectations

My Salkantay expedition was amazing, it exceeded my expectations  and pushed me to exceed my own expectations of myself. I am so glad  that I took this opportunity! 

Y: Yucca

Peruvian dishes are known for containing potatoes, and when  potatoes were not used, yucca roots were eaten like potatoes.  Sometimes we even had both.

Z: Zig-Zag

Our trails were full of switchbacks that zigged and zagged up and down  the mountains. 

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