For the groups of gringos that regularly do it, the Salkantay hike is a fun and challenging trek through the remote and exotic mountains of Peru. It's an adventure. But the hiking path isn't there for us. All the way along this seemingly middle-of-nowhere path, there are people (and animals) living and working. For these locals, the path is their main thoroughfare. For them, leading a pack of horses and donkeys along a winding mountain path for 5 hours straight, is like driving along the freeway to the CBD for us.
Passing traffic on the highway.
All the way along the Salkantay hike so far, we've passed (or been passed by) locals, who are often leading groups of animals with them, and who are simply going about their everyday lives. They don't think of walking through the mountains as "fun". They think of it as getting from A to B, in the only possible way (around here), and in the only way they know.
You don't see too many cars on this highway — horses seem to be more common.
To someone who lives in a Western country, or even in an urban area anywhere in the world, this seems crazy. How can people reside and make a living, in an area where a narrow, steep, winding dirt path is the main road? But they do. They have very little, but they get by around here. The highlands of Peru may seem like a ridiculous place to live, but there's barely a mountain in the whole damn country that's uninhabited. In this most unlikely of environments, there are people everywhere.