Thursday, May 23, 2013

To Peru

I like maps. And taking breaks from planning, but mostly maps.
After loads of planning, researching through blogs, paying for plane tickets in cash, and frazzled excitement over the past two months, Katie and I are finally embarking on our major trekking trip—we’re going to PERU!

Casa nueva!
When Katie and Taylor came over to make chocolate chip banana pancakes
and watch Game of Thrones.
I had zero plans of going to Machu Picchu during my time on the South American continent and honestly had no clue whatsoever of what I wanted to do after leaving Chilean Patagonia. When you accomplish your number one life goal with flying colors by your twenty-first birthday, other plans just don’t come to mind. I lived in Torres del Paine, I can die happy now, right? Well, turns out, this has opened up my horizons for what I could possibly want to tackle next with complete freedom of mind and newfound confidence in my ability to go for almost anything, really, as long as I give it my best.

Buying plane tickets in cash a few months ago...
My good friends Sarah and Kate in Patagonia raved about the Salkantay trek they had done in December, so months later I decided to look into it as a possibility for the intercambio student break in May. If two weathered trekkers can say a trail was the best they had ever hiked after just completing the Paine circuit, you know it must be pretty spectacular. The trail is a permit-free alternative to the Inca Trail at higher altitude and lesser crowds in our small post-wet and pre-tourist season window of late May. Problem? Flights to Peru were well over a thousand US dollars and completely not an option. After a few weeks of tossing ideas around with Katie, we realized that we could get a cheaper option in the LAN office in Mendoza, use the blue market US dollar to Argentine peso exchange rate (~8.3:1USD rather than 5:1USD. Best thing ever.), and manage to barter the round-trip ticket down to US$370 including tax. We bought the tickets in cash at the office within eight hours of finding that price. Boom. We were officially going to Peru!

So now we are set to be in the country for ten days: time spent acclimating in Cusco, five days on the Salkantay trail, roll our way out of the backcountry at the base of Machu Picchu in Aguas Calientes, take a train to Ollantaytambo for more Incan ruins, then back onto an overnight plane for our South American home. We both are so excited but I still haven’t quite realized that this is happening: I think I’ll realize it once the high altitude headache sets in, and hopefully will not end up with a severe case of AMS. Nevertheless, you never know until you try, so here goes!

Fairly to-scale map found on the internet. Looking forward to finding a proper topo in Cusco.

The Salkantay trek, although boasted as one of National Geographic’s 25 Best Treks in the World, is not a very well-documented undertaking at all. Thanks to a head start of information that Sarah and Kate emailed to me, Katie and I have pulled together a pretty solid itinerary that is 70% for our own information and 30% to inform our parents of our whereabouts while being completely out of cell phone or phone card range and only having internet in rare hostels. It may appear as though their daughter is simply running amok in the mountains of the world, but I can assure you that grabbing my pack and heading out the door is not the case. It is not easy for anyone involved, but my parents happen to be remarkably wonderful for trusting each of their kids to try our limits in each of our own ways. It is things like this sort of planning that make it possible. Granted, they are more proponents for week-long, incommunicado high-altitude treks than the jumping-out-of-airplanes sort of personal trials I am guilty of, but nevertheless are the most supportive parents I can imagine.

May our itinerary help as a head start to whoever may have interest in hiking the Salkantay Trek in future, and serve as an explanation for my next few days. This is unedited from Katie and my Google Doc of joint planning, just minus the rather interesting South American grocery list and commentary: thoughts on that for another time. Enjoy and I will report back, free from altitude and infamous Peruvian bacterial sickness, by early June!
Game faces.

Much mochilera love,

P.S.- In other news, I am wishing from afar for the happiest of birthdays to the best Dad around! Pops has a rather significant birthday here on the 26th that he and Mom will be spending in the glorious land of Minnesota to celebrate my cousin’s graduation from St. Olaf College—so may congratulations also be had to Andy on finishing undergrad!

P.P.S.- Katie and I happen to be in the same place in the Game of Thrones series, so we’ll be spending our evenings on the trail reading aloud from the third book, but otherwise: if you have recommendations for card games that can be explained over email or Skype, let me know!

Salkantay Trek and Machu Picchu--Peru
~64km | Mollepata via Paso Salkantay, Llactapata to Aguas Calientes and Ollantaytambo
May-June 2013 (4 nights on trail)

Sunrise/set: 06:03 / 17:27
Maximum Elevation: 4,650 m / 15,256 ft (Paso Salkantay)
Minimum Camp Elevation: 2,100 m / 6,889 ft (La Playa)
        or possible: 1,900 m / 6,234 ft (Santa Teresa)

Rental Gear
Chamonix (in Mendoza) AR$720 for 13 day 2P tent rental

May 24
5:50pm (Mendoza time) to 5:55pm (Santiago time) Flight #1
9:15pm (Santiago time) to 12:15am (Lima time) Flight #2

May 25
5:10am (Lima time) leave Lima
6:30am ARRIVE Cusco airport (Cusco time) Flight #3
Cusco Elevation: 3,399 meters / 11,152 feet

Sleep, acclimatize
Stay in Cusco (reserved, unpaid)
           Qorichaska Hostel (
           Reservation for two women’s dorm beds: US$15/night
Optional breakfast US$2.50
Calle Nueva Alta 458 Cusco - Peru - Phone 0051-84-228974

May 26
Bumble around Cusco, find a day hike
Groceries/gas canister
Buy Machu Picchu tickets from hostel (OR wait until arrival in Aguas Calientes)

Stay in Cusco (reserved, unpaid)
           Qorichaska Hostel

Places to eat/grocery shop in Cusco
  • El Buen Pastor (Cuesta San Blas 579 (cerca plaza San Blas) US$.30-1.50) Bakery, all profits benefit charity.
  • Victoria Victoria (Tigre 130 on route from hostel to Plaza de Armas) US$2.50-6.00)- No-frills Peruvian restaurant with French, Israeli, and vegetarian dishes.
  • Granja Heidi (Cuesta San Blas 525, 2nd fl, US$3.5-6.5) light Alpine cafe with terrific fresh produce, yogurts, cakes and other healthy food on offer. Breakfasts are gigantic.
  • Gato’s Market (Portal Belén (slightly east of San Armas)(7am-10pm))- Grocery store
  • Market (Mantas 119 (barely south of San Armas)  (8am-11pm))-Grocery store
  • Andean Espressions (Choquechaca 210, just east of 7 Culebras) “unique” t-shirt shop... Lonely Planet has me so intrigued!
  • South American Explorers (SAE; 24-5484, No. 4 Choquechaca 188, 9:30am-5pm) Maps! (coincidentaly very near Granja Heidi :)

May 27
Early morning bus to Mollepata

Begin, Mollepata: 2,900 meters / 9,514 feet; End, Soraypampa 3,900 meters / 12,795 feet
Change in Elevation: +1,000 meters /  +3,281 feet
Change from Cusco: +501 m / +1,644 ft
Time: 6 hours 30 minutes (shorter when hitchhiked)
Stay at Soraypampa OR Salkantay Pampa (1 hour further)

Rely on snacks, trail mix, and prepared sandwich during day
    Start taking ibuprofen
Dinner: CARBO LOAD (Pasta, sauce)


Begin, Soraypampa: 3,900 meters / 12,795 feet; End, Andenes ruins:  3,350 m / 10,990 ft
High Point:  4,650 m / 15,256 ft;  
Change in Elevation: +750 m / +2,461 ft uphill; followed by: -1,350 m / 4429 ft downhill
Change (net): -550 m / -1,804 ft
Time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Stay at Andenes ruins

Breakfast: Yogurt and muesli/dried oats
Pump the vitamin C mid-hike: oranges (peel-able fruit)
Take ibuprofen throughout Día 1 y 2
Lunch: Wraps made before hitting the trail (all our problems would be solved if we had peanut butter)
Dinner: papas in tasty form (soup packets? peeled or boiled veggies?)

May 29—Día 3, God creates chocolate

Begin, Andenes ruins:  3,350 m / 10,990 ft; End, La Playa: 2,100 m / 6,889 ft
Change in Elevation: -1,200 m / 3,937 ft
Time: 5 hours

Stay at La Playa
    Get out early in the morning due to the sandflies (beware of the sand people!)

Breakfast: Oatmeal with muesli or trail mix
Lunch: Cheese, flatbread, trail mix, yogurt? (keeps for 2-3 days at <21C)
Dinner: Quinoa stir-fry (if we find dehydrated veggies, awesome), add cheese or soup packets
Save extra for next-day lunch

May 30—Día 4, God creates wool socks

Begin, La Playa:  2,100 m / 6,889 ft

Stay at...
Llactapata ruins
End: 2,840 m / 9,317 ft
Change in Elevation:
Time: 4 hours
Santa Teresa
End: 1,900 m / 6,234 ft
Change in Elevation:
Comparable, but easier, lower, and ends in hot springs

Breakfast: Muesli (get out of camp early)
Lunch: Quinoa stir-fry on flatbread, add cheese
Dinner: Something schmancy along the lines of this:

May 31—Día 5, God creates George R.R. Martin

End, Aguas Calientes: 2,040 m / 6,690 ft
Walk to Hidroelectrica and then along the tracks to Aguas Calientes
    OR take 3pm train for US$18

Stay in Aguas Calientes (not reserved)
    Municipal Campground (US$3/person)
    (“On the road to Machu Picchu, about 15 min walk downhill from town”)
    Alternatives if we’re feeling fancy:
    Inti Wasi (US$5/10/15 guesthouse with camping available)
    (“up an overgrown walking path on the locals’ side of the river”)
    El Tumi Hostal (20 soles/person for private 2P room w/ BR--barter for this price)

  • In case we don’t buy tix for Machu Picchu before leaving Mendoza, buy ASAP upon arriving in AC. The ticket office is located just uphill from the town plaza on the pedestrian street.
  • The ticket office does NOT TAKE CARDS. CASH only here. (plenty of ATMS in AC)

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Hard cheese, flatbread, jerky, trail mix
Dinner: Cook or buy in Aguas Calientes--buy food to cook for next two days

June 1
Machu Picchu (if arrived May 31 in time to get tickets)
Wyna Picchu day hike
  • Leave camp at 4:20 AM (if hiking up switchbacks) to arrive outside the gates at roughly 5:45AM. At this time there will likely already be a line of over 20 people forming. The site opens at 6AM.
  • When park opens there are 400 (200 for 7AM, 200 for 10AM) tix to climb Wyna Picchu, yet another reason to arrive before the park opens, not to mention before the busses arrive at 5:50.  To do Wyna Picchu, head to Wyna Picchu gate as soon as you get into the park to get in line. A (wo)man will come stamp your entrance ticket with an additional number that allows you to enter Wyna Picchu. NOW explore site until Wyna Picchu opens.

Stay in Aguas Calientes (not reserved)

Breakfast: Muesli/granola bars (no cooking to start hiking by 4:20am)
Lunch: Sandwiches prepared beforehand in AC
Dinner: Cook or buy in AC

June 2
(Arrive to station at 8:23am--Expedition 72)
Must have tickets printed and credit card used to make purchase (or passport AND ID if used Verified by Visa or Securecode MasterCard)
8:53am train from Aguas Calientes (US$54)
10:52am arrive Ollantaytambo

Stay in Ollantaytambo (reserved, paid)
Sumac Chaska Hostel (US$10/person all female dorm)
Chaupi Calle, 106, Ollantaytambo, Peru
ARRIVING at Chaska: ”You can either walk up the hill from the station, or get a motor taxi. The same road brings you all the way to the square, take the first left, down the side of Panaka Restaurant, we are on the right, 2 mins walk. (Motor taxi at 2 soles)”

Breakfast: Get something on the way out of AC/eat leftovers from night before
Lunch: Eat in Ollantaytambo
Dinner: Buy in Ollantaytambo

June 3
10:00am Ollantaytambo to Cusco—Car/taxi/colectivo (~US$3.50, 80 minutes)
  • TIPS for the journey from AC to Cusco:   
    • If possible strive to be in the front of the throng getting off the train in Ollantaytambo in order to get one of the cheaper 5 sole tickets on the big bus back to Cusco. If taxiing, pair up with 2 other travelers to reduce cost.

Find lunch in Cusco
4:35pm LEAVE Cusco airport arrive 6:00pm (Lima time) Flight #4

June 4
12:25am (Lima time) to 4:05am (Santiago time) Flight #5
8:25am (Santiago time) to 10:30am (Mendoza time) Flight #6


Possible Campsite Alternatives:
Challacancha +4.5hrs from Mollepata
Soroypampa +2hrs
Salkantay pampa +1hr
High camp this side (4400m) +1.5hr
High camp far side (3900m) +3hrs
Andenes ruins +1.5hrs
Chaullay +1hr
Collpapampa +0.5hrs
La Playa +3.5hrs
Lactapata Camp +4hrs
Hidro +1.5hrs (not good to camp)
Aguas Calientes +2.5hrs if you walk along the railway.

1 comment:

  1. No way. No Fucking Way! Way to go Emilia! I am so crazy jealous and want to be with you so bad I cannot even express. I miss you and can't wait to hear all about this trip afterwards!