Getting High and Going Broke: Cusco, Salkantay Trek, Machu Picchu
- We have never been camping
- We have never spent a night in a tent
- The longest hike we have ever done: 6 hours for one day
- Regardless of all this, we decided to book the 5-day/4-night Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu
- We’re fuc#@ng crazy!
It is hard to describe just how exquisite this city really is. Between its flawlessly preserved squares, charming cobblestone streets and interesting juxtaposition of Inca ruins alongside Spanish Cathedrals it is easy to see why Cusco is one of the most visited cities in Peru. Having this distinction also makes the city unbelievably expensive and unfortunately for us we were broke almost the entire time we visited.
Because of a money transfer glitch and a federal holiday we were down to 18 dollars in our bank account. We then found out that to visit many of the nearby ruins and some museums we needed to purchase what’s known as the boleto turistico in addition to paying the entrance fees. This tourist ticket costs around 130 Soles per person and is valid for 10 days (partial tickets valid for fewer days can also be purchased).
Since we were gearing up to do the Salkantay Trek in a couple of days we decided the best thing to do was just relax at Hostal Umiña San Blas while saving money. Our host was great and really made us feel at home. He also offered treks to Machu Picchu at reasonable prices and best of all allowed us to pay when we got back. Despite our thin wallet were still able to enjoy a few free sites around town including the Plaza de Armas, the market, Coricancha and did a free walking tour with a local.
The Inca Trail was booked until January 2016 so we had to find a different trek to Machu Picchu. According to our fabulous guide Eddy, Salkantay was a harder, more scenic trek and man was he right. The views were astounding and the elevation was HIGH at 4600 meters. Hiking straight up and then straight down on the second day was definitely not a walk in the park.
We hadn’t worked out in months and we’re not really hikers so the trail truly kicked our butts. Regardless, we kept going and would make it camp even if it was an hour after everyone else had gotten there. At numerous times I wanted to quit (including within the first 2 hours of hiking) but after a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears (literally) it was an indescribable feeling to know we had made it to the end.
Yes, it is an extraordinary as you imagine it to be. I cannot even fathom how this incredible architectural and engineering marvel was thought up and executed. Our guide Eddy mentioned that to visit this sacred place it was customary to perform some kind of difficult feat or sacrifice. Having just completed the Salkantay trek made the visit to Machu Picchu even more rewarding and remarkable for us. No matter the journey you take to get there make sure to allow yourself plenty of time to take in all the splendor of this astonishing site.