The 5-day Salkantay hike, from Mollepata to Machu Picchu, is the biggest thing I've done so far on my world trip. It's also the biggest hike I've done so far in my life. All up, the hike was an overwhelming success. There were a few bumps and hurdles along the way; but in the end, they were nothing that spoiled the trip, and they were everything that made the trip, and that made the story of this part of my journey. After having finished the hike, I feel (unsurprisingly!) very tired, but also very satisfied.
Nice cuppa maté de coca for lunch, on day 1.
Salkantay, in my opinion, is one of the best hikes around, for a number of reasons:
- The natural scenery is constant, varied, and beautiful.
- Local culture and lifestyle surrounds you and, to some extent, permeates you (hey, you're doing what the locals do every day — walking for ages through the middle of nowhere!). You get to see a traditional and ancient way of life that is a rare sighting in most big, organised tours.
- You travel with other people who are also prepared for — and who are even looking for — a challenge. When amongst such people, everyone ends up pushing the limits of what they can physically do, and everyone comes out stronger at the end.
- You get the luxury of a tourguide, porters, meal preparation, etc.
- You get to sing "Waltzing Matilda" with crazy, drunk Belgians.
- You get to see Machu Picchu at the end of it all.
Of course, it's the people you're with that really make (or break) any experience, and I was very fortunate to be with a friendly, enthusiastic, and close-knit group. No doubt, we'll all be staying in contact long after this; and I already have plans to pop in and visit most of my fellow group members, when I reach Europe later in the year.
Climbing mountains and wading rivers brings you together in a very special way.
After we finished seeing Machu Picchu this morning, the 5-day hike and tour was more or less over. We got the shuttle bus back to Aguas Calientes, where we had an extended lunch, and where we said our thankyous and farewells. Then, we all got the train back to Cusco, although all at various times — so I ended up going back on my own. Which was fine, because I was buggered, anyway.
The only thing I have left to say is this. "Am I going to do more hikes and adventures after this? Hell yeah!"