There are few things I have done in my travels that have truly challenged me….Trekking to Machu Picchu was one of them.
Machu Picchu, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, has always been on the top of my bucket list. I have wanted to see the ancient ruins with my own eyes for quite some time, which compelled me to take a risk and book a trip to Peru. When my friend Kelsey and I decided to sign up for a four-day trek to Machu Picchu with Salkantay Trekking, we didn’t know exactly what we were getting ourselves into. Little did I know it would turn out to be one of my proudest accomplishments to date, but would also physically and mentally challenge me like I’ve never been challenged before.
Here is my experience on the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, Peru!
Day One: “Lets get to trekking!” Walk: 12 km/ 7.45 Miles
I will admit that the first time I fully understood the magnitude of the hike I was about to embark on, I ended up shaking in my boots. Just walking around Cusco, while acclimating to the altitude, had me huffing and puffing. How was I ever going to last four days on a trailhead? Ready or not, our trip began as we were picked up early at our hotel and driven to our starting point in Challacancha.
After meeting our horseman, local tour guide, chefs, and fellow group members from all over the world, (which we soon became the best of friends with), we grabbed our packs and began the trek!
We hiked until we reached our first campsite where we had lunch. The second half of the day was spent hiking to Humantay Lake. The whole way up I was wondering if this “lake” would be worth it. When we finally reached the lake I was left speechless by its beauty. The grueling trek was absolutely worth it!
Our first night we were ecstatic to sleep in our own personal glass domes. The domes are glass dwellings built to show off the peak of Salktantay Mountain and the night sky. They beat a tent by a long shot and provide an unmatched view of the stars that will surely take your breath away (and not just because you’re at high altitude).
Day Two: “We are going up where???” 22 km/ 13.7 Miles
We were woken up in the wee hours of the morning with hot Coca Tea to get our day started. Whatever was in store for me, whatever was coming my way, all I knew was I could not give up no matter what.
The trek to the summit of Salkantay Mountain pushed me to my limits. The steepness of the seemingly endless switchbacks was overwhelming but, luckily, our guide was there to help and reminded us to go at our own pace and listen to our bodies. When we reached the summit, all of the pain, all of the thoughts of turning back, vanished. As I gazed upon the snowy crest of Salkantay, I was instilled with a euphoria that lasted the rest of the trip.
What comes up must come down! After giving Salkantay its much deserved time, our descent through the Andean Mountains began. The layers of clothing started to come off as we put the snow-capped mountain behind us and started toward the Peruvian Jungle. That evening we ate and drank like royalty, celebrating our great accomplishment of the day, Peruvian style.
Day Three: “I can do anything!” 26 km/ 16.1 Miles
On the morning of day three, I woke with confidence. After making it to the summit of Salkantay, I knew I could accomplish anything that was sent my way. However, I was secretly relieved to be greeted by a much more mild day filled with a trek through the tip of the Amazon jungle and along the Peru Rail train tracks. The jungle heat was an intense contrast to the biting cold of snow-capped Salkantay and with the heat came the bugs, lots of them. We soon became very familiar with the smell of bug spray and sunscreen. At midday we were overcome by a new aroma, coffee! For lunch, we stopped at a coffee bean farm and learned the entire process of coffee making, from picking the beans to sipping a self-made Cup of Joe.
Day three’s final destination was the town of Aguas Calientes. The hotel was a welcome sight, can you say hot shower!? Our last dinner was filled with bittersweet moments, as we had all grown as a group and dreaded the eventual end of the trip.
Day Four: “Machu Picchu baby!”
On the fourth and final day it was finally time to explore Machu Picchu. We were allowed to enter the ancient Incan ruins at 6:00 am, so we made sure to be one of the first groups there as to explore uninterrupted. My first glimpse of the iconic ruins was striking, and what I had accomplished to get there made it even more magical!
I knew the trek to Machu Picchu was going to be an adventure of a lifetime. I knew I would feel extremely accomplished once we made it to the ruins. What I didn’t know was how humbling it would be. I didn’t know I would be so touched by the local people along the way. I didn’t expect to cross paths with people who would touch my heart. Adventures like this are what I continue to search and travel for. It’s moments like these that NO amount of money can buy. It’s moments like these that make me a better person. Some call it an addiction. I call it LIVING.
I haven’t been prouder to cross an item off my bucket list!
Trek to Machu Picchu: Complete!
#OneWorldBucketList – Now tell me, what’s on your bucket list??