I give my friend all the kudos when it comes to this part of the trip because she researched a lot about the trek before our trip. We also read many blogs and had the help of another friend who had done the same trek last year.
A few things we learned during the hike that were not in the blogs we read:
- The trail is NOT easily labeled – we ended up asking many guides for directions.
- Once you get to camp you really have to ask community members for a free night on their yard or you may have to pay to stay on their property. There aren’t many free camps for backpackers.
We decided to bring our own food during the trek and spent a morning on our third day in Cusco shopping for food to pack. We went to two local stores to buy our meals and some snacks.
- Breakfast: oatmeal, raisins, tea and coffee
- Lunch: Peanut butter, tortillas
- Dinner: beans, rice, jerky, garlic powder
- Snacks: oranges, nectarines, granola bars, jerky
Before we started our hike we checked the weather and everything looked good until we checked the weather for day 4 and 5. 40% chance of rain. Since we were meeting a friend at Aguas Calientes we decided to go a head and book a hostel for us to stay in which ended up being a good idea. A shower on day 4 and a bed before climbing Machu Picchu was really nice.
Here’s our day by day breakdown:
Day 1: Mollepata to Soraypampa (12.4 miles)
We started at Mollapata – We took a minivan at Arcopata and Avenida Apurimac in Cusco and drove for about 2 hours up to Moyapata. The van cost us 15 soles.
Once in Mollapata we asked for directions to the start of the trail (again, there were no clear signs on where the trail starts in the town).
When I look back at the hike I really think I only had two difficult days and this first one was one of them. I had two difficult hiking days and this was the first one. I felt like it was hard because our bags are the heaviest on the first day and this is the first day of trekking in higher elevation.
This was also our coldest night. I’m sure this has to do with the fact that we’re practically at the base of the Salkantay mountain.
Day 2: Soraypampa to Collpapampa (13.7 miles)
This was probably the most difficult day we had. We hiked up to Salkantay Pass which I felt was the hardest part of the trek. Once you get all the way up it’s all downhill from there but the downhill isn’t pretty. There are tons and tons of little rocks so if you think you can get the downhill part done quickly you’re wrong. All the rocks made it more difficult.
We also felt like this part of the trek is where we kept having to make stops to let the donkeys and horses pass us. The trail isn’t wide enough for all us to continue. No, instead we had to get on the side of the trail stop and let them through.
This is also where the Salkantay Trekking Company has their camp. They charged us 10 soles to stay on their camp site even with our own equipment and food. However, if you continue to walk 5-10 minutes past their camp there is a family who has a free camping sign just outside their gate. I would recommend staying there for the night for a free campsite because there aren’t many on the trail.
Day 3: Collpapampa to Luclabamba (10.9 miles)
This is the shortest day of the trek and the day I felt most sore. Our original plan was actually to stay in La Playa but plans changed when we made it to camp just after noon. Instead we ate lunch at La Playa and then put our packs back on and continued to Luclabamba which is only about 30 minutes past La Playa. If your thinking about continuing past Luclabamba just be prepared to continue uphill for about 3 hours. There isn’t anywhere to sleep or stay past Luclabamba until you reach Hidroelectrica. My friend wanted to keep going but I couldn’t. I was way too sore and my body really needed a break.
We stayed in the same camp with Salkatay company by total coincidence. We were asking for directions and he invited us to stay on his property. Later that day we found out the Salkatay Trekking company had their jungle Domes just down his pass. He was so nice, offered us a free stay and even gave us a demonstration on how they prepare and brew Peruvian coffee. We ended up giving 10 soles for his hospitality because he was very nice to us.
Day 4: Luclabamba to Aguas Calientes (14.5 miles)
Our trek to Aguas Calientes wasn’t bad. This is where we passed and got passed by a lot trekking companies but at least there were not more donkeys! Like I mentioned we hiked uphill for about 3 hours and then down for an hour and half.
Once you reach Llaytapata you know your done with the uphill.
If you have the time I would recommend you stop at some of the locations while climbing uphill. At one of the rest stops they have swings with an incredible view! We did not stop for it – I was a little worried on how we were doing on time.
The last part of the day to Aguas Calinetes is flat and your walking right next to the rail road tracks. Here there are many people walking with you, individuals and groups both big and small.
This night we stayed at Ecopackers for the night. We showered and then went to look for somewhere to eat, walked around the city and we picked up our IncaRail train tickets.
Day 5: Aguas Calientes to Muchupicchu (5.6 miles)
There are two ways to get to Machupicchu walk up or take the bus up. We opted to continue trekking and walked up the 2,000+ steps.
We started to hike up to Machupicchu at 5:30 am. We got to the base where they checked our tickets and passports and then started walking the steps up at 6am. It took us an hour to hike up.
Since we weren’t allowed in until 8am we ended up cooling down, going to the bathroom and buying our bus tickets before entering the grounds at 8am. I would definitely recommend buying your bus ticket before entering the park to avoid the long bus lines.
Once we entered Machupicchu I was blown away. The views are incredible!
In Machupicchu you can also hike some of the mountains, we bought our tickets months in advance and got tickets to hike up Waynapichu, one of the tallest mountains in Machupicchu with an incredible view!
After taking the bus back down to Aguas Calientes we got a quick lunch picked up our bags and walked to the train station. We took the IncaRail train to Ollantaytambo, then take a collectivo minibus to Cusco (it took us 4 hours).
If your looking for more information about the trek, below are some of the blogs we read:
- Salkantay Trek: Independent Hiker’s Guide
- Salkantay Trek Distances and Altitudes along the trek to Machu Picchu