Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Reaching Salcantay - Day 2

4,600 meters high - in front of Salcantay,
Our group - "Sexy Alpacas"
On the second day of our trek, we hiked up to 4,600 meters to Salcantay Mountain, the highest point of our trek. Some people suffered from altitude sickness and complained about their head hurting. One American girl had to hire a horse to get to the high point. We can't get to the crest of Salcantay, which would require ice picks.

On day 2, our guide wakes us up from our hut and offers us coca tea. It's made from coca leaves, the same kind of leaves that are used to make cocaine. But a few leaves won't give you the high that cocaine gives you (not that I've tried).

I take a long time to get ready, and I'm the last one at breakfast. I'm not a morning person.

We had pancakes. Imagine eating with 21 people for every meal. I was grumpy because there was no more coffee left. I asked the guide if he could boil water, because I had more coffee. He wouldn't let me.

We have to pack our stuff with the mules and be ready to leave at 06:30A. The porters and horseman and cook look really Native American-like, and they can speak the Quechua dialect, as well as Spanish. I feel bad for them, because I wonder if they get paid enough.

The day is going to take 9 hours to get to the next campsite. It takes 3 hours to the highest point of Salcantay; 3 hours to our lunch site, which is downhill; and 3 hours to our campsite.

The hike up to Salcantay starts off gently, but about in an hour and a half into it, it gets steep. The last 30 minutes is the most difficult and steep.

The landscape is mainly rocky with low grasses growing. There's no trees or bushes. Just grass. It's usual on high mountain landscapes - like in New Zealand or Patagonia.

On the way up, we met a local family who lived in the region. I asked if I could rent his puppy for a day. Our guide reminded us out how hard it was for them to live out here, because the nearest village was a whole day hike there and back to buy supplies.

The trek before the highest point is really steep and takes a lot out of you. When we reach the highest point, all of us take a photo. I didn't even know we were at the highest point; I thought it was going to be harder. But there we were.

After taking photos, our guide Leo gives us a talk on the mythology and significance of Salcantay. He talks about how the Incan people believed in three worlds: the world of sky and light, what we would call Heaven, represented by the condor; the world of earth and darkness, what we would call Hell, represented by the serpent; and the middle world - where we live, represented by the puma. It's all kind of like the Chinese yin-yang theory of balance and opposites.

After, we hike down for three hours to our lunch site. For lunch, we have corn soup, quinoa and noodles, pieces of beef, and lentil curry. After we eat, we have 3 more hours to the final campsite.

I zoom through it. After eating, I have energy. We hike through mainly jungle; it's no longer the rugged bare mountain trail. I see a lot of different colored hummingbirds along the way. They look like tiny rubies and onyxes and sapphires fluttering in the air.

Our porters overtake us at some point. Man, they're really fast - and they're leading the mules and the horses too. It's nothing for them.

At our campsite, I drink a shot of wine and whiskey and the other guys drink beer. They have a hot shower there, but you have to pay $3 for it. I pay. I could use a hot shower.

Someone has an Apple watch on the trip. It says we walked 40,000 steps or 25 kilometers that day.

For dinner, we have Chinese rice and chicken and chicken soup. After eating, we say goodbye to the horseman. He seems shy and very nice. But form here, we have a road and not a trail. Again, I'm pretty sure that our horseman, our cook, and our porter all don't get paid enough.

go to sleep. We get to wake up later tomorrow at around 06:00A.

That ends day 2.

Found a puppy on the way to Salcantay

American girl needs a horse - the girl leading her can't be older
than 16.

A view of the valley of Salcantay from above

Group photo with our guides - we're doing
an alpaca sign.

Photo on a ledge on our way to Salcantay

Photo of the landscape coming down from Salcantay

These chickens were huge; took the
photo for my mom - who has chickens.

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