It is always difficult to try and pick the highlights of any particular adventure. I imagine it would be like trying to pick your favourite child. When I initially planned this trip the Salkantay Trek was what I was most looking forward to experience. The entire Salkantay trek was amazing and certainly lived up to expectations. Having said that, the following represents a listing of experiences/individuals that were particularly special:
1). Enjoying a “refreshing” dip in Humantay Lake at 4200 m Day 2. Swimming in a fresh, cold mountain lake is my idea of heaven. Fortunately, I was joined in this “baptism” by Anna, Cindy and Steve from Ottawa. Unsurprisingly, this was mainly a Canadian contingent except for Cindy- who is from Hawaii- but has now been made an official Canadian citizen (it is just that easy). Below is photographic proof of this momentous accomplishment just so you don’t think I am making this up.
2). Enjoying a remarkably relaxing afternoon with Anna Day 2 after the hike to Humantay Lake. Prior to coming on this adventure, things were particularly challenging and stressful for both Anna and I. The hike to Humantay Lake was accomplished in the morning so we had a free afternoon to enjoy ourselves prior to the hike to the summit of Salkantay Pass the following day. The afternoon was spent under the brilliant sun on the grass in front of Salkantay Lodge with a view of Salkantay Mountain before us. Anna was meditating to the sound of numerous songbirds and I was gently stretching on a yoga mat completely “in the moment” listening to my “Relaxed” playlist. Our minds were completely emptied of all concerns and were simply focused on the natural sights and sounds surrounding us. Whenever we opened our eyes we were greeted with the surrounding grandeur of Salkantay Mountain. Just so you think we are not too “granola” this was followed by a rather boisterous hot tub party with Pisco sours and beers! The evening was spent enjoying a fabulous meal with fellow hikers and an early to bed in preparation for the summit attempt the next day. A perfect afternoon!
3). Summiting Salkantay Pass 4638 m Day 3. Anytime you undertake a multi-day trek, the focus always seems to be on the summit. Our group was split into two as some of the hikers were going to take a longer time to achieve the summit. Our two groups were expertly managed by Raul and Ricky so that we would arrive at the summit at approximately the same time. There was genuine joy, and a few tears, when we all arrived at the summit very proud of our accomplishment. The fact that we were able to enjoy it with others of similar disposition made it all the more special.
4). The hot tub the evening of Day 3 Wayra Lodge. After the physical and emotional stress of the long hike up to Salkantay Pass, everyone’s spirits were on a natural high despite our tired and aching bodies. Just as we were arriving at Wayra Lodge (the most remote lodge) it started to rain and we were enveloped by mist and grey clouds. The lodge was welcoming and warm. Georgia, as per her nature, was first to get into her swim suit and surrender herself to the warm, bubbling waters as well as a cool Pisco sour! A few of us were still checking out the lodge when we saw her alone soaking in utter contentment in the churning waters (see picture below). As a photographer, I felt it was my duty to try and capture this moment. Soon afterwards, the rest of us joined her full of pride in what we had just accomplished. Who would’ve thought you could fit fourteen people into a hot tub designed for eight! A special experience.
5). The descent through the Cloud Forest and a Pachamanca lunch BBQ Colpa Lodge Day 4. For most of us, this was the first time we had truly hiked and experienced a Cloud Forest. Going downhill for most of the way certainly added to the pleasure. The Cloud Forest was amazing. Because of the water content within the clouds, rather lush vegetation is able to grow at elevations unheard of back home. The low-lying cloud, and at times gentle rain, added to the mystical feel. As we were descending, the temperature and humidity rose. It was amazing to all of us that you could move from one ecological zone to such a different zone in less than one day. At the end of the hike we were rewarded with an utterly amazing traditional Peruvian barbecue. Preparations prior took four hours (while we were hiking) but as we arrived they placed the numerous vegetables and meats (including guinea pig) into the earth on hot coals and thirty minutes afterwards we were enjoying one of the best meals we had ever eaten.
6). Lucma Lodge day 5 (see pictures below). All of the lodges were amazing, however, we were all absolutely enamoured with this lodge. It was located in surrounding fertile farmland bursting with fruit, vegetable and coffee trees. The sweet air was thick with moisture and enveloped us like a cozy blanket. The lodge itself was absolutely beautiful despite the lack of a hot tub. The surrounding gardens were also gorgeous. We had arrived at this lodge around midday allowing us to relax and really enjoy and experience all it had to offer. Heaven!
7). Machu Picchu Day 7. To be honest, I did not have a lot of expectations for Machu Picchu. I thought it would be overrun by tourists and not the special and peaceful place I expected it should be. Needless to say I was wrong. Certainly, there are quite a few people but usually by mid day. Our guide Raul took us up early and we were able to experience it in relative solitude. Visually, it is stunning. Architecturally, it is a masterpiece. It boggles the mind to think that a “primitive” race was responsible for this magnificence. Raul was able to guide us to areas that were not heavily visited and provided a coherent and enriching explanation of the culture and intricacies involved in its construction. This added to the overall experience. Truly worthwhile!
8). Our guides Raul and Ricky. Having guided and provided medical services to the Skyline Hikers of the Canadian Rockies for years, I can appreciate the work and expertise involved in group hiking. Our guides were professional, personable, passionate, extremely well prepared and informed. Our experiences during this trek were augmented by their presence. They worked together extremely well and insured that everyone in the group, regardless of ability, were able to enjoy the trek. To both of them I will always be grateful.
9). Our fellow hikers- Cindy and Alan, Steve and Shawn, Peggy, Georgia, Tim and Lisa as well as Mike and Karen. As mentioned previously, one cannot always predict how different personalities will get along on such an adventure. I really felt that our group connected on numerous levels. Everyone was supportive, welcoming, personable and felt a deep responsibility to ensure others had as good a time as they were having. Everyone demonstrated an openness and deep love of the outdoors. My life has been enriched by sharing this experience with you all. Thank you.
10). Anna. One of my closest and dearest friends. Life has not been particularly supportive or easy over the last several years for either of us. I realize the trek challenged you at a time when you were already feeling challenged. The fact that you undertook this challenge and succeeded speaks to your fortitude. My life has been enriched by your presence and your willingness to invariably say “yes” to the adventures I keep involving you in continues to strengthen the bond that we share. Hopefully, Lake Titicaca and Galapagos will provide you with ample respite.