Tuesday, November 11, 2014

10/26 - Salkantay Pass and Wayra Lodge

After spending our second night at Salkantay Lodge acclimating at 12,690' we had breakfast and checked out of our room. Once our bags were packed we left them in the hallway to be loaded onto a Mule Train. The Mule Train would take them to the next lodge. Our bags will be waiting in our rooms when we check in. Something I haven't talked about yet, is our cooks. They travel with us from Lodge to Lodge for the duration of our trip and prepare each meal for us. They are phenomenal and the food is fantastic. Anyway.

To spread the wealth and ease congestion on the Inca Trail the government is trying to encourage more people to hike to Machu Picchu on the path we are following, so they are starting to provide camp sites along the way. To encourage this and to limit the impact of camping on the environment. We passed one of these sites as we left the valley that the Salkantay Lodge was located.
Salkantay Pass (15,213') is the highest point of our trek. Once we crest it we'll start heading down and in fact Wayra Lodge (our destination today) is about the the same elevation as Salkantay Lodge. The first 5 miles of today will be climbing. Lis has rejoined us after accompanying Sue to Cusco.

While we were taking a rest break a mule train with our luggage passed us. They had taken a different route to that point but here our paths crossed. A little while later we had to make way for a Mule Train with the Propane tanks for the next Lodge. The Lodges us propane for the generators, hot water, and heat. Dalmiro commented that the Lodge will go through about 16 tanks a day on average. This is with the generator only running from 6 am-11 pm. A stark reminder of the amount of effort it takes for us to be able to do what we're doing. Once that train is past and all of our group catches up Dalmiro calls "Vamanos" and we continue climbing.

At our next break point (there are a lot of them today, the trail is steep and the air is thin up this high) we spot another Condor. This one does a flyby and we all scramble for cameras. Christian who had been sharing his turkey jerky among the group managed to get the best picture I saw. After the Condor lands on a hilltop a ways away we all start jokingly referring to the turkey jerky as Condor Bait. Once everyone is rested Dalmiro calls "Vamanos" and we continue climbing.

At a plateau called Soyrococha, Dalmiro calls for us to take a break so that the party can regroup. He takes advantage of the break to wrap an ace bandage on Christian's knee, which had "popped" a little way back and was now giving him some pain. While we're resting the wind picks up, so we take shelter behind some of the plentiful rocks. Shortly it begins to snow, the tiny snowflakes that you can barely see but still snow.  Dalmiro radios back to Lis and satisfied the rest of the group is almost caught up to us, calls "Vamanos" and we continue climbing.

Success! We reach Salkantay Pass at 11:15 am.  At the pass is an elevation sign, a pyramid of rocks about 10' high, and numerous cairns. More cairns than you can count. We have a snack and rest until everyone is present. Dalmiro informs us that the pyramid was built by locals and it is a shrine to the Mountain deity. They bring the rocks with them as an offering. I ask about the cairns and Dalmiro dismisses them. Apparently the cairns are built by tourists using rocks found here. The weather is better here, no wind and some spots of blue sky, but definitely not as clear as we'd like. There is a rock/snow fall in the distance that can be heard for several minutes (or so I'm told). We are all starting to cool down when Dalmiro calls "Vamanos" and we descend. A few minutes into our descent we come across some Inca steps, they are all that remain of the Inca trail we are following. The rest has been destroyed over the past 2000+ years by pack animals as farmers followed their ancestors routes through the mountains.

After hiking another hour or so we can see the tents where we'll have lunch down below us and they look a long way off. Thanks to a fairly steep path we're soon to the tents and getting ready for lunch. The tents are set up permanently by a local family who rents them out to various groups/trekkers/etc. Our cooks have everything waiting. Every meal (except our first box lunch) was hot and had an appetizer,main course, and dessert.

We covered the remaining distance to Wayra Lodge in good time. We arrived just around Tea Time. Everyday the Lodges had Tea Time (4:30-6 pm) - coffee, tea, hot choclate, finger sandwiches, cookies, marshmellows, and crackers. Just a little something to hold you over until dinner. Becca and I enjoyed the hot tub and then met Mark and Bernice in the lounge and relaxed until our 6:30 pm briefing.

Looking back on Salkantay Lodge as we begin our hike.
Example of a new campsite added by the government.
Climbing out of the valley.

Some of our luggage.
Propane for the lodge we are hiking to today.

Me taking a rest.
The condor on its second pass (Christian in the foreground).

Katie needed some assistance when the trail got to steep. 

Salkantay Pass elevation sign and rock pyramid to the Mountain Deity.
Some of the many cairns built by tourists.
Direction the rock/snow fall was happening.

Caught Becca with her mouthful of yummy snacks while resting in the Pass.
Becca and I by the Inca trail steps.
Clear shot of what remains of the Inca steps.

Tents where lunch was waiting, with Dalmiro in the foreground.
Inside the tent waiting for the soup course.
Wayra Lodge.
Wayra Lodge front steps.

Becca having Tea Time in the Wayra Lodge lounge with Mark and Bernice.

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