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Trekking in the Andes - Salkantay: Day 1

Mollepata, Peru

Day 1:
5am - I've been up for about an hour, having had a little more than 3hrs of sleep. We take a taxi and wait to board the bus to our trek's starting point. It's eerily silent outside except for stray drunken tourists and the faint sound of a disco still going strong. We board the bus and take off. Driving up and down winding mountain roads with cliffs on either side. We pass by a few small satelite towns and I notice a soccer match going on well before dawn. It is still very dark, though from beyond the mountains you can begin to see a rim of blue light that is slowly rising. It is cold. Glad that I bought those 2 dollar mittens from the market yesterday.

There's some delay going on with the bus and the guides are arguing about a taxi or something. The sun is now starting to rise, but unfortunately our view is obstructed by the gas station we are stuck at.

We jolt forward. That's better. The scenery looks gorgeous now with a little sunlight. There are towering snow-capped mountains appearing off in the distance. Maybe that's where we're going.

10pm: Sitting in our tent now after a long day of hiking. Around 8 hours of it. We started off with a nice breakfast in a mountain town called Mollepata and then continued by truck to the start of our trail. The truck ride was crazy - we were loaded on the back of the pickup and it rocked up and down a cliff side dirt road for about 30 min. Once we almost hit a pack of donkeys, and about 10 minutes later almost hit another truck full of donkeys barreling down the same single track road. Yikes. Then we started the hike. Today was mostly a flat hike day, and we are told tomorrow is by far the toughest - basically all uphill for 9 hours! The scenery was gorgeous, we hiked alongside a mountain that overlooked a giant valley/canyon with a stream running underneath it. Off in the distance we began to see the snowcaps. It was warm and very sunny throughout the day. We stopped for lunch and had a great 3 course meal prepared by our tour's cook. Then we continued on and finally turned a corner and saw the might Salkantay in the distance.

Salkantay means "Savage Mountain" in the indigenous language because on the opposite side it leads down into the jungle. The Salkantay route has been used for hundreds of years as a way to transport goods from mountain town to town. It stretches about 60km (around 40miles) from end to end, the highlight of which is the ascent to Salkantay pass at around 15,000ft, which passes right by the peak of the mountain.

Happy to report that I feel completely acclimatized at this point. We finally reached basecamp #1 as the sun began to shy away and the temps dropped. We have a tent that was set up by our porters, which is pretty nice if a bit snug. We've got a happy hour in a few minutes with tea and popcorn, and then dinner a bit later. Tomorrow we start at 5am for the long ascent up to Salcantay pass.

permalink written by  bhkann on August 8, 2010 from Mollepata, Peru
from the travel blog: Peru 2010
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