More about Peru
Eight of us arrived in Cuzco 2 days early to acclimatize to the high Andean altitudes, but Bart and David separately spent considerably more time in the region on a variety of other tours, including respectively the Galapagos Islands and backpacking in Bolivia. The first day we spent walking around Cuzco taking in the sights at an altitude of around 10000’, while the second day was spent in the Urubamba River valley visiting a traditional market in Pisaq and doing a moderate training hike. On the first day we also met our guides, Odon and Juan Carlos from Pachamama Explorers who briefed us on our 7-day trek.
Our guides explained that the first 3 days would be on primitive trail with sparse traffic in very high country (passing close to the 6264m Salkantay Peak1) and that horse teams would carry all of our equipment and supplies, so the weight in our packs would be minimal. On the 4th day we would connect to the traditional (and very popular) Inca Trail route, at which time we would trade the horse team for foot porters, so (unless we paid extra) we would have to put our bags, pads, etc. back in our packs. Even so, the packs remained somewhat light and easy to carry; no food, cooking gear, tents, etc.
On the trek we crossed 3 passes above 13000’, including one at 16000’ next to Salkantay and saw many interesting and extraordinary things in addition to the highlight of the trip, the almost indescribable and spectacular ruins of Machu Picchu. We passed through a rich variety of ecosystems, ranging from desert and alpine to high-altitude jungle. Because the distances to cover each day were small by Vigorous Hikers standards, we generally left late after long, sit-down breakfasts and broke our march at mid-day with 2-hour sit-down lunches. Even so we still arrived at camp well before sunset every day. After our arrival and time spent at Machu Picchu, we ended the trek by busing to Aguas Calientes, catching a train and then a bus back to Lima.
1 The 38th highest peak in the Andes, and the 12th highest in Peru. But as the highest peak of the Cordillera Vilcabamba in deeply incised terrain, it is the 2nd most topographically prominent peak in Peru, after Huascarán.