Sunday, May 26, 2019

Salkantay Trek Day 2: The Pass!

I woke up Tuesday feeling really good! Our guides woke us at 5am with coca tea (which I didn't really drink the first two days because I didn't really know it it was ok for the baby). After an amazing breakfast which featured banana stuffed pancakes I was much less scared of the amount of hiking/elevation in store for the day. Lexi opted to take a horse because the altitude was still really affecting her, but fortunately this was the last day where it was really bad.
Left: Our banana stuffed pancake breakfast with a side of bananas!
Below: The view of Salkantay glacier from the start of our hike on day 2. 


The day's hike started right out the door with ascent. We climbed a gradual fire road which turned into single track as it steepened. Our group seemed to all feel much better than the day before, and with a few quick stops to snack and regroup we soon made it to the halfway point which we all felt came too easily. We sopped to sit for a min and eat snacks (Bananas and Creme Bonk Breakers for the win!). The rest stop was at about 14,00 ft and there was a little house owned by a woman selling Gatorade, water and charging for the use of her bathroom. The best part was that she had a baby strapped to her back in the cutest way, little eyes peering out over the Manta, leaving me convinced that doing this hike pregnant was no big deal. That women was up here the whole time she was carrying her child and most likely didn't go to a hospital to give birth!


Above Right: Eating all the snacks at our stop even though I was still full from breakfast. Like I said before, the theme of the trip was eat, hike, eat, even if you aren't hungry yet. 

Below: Badass lady with baby selling snacks to hikers. 

 Post snacks we had two options: the longer, less steep route, called the seven snakes, or the shorter more savage, straight up route. Our group opted for the shortcut because the heavy donkey traffic on the traditional route looked obnoxious (the trail was pretty narrow so we would have to stop every couple minutes to let a train of donkeys past). Then Juan Carlos choose to make the steep route steeper by short cutting all the switchbacks! Somehow it wasn’t hard to keep up with our crazy fit guide though (he must have the best lungs and heart of anyone I’ve met, doing the trek over and over, often with no days off in between), and what I had feared would be a crazy hard if not impossible hike to the summit was over in the blink of an eye! Our whole group made it to the top an hour earlier than expected!






The best part was that Lexi arrived on horseback within minutes of us, so we all enjoyed coca tea and delicious ham and cheese sandos thanks to our kind Sherpas (who hauled the big thermos to the pass) took a bunch of pictures and listened to some more massive avalanches we couldn’t see because of the clouds. Somehow I have no pictures of the 'scene' at the pass, lots of people from all over the world, stoked to be standing around in the clouds after accomplishing what is probably one of the hardest physical feats of their lives, pretty cool :)


After another history lesson about Pachamama and the tourism industry and it’s impact on the landscape, we headed down off the pass towards lunch. The downhill was really fun (would have been amazing on bike), and lasted FOREVER. We walked and walked and walked and eventually got to an outpost with 1 sole bathrooms, to find out we were still 20-30 min away from our lunch spot. The hiking was nice though, time flew chatting with the Aussies about school, and the education system in both the US and Australia/how parenting has changed recently. I really enjoyed the company of our tour group, an unexpected favorite aspect of the whole experience that more than made up for the thick clouds that blocked out 90% of the scenery. What I could see was green and lush, fields of grass strewn with rocks covered in moss and red lichen. It was pretty magical.
Above left: the foggy view we enjoyed the whole way down. Above right: an example of what every rock looked like, bright red with some kind of lichen. 

Lunch on day 2 was one of my favorite meals of the trip because it included ‘condor wings’, chicken legs fried in corn meal. Right as we were arriving at lunch rain started to fall, and within minutes of us entering the lunch tent the rain started coming down heavily. Somehow we lucked out and the rain let up right around the time we finished eating and needed to head back out on the trail.







The reminder of the hike consisted of hours upon hours of downhill fire road, down out of the mountains into the jungle. The scenery changed a great deal, and so did the plants (I saw my first air plant in the wild!), flowers and sounds of birds and the rushing of the river to our right. Lexi and I talked and hiked and slid down the road and JUST as my feet felt they didn’t want to be in hiking boots anymore we arrived at the little town where our camp was located.



Above: Me and then Lexi on the very muddy/slick road, me with the jungle in the background, Lex with Salkantay in the background
Right: The first Bromeliad I've seen in nature






Once again we sat through happy hour of popcorn and tea and stayed straight through to dinner. Another 5 am wake up on day 3 had us in bed as soon as the nightly debrief was over and I slept like a rock after a long day that went way better than anticipated. 
































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