It was a rainy night, quite usual on Salkantay trail, but our rented tent survived it and did not even leak. It was not even necessary to use an alarm on the phone, local rooster did the job. There were at least four of them and one of them got cold or something, because when he started to crow we were laughing hard.
Morning at the plantation
We had quite a pleasant morning. First of all, we talked with Juliet, girl we met the day before. She told us a lot about herself, her travels and her struggle with Spanis language. To make things even better we got a breakfast, local bread filled with mashed avocado (which was growing right there) and fried eggs. It was delicious. I can’t forget to mention coffee, since we were at the small plantation. It was one of the best coffees I ever had in my life.
After breakfast we had a quick tour through the plantation, saw and tasted fresh coffee beens. Had a look at the machinery and process of coffee preparation. It was really interesting.
Well fed and refreshed it was time to go. It was quite a long way to Aguas Calientes.
Up through the cloud forest
First (shorter) part of the way lead up, all the way through the cloud forest. It was hot and humid and as usual there were loads of tourists. Still it was quite a nice walk, lot of trees and different sounds.
There were two interesting places on the way. First one was mirador Llactapata – it is possible to see Machu Picchu from this place. Of course only when weather is good and I’d say when you have binoculars. There were no clouds, so I saw the mysterious town on top of the hill on the other side of the valley. Our old friend Juliet was also there, she was kind enough to take a picture of us before she run away.
Refreshed and little rested it was time to move on, another important place was waiting. Llactapata – archeological place with some semirepaired ruins. It was probably important rest stop on the way to Machu Picchu. Site probably served other purposes too, like astronomical and religious. It was first archelogical place on Salkantay trail.
There were few tourists group listening to their guides and resting. We did not want to spent too much time there and decided to continue walking. To everyones amusement we got lost, right there and could not find way out. Instead we walked around whole archeological place, which was quite difficult at some places, and returned back in front of other tourists. I think we had to ask someone which way to go.
Down to the river
I was looking forward for the descend. It felt like most of the journey was uphill and with heavy backpacks it was not easy. So going down should be much easier. But I was wrong. At first it was not too bad, nice trail not very steep. Sadly it did not last long. Road was getting muddy and more slippery. I lost my footing and ended up sitting on my arse. Guys right behind me were quite concerned if I am all right, it was actually quite nice to see that people care about others. I was not hurt, just little bit muddy.
Road was getting more steep now and surprisingly it did not mean faster walking. Exactly the opposite, slow down and watch every step, because falling down now would mean more than just dirty arse.
It felt like forever, down, down and down again. My knees were crying even more than when thay had to support my body and backpack on the uphill parts. I did not cry because I am tough men, but I said some rude words (silently in my head).
Roughly half way through was small sitting area with a kisok. Richer tourists were buying cold drinks from the bucket filled with ice. We drank our stale water and ate some fruit. Little rested and hydrated we were on the way again.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, we heard buzzing sound. Insect was obvious suspect. At first we ignored it but when it lasted more than fifteen minutes we started to look around. Sound was strong so we thought it should be something big. It was coming from the tree tops. We were searching but saw nothing. Then it hit us, there were power lines going through the forest and they were source of the buzzing. That was probably most exciting part of the journey down.
It felt like eternity but we made it all the way down to the river and its rickety bridge. From there it was few kilometers around the mountain to Hidroelectrica. Which is, I think, the end of Salkantay trail.
On (in?) the mountain mentioned above is some magical source of water which drives water power plant. It is possible to see some concrete structures and water overflow – huge waterfall. There are even some signs on the road telling people that there might be sudden and unexpected flesh flood.
There was one more surprise in front of us. Not far from the station is a small hut with police / army officers. They want to see passports and it is necessary to write down names into the book. No problem with that, at least they know how many tourists visit the place. Unless your passport is somewhere at the bottom of overfilled backpack (which was my case).
Passports checked and names written into the book we finally arrived to Hidroelectrica. It is a small train station with few buildings around – shops, restaurants and even some accomodation. We bought some fruit and rested (again). I must say that fruit was unbelievably cheap there, so if you have space buy it here rather than in Aguas Calientes.
It was almost the end. As I mentioned in other article train tickets were expensive. For that reason we decided to walk from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes. This final part leads along the rails, there are no hills or deep valleys. Nice and level walk with amazing views at the peaks around.
Getting out of the station is little bit challenge as there are multiple paths leading out of there. I think all of them lead in the same direction but you never know. So usual struggle to find the right one and we were on the way.
At the beginning there is a nice path next to the rails, easy to spot and easy to follow. Lot of signs forbidding people to walk on the rails or ride a bicycle. It was probably rush hour because there were loads of people coming from the oposit direction. They were heading for the buses back to Cusco. This is a long and dangerous way back to Cusco but much cheaper.
Along the way are small kiosks offering lot of different products like icecream, fresh fruits, drink and even full lunch menus. We also met few stray dogs. One of them was extra friendly and followed us all the way to Aguas Calientes. He was small, black and fluffy. We called him “Čert” which means Devil in Czech. Our own private guide.
We walked rougly ten kilometers before we got to our destination. When we arrived it was like different world. Unbeliavable amount of tourists, luxurious hotels and restaurants, bars and souveniers shops.
That was the end of Salkantay trail. Amazing, challenging but unforgettable adventure.
More about Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu in another post.