If you missed it: Day 2 of our Salkantay Trek!
The tents were not waterproof. I had a pretty bad night´s sleep trying to make sure our gear along the sides didn´t get wet. In the end, it wasn´t that bad, just wet pads and sleeping bags mostly. We packed ourselves up and headed off down the trail. Today it was to be a mix of up and down, trending down.
Somewhat annoying was that many groups left at about the same time in the morning, and we kept bunching up, passing, or being passed. Unlike the first two days, with a lot of difficult uphills, we didn´t have good chances to break away. Leo kept having to artificially stop us for breaks to keep things spread out. He did use the opportunity to teach us more about some local plants, including one with quite strong hallucinagenic properties.
We gradually made our way down towards a bridge crossing a pretty nice river, which looked good for whitewater boating with a little more water in it. The locals were building some thermal baths next to the bridge to take advantage of all the volcanic hot springs in the area, but they weren´t ready. Hiking up the other side of the gorge, Leo pointed out one such spring erupting from the hillside, with 50° C water.
As we continued, we began to cross many streams and waterfalls, plunging down the steep valley walls into the river below.
At one point Pam got quite grumpy at one fellow, who was following closely behind her on a crossing. She got stuck and went to turn around to backtrack only to find him about two inches from her face. Apparently this was quite wrong.
Occasionally, we could look back up the way we´d come for simply incredible views.
Spending the entire day in the cloud forest was rewarding for the lushness of the vegetation, and the variety of plants and flowers we saw. There were several types of orchids, as well as some rather strange fruits.
We even came across these furry white caterpillars wandering across the trail.
Given the rain the previous night, large sections of the trail were muddy, and it was a bit of a battle trying to keep our shoes dry and our pants clean. I was pretty successful. Alina, not so much. Given the relative easiness of hiking, and the short day, we sure stopped for breaks a lot!
But it gave me a chance to take off my socks and itch at my swollen and bitten feet. This was from the first day, and would last for the next week. The bugs in Peru are nasty!
On one of our relaxing times, we were all amazed to look up and see a rainbow completely surrounding the sun. The moisture in the air must have been just right.
After getting back to our feet, as we headed out of the little encampment of shops and houses, Leo showed us some local crops, including coffee, passion fruit, huge avacado trees, and beans that were laid out on blankets to dry in the sun. Apparently, people extract milk from them, having no dairy animals.
After a pleasant morning, we reached the literal end of the road. Here vans picked us up and drove us about 20 minutes steeply down the river valley to our lunch spot at Playa Sahuayacu. As soon as we started moving, the driver cranked up the latest American pop music, and the three identical looking Swedes in the front seat started dancing in their seats. It was pretty hilarious.
When we got to Playa, we relaxed (yet again), as our Chef produced a magnificent feast. Now that food could be brought in by road, we ate like kings. All sorts of crazy potato dishes, fries, lox, and huge piles of everything.
And what to do after that? Why, play football (soccer) at 2000 m, of course. A team from our group formed, most of the guys plus Alina. I don´t do ball sports, so I demurred, and cheered from the sidelines. The opponents were the other group of Brazilians.
They´d seemed pretty friendly on the trail and in camp. Turns out they were assholes. Constantly playing dirty, slide tackling, kicking from the ground, and all while everyone was playing barefoot. They always argued about everything, and were just not in general very nice.
By the end of the match, people had enjoyed themselves, but there was a lot of frustration. Plus several busted up toes and ankles. Alina did an awesome job representing women on the field, and has the still swollen toe to prove it.
After this little diversion, we piled into vans again and headed once more downhill, to our campground in Santa Teresa. After getting settled in, we immediately headed off to the local 24 hour hot springs, which were pretty amazing after having been up in the mountains for a few days. We lounged around there for a few hours, trying all the pools of various temperatures, and just undwinding. Sadly, Pam hadn´t brought a swimsuit to Peru, and ended up watching from the sidelines. She was pretty desperate for a shower by this point! But it´d have to wait one more day.
We feasted yet again at dinner, and the beer and tequila began to flow among some people in the group. That night we were supposed to have a party for all the hikers, which ended up consisting of a nice bonfire in the camp, and then some lights mounted on the side of the hotel and some dubious DJing.
Oh yeah, and our group was the only people who were out. All the other trekkers went to sleep early! Oh well, we still enjoyed ourselves for a while, and a few people even went into town to a club. It was a pretty nice end to a pretty easy day. Tomorrow, we hike to Aguas Calientes, at the base of Machu Picchu.
See what happens on Day 4!
Day 3 Logistics:
Trekking Distance: 13 km
Trekking Time: ~4 hours
Starting Location: Chaullay (2900 m)
Descend to waiting bus (~2400 m)
Bus (~20 minutes) to lunch Playa Sahuayaca (2060 m)
Bus to Santa Teresa – 20 km by bus, about an hour
Camp 3 at Santa Teresa (1560 m)
Total Descent (Trekking): 840 m