To the Valley of Soray Pampa

Monday, October 16, 2007:  We woke up at 4:30 a.m. to start our adventure five day backpacking trek to Machu Picchu.  We checked out of our hotel and waited for +Llama Path to pick us up.  +Jesse Avery and I were the first ones to be picked up on the giant tour bus but the bus was so big that we actually had to walked down a few blocks because the bus did not fit in the street!

We got a tour of all the different parts of Cuzco as we picked up all the other 13 trekkers.  The bus stopped for gas on the outskirts of Cuzco, our last stop before we started our three hour bus ride down to Mollepata.  Jesse was a little nervous about the bus ride because he's prone to carsickness if he's not driving but thankfully he was able to sleep most of the way to Mollepata.  I was excited nervous but mostly agitated because the altitude sickness pills made my hands and feet tingle and I still had some stomach issues.

Mollepata down below
The bus dropped us off at Mollepata which was a tiny town.  The porters all dressed in matching red uniforms started their trek.  This backpacking trip was a "luxury" trek because we had porters carrying our sleeping bags, tents and whatever we didn't need during our day hikes and would set up camp and three-course meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The porters were amazing ninja backpackers and I have an enormous respect for these men.

We started our hike with having breakfast at a backpackers restaurant and started hiking up the hills.  The view were beautiful and kind of resembled California hiking, well at least in the beginning of the trek. This part of the trek was still inhabited which was weird for +Jesse Avery but since this was my first time backpacking I didn't know any different.

Trekking from Mollepata to Soray Pampa
We didn't have a GPS to track our hike back in 2007 but we started at Cuzco at about 10,000-11,000 ft, drove down to Mollepata which was at approximately 6,000 ft.  Our day hike started at Mollepata at 6,000 ft and ended our first campsite 11 miles away at Soray Pampa at approximately 11,000 ft.  Our entire trip was about a 40-50 mile hike.

Nevado Salkantay, Circa 2007
This was my first view of Nevado Salkantay and the excitement grew even more when I saw my first glimpse.  By this point, I was still feeling a little ill but I just ignored it because the view of the Salkantay was so amazing.  We stopped here and took our "glamour shots" with the Salkantay which means, Savage Mountain.  The mountain lived up to its name!  I ran and we had "training" hikes in the San Francisco Bay Area in preparation for this trek, but no amount of training could have prepared us to hike up to 15,000-16,000 ft at Salkantay's pass.

Glamour Shot
I really don't like this picture of Jesse and myself, but I put it up as reference because we look "fat".  Each day we lost weight and it wasn't because we didn't have enough food because like I mentioned before +Llama Path fed us three course meals three times a day, it was because we hiked 8-10 hours a day, maybe 12 hours.  I calculated my calorie intake and based on only 8 hours of hiking and I could have eaten everything and anything and I would have still lost weight during this trek!

As we ascended it got chillier and chillier, so we layered up.  When we were in Mollepata the guides highly suggested to purchase a hiking stick/pole.  We almost didn't purchase our hiking sticks because we never needed hiking before on our regular hikes, plus we were "tough" enough that we didn't need one.  But we decided it was better to listen to our seasoned guide, Alex.  We had three guides, Alex, Santiago and Edwin.  Alex was the Senior Guide and Santiago and Edwin looked like his trainees though Santiago had been on more treks than Edwin at this point.

This was our lunch view, I believed this location was called Challabamba, it was pretty flat here.  When we arrived here for lunch the red lunch tent was set up along with tea and our three course meal, which always consisted of appetizers, soup, main course and sometimes dessert.  We finally had a chance to get to know the other trekkers who were from Canada, the United States and Australia.

I felt a little better after lunch and we had a little break before we started hiking again.  Jesse and I sat in this field for a while, took pictures and just relaxed.  I remembered seeing a horse act like a dog for the first time in my life.  Our group had horses and mules to carry a lot our group's equipment, so at lunch time the horses also had a break.  A horse laid down and then proceeded to roll on its back to scratch his back on the grass just like my dog back at home.  It looked hilarious to me because he looked like a giant dog.

We started to hike again and about an hour after lunch, I really did not feel well, so much that I threw up.  I think it was a combination of my stomach issues and altitude sickness that caused my vomiting and headache.  Santiago came to me and immediately pulled out a clear bottle and poured some clear liquid over his hands and covered my nose and mouth and told me to take a few deep breaths.  I felt the same and all I smelled was alcohol.  Then Santiago said, "Now you will see the difference between chemical and the natural stuff!"  I was so out of it by then I didn't care what I was going to inhale!

Santiago pulled out a plastic water bottle with plants floating in some black liquid and poured it on his hands to cover my nose and mouth again.  I inhaled four deep breaths and I felt like a brand new person!  It was amazing, my stomach and headache was gone and I had energy to hike immediately....immediately.  I don't know what it was, but everything was brighter and I could hear the birds chirping louder than normal.  The black liquid must intensify senses and numb pain because that is what I felt.  Whatever, it got me to finish the last hours of hiking.

This was the last picture of that I took that day.  I absolutely love this picture, right around the base of the where the snow starts is a thin layer of cloud that looks like smoke.  Just around the bend on the left of the picture was a lodge with a hot tub filled with chubby older white men drinking beer...Santiago turned to me and said they didn't hike, they rode horses.  Whatever floats your boat!  The trail was pretty uninhabited by this point but there are few people that live around the trails to sell beer, coke and trinkets to trekkers like us.  I remember the Australian couple bought beers, they like to drink a lot!

Jesse and I had just purchased our REI Half Dome 2 tent, so we set up our own tent even though +Llama Path provided tents for everyone, we just opted out of their tents.  Our camp was in the valley at the base of Nevado Salkantay, Nevado Tucarhuay and Cerro Soray.  We arrived at Soray Pampa and each minute that passed, the temperature got colder and colder.  Dinner was served and I couldn't eat anything and everything smelled delicious.  My nausea returned so the guides prepared a "special soup" for me, it was celery soup as far as I could taste.  Thankfully one of the trekkers was a pre-med student and gave me an anti-nausea pill which fixed me once for all.

As we got ready for bed, the porters made everyone hot water bottles to put in our sleeping bags because they knew if was going to be a COLD windy night.  I visited the facilities (hole in the ground with a surrounding tent) a few hours after we went to bed and I've never felt so cold in my life, let's just say I didn't leave the tent the rest of the night after that!  I bundled up back in my tent and fell asleep to the sounds of Salkantay's howling winds....

Related Posts and Links: 

  1. The Savage Mountain, Nevado Salkantay
  2. Three Days in One: Salkantay to Andenes Camp
  3. Other Peru Posts
  4. Llama Path - Sustainable Tourism Operator