The Salcantay expedition to Machu Picchu is one of the most famous alternative hikes in Perú and lately included in one of the most important journeys among the 10 most recognized treks in South America. The complete road covers about 65 km, starting at a minimum height of 2800 masl and with a passage of 4,630 masl on the way. The best advantage of this circuit is that you do not need to plan ahead for long, considering that to enter the area you do not need a reservation with the government. It has numerous high snowcalls, such as Tucarhuay (5,910 m.s.n.m.), Verónica (5,682 m.s.n.m.) and Huacayhuilca (5,361 m.s.n.m.), among others.
The maximum difficulty you will encounter is the passage from Habrá or Paso Salkantay- (4630 masl). At this point height, cold and fatigue are your worst enemies. Once inside the mountain area you have to continue until you reach the pass, then things become calmer and you begin to notice the change of relief and temperature, changes of environment and nature are encouraging, the next campsite is Chaullay will be at 2,200 msm. If you have reached the highest step, continue! I will never say that it is easy, but after achieving it remains the sensation that it was worth. (The effort is always more mental).
To carry out the Walk you do not need special permits granted by the National Institute of Culture (Institution that depends on the Ministry of Culture) The only permit you require is the purchase of an entrance to the citadel of Machu Picchu, a process that you can do in the city of Cusco or by means of an Operator Travel Agency.
The value of the purchase of the income is: Adult: USD $: 70, Student: USD $: 40, which must be paid even with many months in advance, especially the high season months, which are from May to September.
Alternatively you can buy the complete package up to 2 weeks in advance or take the hike by hiring a local guide which is also advisable.
It is important to know that the camps are free, some even have basic infrastructure, unlike the famous Inca Trail, here they allow you to camp in any camp that is labeled on the route.
The most important camps are: Sayllapata (3,200 msm), Soraypampa (3,900 msm), Challabamba (3,550) Chaullay (2,800 msm), Collpapampa(2,750), Lucmabamba (2,800), Santa Teresa (1,800 msm), Playa Sawayacu (2,060 msm).
The most recommended camps are those marked with black, it is possible that some camps are full in high season.
GUIDE / MULAS
Let’s go in parts.
The guide is the most important thing. The road is not well signposted, so it is important to use a local guide, especially in the snowy months that are: January, February, March, months that are not very recommendable to do this walk, (many times the road is lost in the snow). The value of the guide is around 50 to 100 USD per day. (Everything depends on the language and experience of the professional).
Use of Mules: Most Operators use mules because it is important for loading equipment. During the trip, you will always see groups of mules carrying food and camping equipment, without them it would be very difficult to get hot food and a good place to rest. On the way you can also get extra mules to ride if you are very tired.
FOOD AND ACCOMMODATION
- Among the advantages of this Salkantay Trek is that it is never as frequented by many tourists as the famous Inca Trail.
- The camps are very beautiful and with lots of water. Some cleaner than others, some with better views. Overall they are very good. While some are better than others, they all have the comfort that fits the walker.
- In most camps you can buy water and cookies.
- Most operators have their own cook. The quality of the food is usually much higher than you can imagine, fortunately Peruvian food is reaching hierarchical levels between meals in the world and en route is no exception.
- As for the variety, the gastronomic options are many, meats, chicken, fish, but also native products like quinoa, tarwi … etc. Breakfasts are often plentiful and rich in oats and cereals. There are also fruit that you can not complain about. Everything is prepared for the tourist.
In the last camp we usually eat at a restaurant in the village of Santa Teresa. If you are in an organized group, you also expect good food, your chef prepares hearty dishes, you know you can impress expecting a small final gift for his service
As for water, you can buy bottled mineral water in almost all camps.
Unfortunately many walkers throw their plastic bottles on the way, but luckily there are also responsible operators who collect these debris on the route, I have also seen some walkers pick up bottles and take them some waste place that exist in the camps.
There is also the possibility of using water purification tablets and some juice powder to camouflage the taste. The other option is to carry aluminum bottle, today almost all operators usually fill the bottles at night with boiled water. (This service has become customary)
The first two days of hiking the climate is cold and dry, the remaining three days are humid and temperate. I recommend that the best season to walk this trail are the months of April to September, very little rain and clear days to see the white splendor of the mountains.
The best time is from April to September.
WHERE YOU START AND END THE WALK:
We have already said that the route usually begins in the village of Mollepata, 40 minutes by car from the Cusco Abancay road. This picturesque village is at 2,200 m altitude, the circuit is 05 days and is 65 km. Some good walkers can do this tour in 4 days, but it is only advisable for experts, the walk ends in Aguas Calientes Pueblo (2400 masl). From this point you have a train to return to Cusco and buses to go up to Machu Picchu.
In this route you can choose where to start but not where to end, there are 02 branches:
1.- Starting from Mollepata.- 07-day trek with direction to Inca Trail: (Always with an accredited Operator or with an Official Guide)
2.- Departing from Mollepata.- 05-day hike with direction to Santa Teresa: (You do not need an accredited Operator or with an Official Guide)
Also known as the typical “evil of the Condor” or “altitude sickness” is the lack of adaptation of the body to the lack of oxygen of the height.
When one ascends to the height the oxygen in the air is less dense and you feel that weights more, your body is not accustomed to the weight of the air. The body (and especially the blood) begins to function with oxygen levels lower than usual. 80% of the population has it in height. The typical symptoms are: Headache, loss of appetite, nausea, dizziness and much sleep. Symptoms can be felt from 2,400 meters above sea level.
What to do? We recommend to always come 02 days before starting a walk to allow time for the body to acclimate to new oxygen levels. During the Salcantay Salvaje circuit you will see that there is only one step that exceeds 4,6300 meters in height. If you get to suffer the consequences of altitude sickness the best thing to do is to descend, thus giving the body time to recover. Descending does not mean that you return to Mollepata without having crossed the passage, but that you rise in height to acclimatize but that you spend the night in a lower place. Precisely that is what is done in this route, descends and is camping less than 3000 meters, usually in Chaullay
BACKPACK AND EQUIPMENT
If you go alone or with company, your backpack should be as empty as possible. A couple of extra stockings will be an unnecessary weight that you will lament loads on your back. Among the little you have to take do not forget to keep: Lantern, a good map, thermal clothing (in the height you will need it), sun hat and cap or something that protects your ears from the cold, sunscreen, pills water purifiers, sandals or owls to rest your feet, nuts or something rich in protein and not weighing too much, medicine chest, bag or sleeping bag under zero degrees is important to carry.
A good medicine cabinet is more than necessary. The minimum necessary to carry are dressings (Band-Aid or Band-Aid), analgesics, antidiarrheal, bandages, disinfectant and what you consider necessary to cure blisters. If you hire an Operator for the walk, you forget about this, many of your things will be loaded by mules.
ADVICE AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
Never go alone, the mountains in this sector are wild, you prefer to hire a local operator that will make your life easier …
The climate of the mountain is very changing, always have close thermal clothing windbreaks.
Always arrive 02 days before starting your walk, acclimatization is important.
If there is something that will make a difference is the use of good trekking shoes. Pay close attention to this.
Always carry sweets and dried fruits: keep your mouth from cracking from dryness and wind.
Always carry some extra money in soles, you need to thank you with advice for your Andean goalkeeper.
Find the smallest bag as hot as possible, do not load it.
During the walk you should not miss a good hydration. It is necessary to always carry water and pills in a canteen. (A liter of daily water is the minimum)