Aaron and Flora Leach

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  • Day103

    Salkantay Trek, Peru - Day 3

    July 25, 2016 in Peru ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    We awoke again to coca tea served by the porters. We were so deep in sleep that the porters had to unzip our tent to wake us up. I’m really loving this coca tea! It perks me up right away. We spent the first few hours of the morning learning how to harvest the fruit off the local coffee plantation and turn them into roasted coffee beans. They even brewed us a pot of coffee to taste the fruit of our labour.

    Today’s trek would be a short one. We would get to our camp for the night at about 2pm, just in time for lunch. First up, we would have to hike for about 2-3 hours uphill along an original Inca trail which would lead us to the first site of the Lost City of the Incas. The Llactapata Inca site was never discovered by the Spanish after it was abandoned by the Incans and therefore was not destroyed. We had a view of Machu Picchu ruins, Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountains from here. Historians gather than Llactapata served as a resting place for Incans travelling along the Inca trails. They have found ruins almost every 20km along Incan trails, about the distance one would cover walking for a whole day. This was where travellers could rest and eat before carrying on with their journey.

    Our camp was only a 20 mins trek from this site. This campsite was the most established we have seen on this trek. There was a basic restaurant, toilet facilities and an incredible large campground with views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains. We spent the afternoon playing cards and before long, happy hour consisting of the usual hot popcorn and tea was served. Surprisingly, I was able to get some reception here to send some text messages to Aaron. I wish he could see what I was seeing.

    Dinner was extra special tonight. It was Rachel’s birthday and the chef had specially baked a cake for her. That’s right – a cake. How one would bake a cake with only a portable gas stove and a pot is beyond me. The chef did a stellar job. I had a huge chunk of the chocolate cake and it was delicious! Needless to say, Rachel was absolutely blown away. She had also convinced our guide to collect firewood for a campfire earlier on so we got to enjoy our cake in front of a roaring campfire.

    The guide spent the night telling us folklore from the highlands where he was born. They worship the mountains. He told us of scary tales of lost souls trying to snatch hikers in the mountains. By the time the fire burnt out, it was past 10pm and I was freaked out. I was really looking forward to tomorrow when I would see Aaron again.
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  • Day102

    Salkantay Trek, Peru - Day 2

    July 24, 2016 in Peru ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    At about 5.30am, the porters woke us up with a cup of hot coca tea. My tent buddy also struggled to get a good night’s rest and we were both groggy and tired. Once we got out of our tent and saw the glacier peaks and cloud forest, we were re-invigorated. By this time, we had grown to expect nothing less than amazing from our meals. The chef did not disappoint with breakfast.

    Today was all about the downhill climb. Slowly but surely, the Salkantay glacier peaks disappeared behind us and we were enveloped in lush, green cloud forest. There were birds and flowers to see. After what seemed like an eternity of trekking, we came across a very small local village. A tarp was laid out on the grass at the end of the village where we could relax before lunch. We would have had the option to enjoy a thermal bath but it was destroyed in a landslide back in March this year.

    We were given the option of hiking after lunch for another 6 hours to get to our campsite, or hiking for 3 hours and taking the bus to the campsite. We chose the latter as parts of the trek were also damaged by the landslide and we would have had to trek along the bus road anyway. And who were we kidding – our feet were really sore from already hiking more than 20km in less than 2 days.

    By now, we were trekking in a different micro-climate: it was warm and rather humid in some areas. The ground was sometimes moist which suited me just fine as I had already slipped on loose dry soil earlier in the day. We passed by cows lying in the sun and wondered how on earth they got there. The only way was on the walking path we were on and it seemed too narrow and steep in some parts.

    We crossed some bridges that were questionable at best. From afar, they looked like they were made of hay. Up close, they didn’t look any better. Just don’t look down, I told myself. To get to the bus pick-up point, we had to cross a final bridge to get to the road on the other side of the valley. We survived that but were met with an intense uphill climb for the next 15 minutes. It was hard going and pretty hairy.

    We were early. The bus wasn’t there yet. There was only a ute parked on the roadside. The guide started talking to the driver whom he must have recognised. Afterwards, he told us to get in the ute as they could not find a bus on a Sunday. Let’s see, there were 8 of us plus the guide and the driver, which makes 10 people in total. It was a dual cab ute which technically could fit 5, maybe 6 people. But when in Peru, you pile everyone else in the tray! I was one of the 5 in the tray for the hour-long bumpy journey but it was all giggles. It reminded me of being back in Indonesia where sitting in the back of a ute was an adventure for us kids.

    We spent the night at a local coffee farm. There were other campers that had also set up their tents. The best part of this campsite was that there was hot shower! We stayed up for a little bit playing cards so our food could digest better this time. The night was cool but unlike the previous night. This time it was very pleasant to sleep in and we all slept like babies through the night.
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  • Day101

    Salkantay Trek, Peru - Day 1

    July 23, 2016 in Peru ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    For the next 5 days, Flora will be a trek through the Salkantay mountain to Machu Picchu. Much to Aaron’s disappointment, he will not be able to join the trek as he still needs to rest his lung. The plan is for Aaron to take a train to a little town near Machu Picchu called Aguas Calientes on the 4th night.

    The trek starts with a 4:30am pick-up from the hotel. All that I would need to get through the trek is in a duffel bag and a backpack. After 3 hours on the bus, we arrived at Soraypampa where breakfast was waiting for us. It felt so surreal sitting in a deep valley with a surprisingly good spread of food on a folding table. Over the next 5 days, this group of 8 trekkers would share so many unforgettable memories. We were in great hands. Our guide, 3 porters, 1 chef, 2 horsemen including horses and mules would ensure our trek was extra special.

    After breakfast, we made our way along the Salkantay valley towards Salkantay Pass. We had unbeatable views of the Andes and its glacier-peaked mountains the entire time. Out of the 8 trekkers, 3 carried some serious DSLR cameras and multiple lenses. This was a photographer’s paradise. Our guide had a hard time shepherding us along the track. As soon as one person stopped to take a photo, the whole herd of sheep followed suit. You could hardly blame us – everywhere you look, you were captivated. Every now and then, you could hear an avalanche from the Salkantay glacier peak up above.

    This hike was a lot harder than I thought it would be. The thin air at the high altitude was making every uphill step laborious. It was a real struggle to climb 10m uphill without feeling desperately short of breath. After a long 4 hours, we finally got to the highest point of the trek at Salkantay Pass with an altitude of 4670m. You should see the view from up here. Hopefully the photos give you some sort of an idea of how breath-taking this place is.

    We descended for about an hour, crossing streams and waterfalls along the hillsides, until we got to our lunch site. The horses and our porters had overtaken us much earlier on in the trek, and raced ahead to set up camp for us. By the time we arrived, lunch was cooked and ready to be served. You would think the food would be subpar given the remote location of our camp but it was one of the best meals I’ve had in South America. It’s amazing what they can whip up with quinoa, potatoes, rice and chicken. Delicious!

    We still had a long way ahead of us to reach our camp for the night. It was all downhill from here but it wasn’t as easy as you would think. The uphills were very steep and the downhills equally so. I’m so glad Aaron ordered these walking poles for me as I’d be landing face first or skittling downhill on my bum many a times. The sun had started to set and it was getting cold. The wind jacket was now back on. When we reached the campsite, it was nearly 0 degC and dropping. Once the sun had completely set behind the Andes, the cold was overwhelming. According to our guide, it was a warm night – probably around -8 degC. Warm indeed!

    We were told to eat light as digestion is slow at this altitude. I was famished and ignored that advice. I crawled straight into my sleeping bag after a “shower” with wet wipes as the cold was unbearable. Where was my husband when you need someone to cuddle up to! It was a restless night. Between freezing into a popsicle and overheating due to the multiple layers of clothing I had on, I managed maybe 3-4 hours of sleep.
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