My Journey With Ayahuasca – The People

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So I have written about the experience in some detail and would rather keep that private but there is also a lot more to talk about and memories I would like to write about.

So this was the centre:

Chill Area:

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The walk through the jungle to my hut:

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My digs for the week, as I had a bad leg I got the closest hut:

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My composting toilet with no front door (biggest issue was no running water):

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My mate who would come and visit and eat the mosquitos:

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The kitchen:

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Local Wildlife:

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Dining Room:

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The Temple (where the ceremonies would happen):

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So this was a nice group picture with the two Shamans and most of the people at the retreat:

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This was one with me and the shaman, whilst holding the brew which was stored in a coke bottle:

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Now because of the motorcycle accident I had to go and get the stitches removed. As I was in the middle of the jungle this was somewhat of an issue. I made friends with the cook who was SUPER friendly and she was telling me how she is a nurse and can easily take the stitches out. I told her, as best as I could, I would feel more comfortable doing it in a clinic. So then she said she would come with me to the clinic.

(this is the only road out of town that leads to a smaller town and that shack is the bus stop)

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After waiting AGES for the bus that never came we managed to get a taxi and ended up at some small village which had a clinic. Now the keys to the pharmacy had been mistakenly taken by someone who went into town and they weren’t coming back till Monday and I went on Friday. This was a bit of an issue as it was already getting late. I therefore decided to let Tanya (the cook) take out the stitches. All she needed was some razors which we managed to get from a small shack in the village. Back the retreat we went.

So there we were in the middle of the Amazon – with me sitting on a hammock and Tanya taking out the stitches:

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She actually did a REALLY good job and took them all out without any pain or infection. Who would have thought!!!! This was me saying bye at the end of the retreat to Tanya:

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This was the other cook who was okay but no where near as friendly as Tanya who was always playfully threatening to kick me on my bad leg when I wasn’t behaving:

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Most of the meals were VERY simple and bland (Ayahuasca requirements):

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This was the very cool looking Shaman who was VERY happy with the shades that were given to him by one of the guests:

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This was one of the minders as we were leaving:

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One of the most interesting aspects of this whole experience were the people. I met a bunch of people that I would normally have NO WAY of meeting in my everyday life. I had a lot of interesting conversations with them and found them all very interesting in their own ways.


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My Journey with Ayahuasca – Intro

This is more of an introduction to the plant but I will put my experiences in a separate post.

So to start with – what is Ayahuasca? Ayahuasca is a tea that is made from two plants. It is made from a vine of a plant (Ayahuasca) and leaves of another (Chakruna). Chakruna contains a compound called DMT (highly hallucinogenic) which is normally digested by the stomach when ingested and remains inactive however when mixed with the Ayahuasca vine it suddenly makes it active. It is believed DMT is released in our body naturally three times, when we are born, when we die and when we sleep. This tea results in a release of DMT when in a lucid state and it is said the DMT works in conjunction with the spirit of the vine and produces strong hallucinogenic experiences.

There are many thousands of cases in which people have been healed of physical, mental and emotional disorders, and many curious cases of recovery from grave and even fatal disorders. There is much to investigate about the healing properties of ayahuasca. A large number of people have been cured of addictions through ayahuasca ceremonies, and the cases of post-ayahuasca cancer remission are too numerous to ignore. Researchers from all over the world are interested in ayahuasca, attempting to understand its healing properties.

People see and experience all kinds of phenomena while on an ayahuasca journey. You may see deceased relatives, spirits of every kind, vast landscapes of natural or manufactured forms, animals, insects, serpents, birds, and various creatures of nature. 

The tea is taken as part of a ceremony where there are Shamans (plant based healers) who guide you through the ceremony. The vine is native to the Amazon jungle therefore ceremonies are traditionally held there. The main tribe in Peru who are said to masters of the Ayahuasca plant are the Shipibo.

On drinking the tea, you throw up quite a bit during the ceremony. This is what is known as ‘the purge’ and it is said to be all the negative energy leaving your body and essentially cleaning your body.

I had given this all A LOT of thought and research before taking the decision to book a retreat. I also thought about what I’m hoping to gain from the experience. I read articles about people dying from taking it but then found out that 1000’s take it on a daily basis and I just need to chose the centre carefully. I am very curious about hallucinogenics in general however have not tried many. My curiosity stems from a lot of the beneficial stuff I’ve read about their medicinal properties. I had also watched numerous documentaries on this plant over the years and this wasn’t the first time I had heard about it. This one is supposed to be the mother of all hallucinogenics and I decided I wanted to try it out of curiosity. Also I have always had stomach issues from a young age which is always something a little tricky to manage when travelling and I was hoping this may help with that. Above everything I knew it would be a very different & one of the most interesting experiences of my travels. I was also hoping it would help me find some direction in my life when I finally returned after my epic adventure and maybe take me further on my spiritual path.


Sacred Valley

(WARNING GRAPHIC PICS)

Right so after Machu Picchu I decided to go to the sacred valley. I had heard there are some nice isolated spots there and so I hired a motorcycle and decided to head to a very small town which I now can’t remember the name of. The scenery was really nice:

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This was my noble steed:

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Eventually I arrived to this small town and it was dirt roads the rest of the way:

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THEN disaster struck. I was thinking how amazing is this as the scenery was really nice, it was nice curvy roads and you could really fee like you were away from the tourist hotspots. So I was turning a corner and paying more attention to the scenery than the road and thought I had turned the corner when I hadn’t and went to accelerate and came off. The bike went into a ditch and I was sliding down the road. I got up and saw that my trousers were completely torn and I had a HUGE open wound on my leg. I was quite literally in the middle of no where so couldn’t call for help so just had to wait. Eventually a car came and was shocked as to how I managed to do all that damage without anyone else involved. The mother got out, took one look at my leg and started crying. The dad and the son got my bike out which luckily started. I then was trying to calm the lady down and asking where the nearest hospital is. It was 30 mins in the direction I just came from. I had no other choice but had to get there. I was wearing a bandana so took that off and tried to tie the wound as best I could and got back on the bike and headed for the hospital. By the time I got there the bandana had slipped off and blood was dripping! Anyway I arrived and had to unload all my luggage then carry it into the hospital. I was seen by a doctor reasonably quickly but the minute I sat down on the table, all the pain started. Adrenaline really is amazing. The doctor was again amazed as to how I did so much damage just by not paying attention to the road and that I managed to ride to the hospital. Anyway she gave me a local anaesthetic and cleaned up the wound and stitched me up. This was all in Spanish as no one there spoke English. The bill for everything was like 30 USD. So cheap and I later found out she did a really good job. This also included some oral antibiotics to ensure the wound wasn’t infected.

Now after leaving hospital I had no where to stay! So I had to again tie all my luggage to the bike, then drive around town looking for somewhere to stay that also offered bike parking. Eventually I found a place and this was one of those days I just wanted to go to sleep and pretend like it never happened! However at this point I was STARVING, so ventured out and as luck would have it – I managed to find some decent pizza so was happy. The leg was in a state:

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Then what happened is the doctor covered it in gauze and everytime I would go to change the dressing – more skin would come off as the existing skin would stick to the gauze. So eventually it looked like this:

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Anyway it was not a pretty sight to say the least. The next day I just decided to rest and did very very little. I went to the sacred valley to prepare for a spiritual journey I was going to take in the amazon the next week so decided to just do my prep from the little room. The prep just involved lots of meditation.

I of course didn’t tell my family about this as they would have freaked but had to tell someone so chose one cousin of mine to tell who is a doctor. I was still in a lot of pain at this stage as every time I changed my leg’s position it would hurt a lot. The other thing here is I had to do EVERYTHING myself. If this had happened at home I would have an army of people checking up on me and bringing me things, but this time I had to manage EVERYTHING myself. It was a real life lesson.

The next day I decided to go back to Cusco. I had to go back to return the bike and didn’t even want to think about what would happen if I came off again. Suffice to say I rode VERY slowly. I got back to Cusco and as I was expecting – had to pay a small fortune in damages to the bike. However there was nothing I could do about it. After that I went to see another doctor in Cusco to see if I could get the OK to go to Iquitos in the next few days. I went to a private clinic in Cusco which was pretty geared towards tourists as it’s the first place you have to get to, to go to Machu Picchu. Every time I would see the local doctor I would straight away talk to my cousin about everything he said so essentially had two doctors to consult. 

Iquitos is the largest city in the amazon jungle and is the largest city in the world that is not accessible by road so I was flying there. Now I knew that going to the Amazon jungle with a huge open wound is not a good idea but I had booked all this so far in advance and would have lost a lot of money if I didn’t go. So through the advise of the local doctors and my cousin I was told – it wasn’t ideal but that I could go but had to be careful. So I decided to go to Iquitos!


Salkantay Trek – MACHU PICCHU!!!!!! – Day 5

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Right – so after all those days of endless walking and sleeping tents in the middle of no-where I had finally reached my destination. We got up at 4am ish to start queuing for the bus up. By some miracle my legs had recovered after not really being able to walk the previous day. It was surprising to see but ALL the shops were open at this time selling snacks etc for Machu Piccu. So we got onto a bus and FINALLY made our way to Machu Picchu. We were one of the first in the park and at this time were was some kind of a thick fog covering the place which made it all look very mystical:

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So over here the guide started by giving us a tour of the complex. So Machu Picchu means old mountain and Wayna Picchu means young mountain. Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca citadel situated on a mountain ridge 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often mistakenly referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas” (a title more accurately applied to Vilcabamba), it is the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. The Incas built the estate around 1450 but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was not known to the Spanish during the colonial period and remained unknown to the outside world until American historian Hiram Bingham brought it to international attention in 1911 when he was looking for Vilcabamba.

 

When the Spanish arrived the last remaining Inca left Machu Picchu for VilcaBamba as the Spanish destroyed a lot of Machu Picchu in search of gold. 

During the Solstice (the sun is the greatest distance from earth) the incas saw this as the sun was upset with the earth. Therefore they would offer a black Llama at Machu Picchu to try and bring back the sun. Black was seen as a pure colour. 

In the Peruvian andes there are just two seasons – the wet season and dry season. 

The Inca civilisation was huge. It ran from Pasto Colombia to Mauli in Chile and Cusco was the capital of the empire.

Apparently the world record for locals from Cusco to Maccu Picchu is 3 hours 45 mins.

Lots of Chinchilla (animals in Machu Picchu) for the pictures. 

The houses had one central area for everything. Kitchen, bedroom etc. The houses were two floors where people would live on the first floor and store food etc on the second floor. 

So the Incas never lived in Machu Picchu – it was mainly the workers who lived there and the Incas would come from Cusco on the inca trail for special occasions. 

Machu Picchu was built there as it’s the only mountain in the whole of sacred valley where the river goes around the mountain. In all the smaller mountains the river goes through. 

This area was interesting as it was their astronomy observation area. They had a bowl that they would fill with water which would reflect the sky:

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The condor represented the heavens. puma the earth and snake represents the underworld. 

So the tour wasn’t great & after the guided visit, it was pretty much the end of the tour and we all took one last group photo:

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So from here I had bought a ticket to climb the mountain Machu Picchu. Now there are two mountains you can climb, Wayna Picchu and Machu Picchu. The most famous one is Wayna Picchu but that was sold out when I went to book the package so I had to settle for Machu Picchu. Now I thought it was an easy 1 hour or so accent, but man I was wrong. IT WAS TOUGH – and all this directly after that ridiculously difficult Saltantay Trek. It was VERY steep and in some parts quite dangerous (welcome to S America) and tough and it was HOT which didn’t help. I somehow managed to get to the top however within 1.5 hours.

This was the view on the way up:

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Here’s proof I reached:

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This was the view:

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I got to the top and saw a guy drinking mate (a herbal tea). I knew the guy HAD to be from either Argentina or Uruguay. All over South America you see people with thermal flasks and their mate cup to drink from and can spot them a mile away! Anyway I was very lucky when I arrived to the top there was no guard so I could stand on a somewhat dangerous ledge and take all the pics I wanted. After a while a guard came and it was impossible. After the epic climb to get up there I decided to was going to sit for a while so just sat and took in the view. It was beautiful.

Then I started the descent down:

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On getting to the bottom I was SHATTERED and my legs were quite literally shaking. I thought this is where I need to find a nice patch of grass and take a siesta. So I managed to find a very quiet part of the ruins and sat there. However I had to also find a spot that avoided the local wildlife:

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Anyway eventually I found a quiet spot. The key was to avoid the pockets of americans. As much as I hate stereotypes – Americans generally are VERY loud people. So I found a nice quiet spot on the grass and had my siesta. On waking up I decided I should try and go the Inca bridge. There were a few things to go and see – the sun gate and inca bridge. I could not even think of any more trekking which ruled out the easy climb to the sun gate but took the very easy trail to go and see the Inca Bridge. Before this however I took some pictures of Machu Picchu:

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The first thing I see on this trail is:

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I was thinking after that suicidal path to climb the mountain this can’t be anywhere near as bad. Thank god for once I was right. It was a very pleasant path to the bridge. So this was the original bridge back in the day:

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Health and Safety would have a field day on that one and it was quite rightly closed off.

Anyway it was getting time to leave so I headed back to the main compound for some last minute pics and managed to get one postcard perfect picture with a llama:

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On getting back from the death bridge I found another very quiet place to sit and just admire the view. Sat there for a while until I felt I had to go home. On exiting I took some more pics:

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This is where I was sitting:

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This was my entry ticket to Machu Picchu (note the completely incorrect nationality):

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Overall Machu Picchu was one of my highlights of South America. It’s amazing to think how the Inca’s built something like this in the middle of no where such a long time ago. Also there are a number of routes to get there with each having it’s own merit. Even though I chose the hardest (and struggled A LOT) I have no regrets! The constant tiredness, altitude sickness, lack of breath, sore legs were all worth it when I reached the peak of Salkantay and when I reached Machu Picchu. The journey was just as important as the destination for me.

So the standard thing for people to do is to book one night in the hotel and then head back to Cusco. I, however, did not want any rush after finally reaching so decided to stay two nights and have a leisurely ride the next day in the train back to Cusco. It was a great decision as I was shattered and can’t imagine having to go back to Cusco or having walked all the way there and then having to rush down to catch the train.

Anyway the next day I made my way to the train station, however before took a few pics of the small town before Machu Picchu.

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From that town (with the ridiculously long name) I took a transport back to Cusco and this ended my journey to Machu Picchu!


Salkantay Trek – Aguas Calientes – Day 4

The night before in the campsite was very interesting. I was playing this crazy game with a few south americans and europeans which involved reflexes. Never seen anything like it and we probably looked very odd playing a crazy game in the middle of a campsite but I didn’t really care. It was very odd as two of the guys looked like twins but weren’t at all related. Anyway the next day we had an optional activity to go zip lining. I had booked this from the start and was a good thing I did as, amazingly, it was more expensive on the day.

So we first started with a safety briefing:

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Then after a lot of waiting around – we got going:

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Some people got a bit stuck and had to be rescued:

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Then came this crazy bridge. We had a guy from Tanzania here and he was PETRIFIED crossing this bridge! I found it hilarious as you are always fastened to a rope therefore impossible to fall even if you do slip.

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Then the last one was lying flat on the stomach. I didn’t manage to stay straight:

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So after this – we had a transport lined up to take us to Hidroelectrica train station, from there we had to get to Aguas Calientes which is the entry for Machu Picchu. I still hadn’t recovered from all the walking at my legs weren’t coping too well. Am not sure what happened this day but that 2.5 – 3 hour walk to Augas Calientes was one of the toughest. I had some pain in my leg which hadn’t helped. I think it was the accumulation of sleeping in tents and crazy amounts of walking finally properly catching up with me. Anyway the route from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes can also be done by train but it’s a lot more expensive. I had wanted to experience the train therefore booked the train for the way back. So essentially we were walking across the rail track to get to Aguas Calientes.

I saw this and thought, THANK GOD – almost there:

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It was a picturesque walk but I was just too tired:

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Another dodgy bridge crossing but this time no safeties (welcome to south america):

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Every now and then we would have trains pass us (the thought had occurred a few times of just jumping on it until i got chucked off):

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Finally from a distance we could see Aguas Calientes:

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Eventually we arrived. I was SHATTERED. Completely exhausted at this point. My feet were killing me and I was wondering how I was going to do any walking the next day which was the final slog up to Machu Picchu. This was our first night in a proper hotel and was a nice room. As soon as we got the hotel I went for a shower, skipped dinner and went straight to sleep. The next we had to wake up at around 4am to queue for the bus. We had the option to hike up or to take the bus. There was NO way I was going to hike and I was surprised to see everyone else in the group felt the same way. Anyway I woke up early the next day and to my surprise my legs felt good as new. Looks like all I needed was a good night’s sleep in a good bed.


Salkantay Trek – Santa Teresa – Day 3

So after that epic day the night before – there was again a lot of walking this day. However it wasn’t at any altitude so no problems breathing but just a test of legs. Parts of the walk were beautiful.

At 6:00 am. we started our trek to La Playa through the Santa Teresa valley. We walked in total around 4 hours this day.

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We came across some waterfalls:

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Wild Flowers (couldn’t tell you which ones):

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Avocado Plantations:

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And this was the first pitstop – where there was an OVER friendly mule or donkey who wouldn’t let us eat anything without going for it with his mouth. There was an opportunity to play football but all the walking was more than enough exercise for me!

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And we arrived at another small rest area where they were selling fruit ice lollies. Man – they were GOOODDD. Especially in that heat.

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I think this was a mango tree:

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Then saw a number of very risky crossing that I was told the locals regularly used and sometimes tourists when the water level was too high:

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We then passed locals picking FRESH granadilla (sweet passion fruit), I asked the guy if we could have one and he threw us like 5. They were AAMMAAZZZIIINNGGG, never had it so fresh but it definitely makes a big difference in taste.

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Just before the end of the trail there was another rest break where there was yet more of the amazing ice lollies, in an array of different flavours. I think I had one at every stop once I discovered them! haha

So after this we FINALLY approached the end of the trail. I was pretty tired at this point and was looking forward to the fact that this was going to be our last night in tents.  The camp sites were getting progressively better and the one for this night was quite nice. There was a bar and this night was party night.

In the afternoon we went to a thermal spring to soak the muscles. The water was VERY hot however there were sandflies everywhere and I got a lot of bites on my back. Once we got out of the mountains and into the jungle, bug spray was essential.

Now there are two version of this trek, you can do it over 4 or 5 days. I initially wanted to do it over 4 days however there wasn’t availability for one of the mountains I wanted to climb in Machu Pichu so if I extended it one more day there was, so I did that. So half the group went to Agua Caliente (the town just before Machu Pichu) and I stayed at the camp site and went to the thermal springs. We were going to head to Agua Caliente the next day. My legs were almost gone at this point and add to that not having slept particularly well in tents every night and getting up stupidly early everyday, all in all wasn’t a great mix. The walk was AMAZING but I was very tired throughout.


Salkantay Trek – Chaullay Village – Day 2

So this day was promised to be the most tough. Not having had the best nights sleep as always at altitude is always an issue and also didn’t help was sleeping in a tent. So we woke up pretty early this day and had an early morning breakfast call.

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So after breakfast we had to make a decision whether we wanted to walk or take a horse for the toughest section of the walk. The added complication here is after the initial gruelling 3 hours to get to the top we had an additional 4-6 hours to walk afterwards. Me and around 4 others decided to take horses as I knew I would have struggled immensely and then having to walk another 4-6 hours wasn’t appealing. Also had never done anything like this before so thought it would be an interesting experience. The way up was BEAUTIFUL. We were riding past a lot people gasping for air!

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This part got pretty steep:

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Eventually we reached the Salkantay Pass (4650 M – 15,255 ft). From the top we had breathtaking views of the spectacular views of the mountains and the imposing snowy peaks of the Salkantay, Humantay, Tucarhuay and Pumasillo.

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From there we walked to a lagoon where we couldn’t go down but was quite a sight from up top:

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The guide was explaining to us how the Salkantay Mountain is the second highest mountain in the Cusco region and one of the Inca Gods called “Apu”. From there we did a small ceremony to Pacha Mama (mother earth) which was led by the guide and involved coca leaves:

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After reaching the top of the pass there is a 5km (3.1miles) and 2 hours downhill hike towards the camp for our lunch. The walk downwards is on a serpent shape trail and a rocky gravel path to get to the Huayracmachay lunch spot. Lunch was surprisingly pretty good everyday. Lots of fruit and veg which is always a good thing for me.

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In the afternoon we entered the upper part of the amazon jungle, which is also called “the cloud forest”. This is a 10 km (6.2miles) hike which took us approximately 3 hours on a wide trail in the thick forests. This hike is truly beautiful, there are decorated the hills with colorful sceneries and a lot of wildlife and native plants. It was HOT by the time we got down to the forests. For me this was completely crazy. We went from FREEZING cold mountains and really dry vegetation to extremely warm with LOTS of vegetation in a jungle. It was CRAZY to see so much variation in such a short space of time and whilst walking. 

So over here you have snow peaked mountain but jungle below:

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At this point I was exhausted and the scenery was pretty similar and it was HOT. I was just concentrating on getting to the camp site so walked a bit faster. I hadn’t had a shower in a few days and was promised a paid shower at this camp site so was looking forward to that. I met a guide on the way who walked with me to the campsite as knew my guide. I finally arrived to the camp site and the crew had already arrived with mules and setup our tents. I was one of the first to arrive and quickly found my stuff and went for a shower.


Salkantay Trek – Soraypampa – Day 1

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Right so get to Machu Picchu there are essentially four ways. You can take a train from cusco then a bus, you can go on a jungle trek, you can take the VERY popular Inca trail and you can go via a beautiful mountain range called Salkantay. The Inca Trail is the most famous as it’s the original trail the Inca’s used to take to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu but it’s also the most expensive and requires bookings months in advance which for me ruled it out due to the last minute nature of my travels. The jungle trail is supposed to fun – a big mix of rafting, biking etc to get to Machu Picchu however five days in a jungle didn’t appeal to me after Bolivia. Especially if water was involved. The train route just wasn’t for me which left me with the Salkantay trek. I knew it was going to be hard as the second day we would reach 4,600m however like anything that’s worth doing – it’s always hard.

Over breakfast I got talking to a German guy who had just been and he told me about the main company that all the agencies use. He told me all the other agencies sell their tours so I should just go directly to the agency. The agency was called Salkantay Group and after discussing costs with the rest of the group I definitely got the best price. So I went to them and negotiated a bit and got a pretty good price. I decided to stay one day extra in Agua Caliente (the town just before Machu Picchu) as I didn’t want to rush back and wanted to enjoy Machu Picchu properly. I also opted for the train back.

Anyway it was another early start (5:00 am) and we drove to a place called Mollepata where we had breakfast. Over there I got talking to the group and couldn’t believe but was a guy from Tanzania in the group. Anyway after breakfast we continued to Challacancha which was the start of the trail. Around 9:30 am we started our trek to Soraypampa (3850 MASL – 12631 ft).

The first section of the path is a hike over a few deep valleys:

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The van was loaded with supplies etc and this was transferred to mules that would carry one piece of luggage that could weigh no more than 5kg:

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From here we started the hike to where we would stay the night:

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At some parts of the trail the old water channel can still be seen. The channel still supplies water to the farmers in the lower valleys:

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Then we got to an open area where the mountains opened up:

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We stopped here for a little while to rest and took a group pic:

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Then continued on. This part of the trek was actually not very hard at all but you could definitely feel the altitude.

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So eventually we got to our campsite and the guys started assembling the tents. The night time temperature drops significantly so we had an enclosure for each tent:

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On the more luxury side of things people were sleeping in these:

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Anyway so we had lunch at the campsite which was surprisingly good. Lots of fresh veg. After lunch we had our first test. We were going to hike up to a lagoon called Humantay (4200 MASL – 13779 ft) which was a test for the next day. The next day was promised to be a very hard day. I was already struggling with the altitude and managed to get to the lake but breathing was a major issue as always with me around 4000m. The lagoon was stunning however and worth the effort to get there:

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As always there were crazy people who went swimming in the lagoon. I should add the water was freezing and the climate was FREEZING, so you had to be pretty crazy to go in:

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The sun was starting to set and it seemed a good idea to head back. The way down was MUCH easier as always:

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On getting down me and guy from Tanzania got into a discussion on east african politics which was interesting and then we went for dinner.

After dinner we started playing cards. After a little while someone started talking about the stars. I went outside and could not believe it. It was the clearest sky I had ever seen. No moon, we were in the middle of no where so pretty much no light pollution and it was a clear night. I decided to try my hand at night sky photography. I had experimented a bit in the Atacama & Colca Canyon so thought I need to nail it this time. It was an impossible task as it was FREEZING. For this night alone I had bought two thick llama wool sweaters and was carrying all my cold weather clothing. But still I was determined to capture the sky. I went out and made a make-shift stand with rocks and positioned my camera and took some pics. It was very tricky as I had no idea where I was aiming and after every pic had to look at the screen and adjust it. The pictures took AGES to process and I had no option but to just wait in the cold! However after finding a very quiet spot in the middle of no where and playing around with the camera A LOT I was rewarded with this shot:

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Although the sky didn’t quite look like that (the camera picked up more) it was VERY impressive with the milky way looking like a cloud across the sky. Anyway eventually I went to sleep with all the clothes owned on! However as always, sleeping at altitude, was not very easy and there was lots to look forward to the next day.


Cusco – Rainbow Mountain

Right so after being in Cusco for a few days I decided I was sufficiently acclimatised to attempt to climb to the highest point I have ever been to at 5,100m in preparation for the trek I really wanted to do to Machu Pichu which peaked at 4600m. I had heard quite a lot about Rainbow Mountain from people staying in the hostel and everyone said it was hard work but I must do it.

So the tour started ridiculously early at 3am  when they came to pick us up. The guy came into the hostel and said rainbow mountain one person – I was like yes and what’s the name and he didn’t have a name so just assumed it was me. After getting into the truck and heading off I found that I had gone with the wrong company and we had to wait somewhere to switch passengers.

Anyway after that we drove around 3 hours on very windy roads to get to the Quesiuno community (4,326 m / 14,189 ft.), where we had breakfast:

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We then started the trek. This part of Peru was stunning – very untouched and you could see that tourism hadn’t really reached here properly yet. This trek was actually reasonably new – as the road to get to the start was recently built. The first part of the trek was quite flat:

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Very quickly we arrived at the point people had options to take horses. I was tempted but knew I needed the practice if I was to do the Salkantay trek to machu pichu.

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The whole landscape was covered with this vegetation:

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By this time I was REALLY struggling. It was becoming harder and harder to breathe and any upwards gradient got my heart going like I was running a marathon. At this point I thought it was time to pull out the herbal medicine. So over here all over the high altitude regions the locals chew Coca leaves. This is the same stuff they make cocaine out of however the locals just chew the raw leaves to help with energy and altitude sickness. The hostel I was staying in had some free leaves that you could make a tea out of so I just grabbed a bunch in the morning. With renewed strength I struggled with the last part. It was INCREDIBLY hard. Every five steps I took I was completely out of breath and had to literally stop, sit down and start again. Eventually I arrived at the top and the view was incredible:

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The mountain range in the background is called Ausangate:

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This last bit up in the next picture is what was really hard. The rest of the walk wasn’t steep until the VERY last bit. It was REALLY hard but eventually made it to the top:

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After this the guide sat down and explained a few things about the mountain range. So the name of this mountain range is vinicunca. The highest point where I took majority of the photos from is 5,070 metres above sea level. These mountains are found in the southern region of Cusco. In the region of Cusco there are two very big mountains. The Ausangate range you can sometimes see from Cusco and is the mountain range behind Vinicunca. The mountains north of Cusco is called Salkantay. Ausangate peak is at 6,420 metres above sea level & Salkantay is 6,270 m.

The original names of the mountains are Apu. So the mountains are seen as gods as they offer protection in various ways. Therefore the locals always make offerings as a sign of respect. The offerings are called Champetas which are a small construction of stones on top of one another. The Incas were a very mystic race with connections with nature. They never performed Human Sacrifices. Most of what we know about the Incas is hypothesis as they never had a written language. So Apu mans a sacred place.  So Salkantay and Ausangate are places of energy and seen as protectors of Cusco. Salkantay is one of the most important mountains because it has connections with the Inca trail. Normally the only way to see the AUsangate was through a 4-5 day trek however recently the new trek has opened up.

The ausangate range is a volcanic zone. The people that do the long multi-day treks also have the opportunity to see the mirrors of water where there are a serious of lakes all with different colours. 

There are four minerals that make up the colours that you can see in the mountain range. Iron, Zinc (green colour), Copper & Sulphur. There are mountains of a lot more colours but it is tricky to get there. Scientists have put the age of the mountain at 10-15 million years. There are some pictures of the mountain range where the colours are very bright but this happens when it rains and then the sun rise produces a much more vibrant colour. This is a two day, one night tour.

We then headed back. I really wished I had taken a horse back as after waking up at 3am and walking 3 hours at well over 4000m had taken it out of me and I didn’t really enjoy the walk back. Anyway you learn from your mistakes I guess. The way down was a lot easier but I was pretty tired:

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They had these holes in a ground surrounded by a cardboard box setup along the way:

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Eventually we got back I had a mild headache. I was determined that when we descend it would get better so didn’t really take anything. After lunch we left to get back to Cusco and even though we were descending the headache didn’t get much better. On getting back to Cusco I had a big well deserved pizza and took an ibuprofen and went to sleep. Was SHATTERED. It was a really tough day but, as you can see from the pics, well worth the adventure. It was a BEAUTIFUL trek mainly because it was such an untouched part of the country and although I found it very hard I would highly recommend it to anyone.