South America | Peru | Southern Peru | Cuzco (Cusco) | Inca Trail – Over the top
Inca Trail (Day 2)
Woken up by our cook Rainmundo with steaming cup of Mate de Coca (Coca tea). The morning sun was shining onto the ice-covered peaks of the Salcantay mountain which overlooked the campsite. Russel, who I was sharing the tent with had been up a short while before me and told me that I had missed a great sunrise, damn! After a good breakfast of porridge and banana pancakes we walked up the valley towards the magnificent Salcantay mountain. At one point we had to cross a small river by means of a log that had been placed across it. Further up the valley we came to a small plateau where we saw another group, who had camped there. The sun was starting to beat down on us a bit now and even though we were quite high, it was hot. After a small break to recuperate a little we started up a steep path which zig-zagged up the side of the valley. Since we were at an altitude of well over 4000 m this was very hard work and required many stops to catch the breath. The climb had the effect of stretching out our group as some found the incline and the altitude harder work than others – I was somewhere in the middle. The path then straightened out a bit and even went downhill a little before heading up to another plateau, where there was a small green lagoon. From here we bent round to the left of the Salcantay mountain and slowly climbed up to the Salcantay pass (4750 m), the highest point of our trek. This was a beautiful place made all the more special because of the effort it took to get up there and the knowledge that it was downhill from there. At the top of the pass we sat among small cairns of stones, some of which were topped by the skull or jawbone of an animal that must have felt worse than we did up there. As we rested we occasionally heard and saw small avalanches on the slopes of Salcantay.
After we had all recovered a little, we headed down the other side of the pass following the valley down until we eventually caught up with our donkeys and cooks who were ready with our lunch (which we were desperate for by then) set out on a table in the middle of the valley. In the descent Emiliano was starting to feel it in his knee (which he had had surgery on) and couldn’t descend from the pass. Luckily there seemed to be a horse spare and so he continued the trek on horseback. We continued down the valley, Janet and I were lagging behind a bit and we couldn’t see which way the group had gone. As we entered a field there was a large muddy patch in our path, I wasn’t too concerned about getting muddy but I knew that Janet would prefer a dry passage. I crossed used several stones that were lying in the mud and made sure that they were stable enough for Janet to use. As she was following me across I heard a small yelp and then the sound of someone falling into the mud. Apparently one of the stones which I was sure didn’t move, moved! This incident put us even further behind the group and we had to guess (incorrectly) which way the rest had gone. I could see the track that we were meant to be on – it was just a case of working out how to get there through the thick vegetation. After a couple of wrong turns we appeared at some point on the correct path, much to the surprise of our companions. We then descended quite steeply through the cloud forest where there were hummingbirds flying around and branches of bamboo arching over our heads. Just as it was getting dark we neared some buildings with lights on. This small settlement would be our camp for the night (3300 m). We were greeted by some of the young inhabitants who were fascinated by our presence and the things we had with us such as torches and sunglasses. One small boy spent many happy minutes playing with the buttons on my digital watch. After telling a few stories of ghosts and sleepwalking we had dinner and went straight to bed exhausted.