Day 1: The Hiking Begins

June 17, 2011 § 2 Comments

The next morning we were picked up by Johann, our assistant leader, in the hotel lobby at 7am.

We had 13 people in our group:

  • A German couple from Dusseldorf.  Very German.
  • An international businessman / man of mystery and his British lady friend
  • 7 guys from Michigan on a Mancation
  • Me and Susie

The whole group, minus our leader, Leo

Because our group was so big we had two mini-buses to take us to the trailhead.  Susie and I rode with Johann, who picked us up along with the Europeans.  We drove about an hour and a half along some paved roads and through some mountains….
…and stopped in a small town for a bathroom break.

After about 15 minutes hanging out in town (the locals were thrilled to see us, if you can’t tell from the lady’s face in the above picture) we hopped back in the buses and headed up a narrow, windy, dirt, mountain road for another two hours to a town called Mollepata for lunch.  It was here in Mollepata that we saw our first guinea pigs being fattened up for slaughter.

After lunch we hopped back in the van for another half our or so, we pulled over where the trailhead hit the road.  We got out, covered ourselves in sunscreen…

…and finally, started hiking.

The first part of the hike was rolling green hills with cows and horses wandering around, surrounded by mountain ranges.  Much of the group (before they started keeling over from lack of oxygen) re-enacted numbers from the Sound of Music.

I would like to pause here and take a moment to note that at this point we were somewhere around 10,000 feet: lower than Cuzco, and significantly lower than the pass we were going to be crossing, and still you could feel the altitude (the lodge we were hiking to was at 12,690 feet).  Like, really feel the altitude.  Uphill was not easy.  Many a Michiganite was struggling.

Back to the hike.  After about an hour and a half of uphill hiking we stopped to take a break and got our first good view of Salkantay (the snow covered mountain in the background.)

As we continued we walked along some aqueducts originally built by the Incas…

…and parts of the trail were a little precarious (picture 6 inches of sometimes wet, loose, rocky trail and long vertical drops to the bottom of a ravine.  With more rocks.)

It cooled down, shadows started getting long…

…we had some amazing views…

…and finally, after about 4.5 hours, we arrived the lodge, cold and tired.

Everyone was excited to be there.

We were greeted at the front door with hot tea and warm towels, instructed to take our shoes off, and go relax by the fire.  We obliged.

The lodge also had a jacuzzi…

…and hot water bottles in the bed (which freaked me out the first night when I jumped into bed).

Amazing.

Next up: Day 2–The Glacial Lake

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