It was our first morning in the mountains. We were feeling much better after previous night terrible cold and rainy weather. Bed was comfortable and we were able to keep warm under multiple heavy blankets.
We packed our stuff and were ready to start our hike. Before that just one short stop at the toilets (they were outside) – and little surprise there were no toilet seats. We saw it for the first time but during our journey we realized that is a normal thing in rural areas of Peru. When I was leaving toilet bus full of tourists arrived, one local gentleman positioned himself in front of the toilets and was charging everyone who wanted to use them. He also asked me for money but I told him, that we paid for a night in the hostel and we are not going to pay extra for the toilet. He probably agreed.
Visiting Humantay lake
We planned to visit Humantay lake, on the pictures all over the Cusco travel agencies it is magical blue lake in the middle of mountains which are quite often covered in snow. It looked beautiful. It is not a big detour, somewhere around 2 – 3km each way from the main trail leading to Salkantay pass. Lake is quite high above the sea – at 4200 meters.
When we started Sun was shining again, it looked like we might be lucky and have a nice day without rain. We were not the only ones who though that. Trail was full of tourists, travel agents and mules / horses – carrying either tourists or their backpacks or goods.
First few kilometers were quite easy, not very steep and not so busy, we got ahead of the main crowd. Difficulty changed once we got to the place where Humantay lake detour starts. At the base of the hill is a huge camp (“village” is called Soray) with a restaurant and shops.
From there it goes steeply up to the lake. It did not look steep at first. After few hundred meters with our fully loaded backpacks it was a different story. Each step was getting harder and harder (and steeper). First groups of tourists which arrived in the morning were getting closer (I’d say it was because they had only light day packs). It was like that almost all the way to the top. We had few breaks to catch a breath and drink some water.
View at the lake
Final part was quite a challenge, not only it was much steeper but the path was very sandy and slippery. It looked like that bad step will lead to a fall. But we made it! All the way to the lake. And what we saw took our breath away. Lake was really small and shore was already crowded by tourists. There was no snow around and almost no traces of the glacier. To make it even better Sun hid behind a cloud so that magical blue water which we saw in town was not there.
Even though it was not what we expected, we enjoyed it. We made it to the lake with heavy bag packs (it was a good training for hike through Salkantay pass). We saw a lake which was recommended by most of the agencies in Cusco and in the end we kept ahead of lighter equipped tourist groups with professional guides.
We had a quick snack, took few pictures and had some rest. After that it was time to go back and head to the camp under the Salkantay pass. We wanted to buy more water at the Soray camp. We did not know if we meet another store before we cross the pass. It was quite shocking when they wanted 10 pesos for 2 liters of water. Same bottle costs 2 pesos in Cusco, even in Mollepata village. But there was nothing else to do.
Going to camp
We had to walk another 3 to 4 kilometers to get to the last camp before the pass. Not a big challenge. But it has changed when we were leaving camp at Soray. It started to rain again. Mild drizzle at first but it was getting stronger. We put on a ponchos (getting it over the backpack is not as easy as it sound) and kept walking. It did not help much, as they did not cover our legs. Soon we were wet and cold again.
We were looking for some cover to wait until it stops raining or at least it is a drizzle again. There were not many shelters to hide. But we found one. There was a place under one huge rock. Not much space, roughly one meter between ground and a “ceiling”. So we crawled under it and realized that it was used as a toilet by many hikers before. Quite a lot of toilet paper and some brown surprises in different state of decomposition. We were lucky not to touch or sit into any of that. Still it was better to sit there (and not move much around) then walk in the rain.
Heavy rain did not last too long so we were able to get out of there and continue our journey. Even Sun appeared for a while and warmed us.
We arrived to the place which should have been a camp we were heading to (maps told us so). But it did not look like a camp at all. There were some buildings and fences made of stone. One of the building was half opened and two natives guys were selling souvenirs and snacks there. We asked them about the camp, they told us that this is the place and for 20 pesos we can put our tent behind the rock fence. Place was really small, dirty and close to another building, which was their “house”. It felt little scary as we were only ones there.
We decided to walk little bit more, as further up it looked like there might be another place suited for camping. We went there to check it out. It was not any better, field was quite muddy after the rain. So we went back, paid 20 pesos and started to put up our tent. There was a tiny roof, so we put our tent underneath it. Tent was a borrowed thing which remembered better times.
Two more couples arrived so we were not alone there. There was a beautiful view from that place at the mountains around. Some peaks covered in snow and evening Sun painting them red.
Lets end it here, in the following post we will have some fun with a piglet and will finally cross the Salkantay pass.