SALKANTAY TREK: DAYS 3 & 4 – INTO THE JUNGLE
SALKANTAY TREK – DAY 3: INTO THE JUNGLE
On the third day, our five pack became four. The six-hour decline on yesterday’s hike had hacked at Carly’s knees and she decided to rest and not risk further injury before Machu Picchu. With her knees bandaged and painted red with the juice of local berries, she waves us goodbye and waits for the shuttle. With Ives in the backpack, we set off.
Not long after we begin our guide stops and picks berries from a plant.
“To make warriors,” he says.
He breaks a stick and wraps the end in soft white fluff from a nearby tree – he has made a paintbrush. He squashes the berries into a bag until they form a paste. One by one he paints our faces to show our individual warriors. Ivy asks to be a cat so with whiskers and red faces, we continue.
We swap the snow for waterfalls, the rocky terrain for the Santa Teresa jungle. For hours, we head into the wilderness, surrounded by the green of the jungle and its wildlife.
We pass vines tied with local fruit and when we reach a clearing we sit and enjoy it. We rip the orange skin from the Granadilla and eat the sweet seeds, like a passionfruit. Other travellers have gathered for lunch, and the boys form soccer teams on the green grass. I lay beside the field, half napping and listening to Ivy make friends beside me.
When the game is finished, we keep walking. We climb rocks sitting in rivers and wonder down a dirt road until we reach a van waiting to take us to our newest accommodation in . A new row of blue tents, this time lined with hammocks.
We get ready for the Santa Teresa hot springs, the promise that kept us walking for days. When we arrive, after three days of no showers and freezing temperatures, we are beyond excited. There are three large pools, each one hotter than the last. We jump into the end one and decide to move into the hottest. It’s like a warm bath but with 100 strangers. Once submerged, I realise I brought my GoPro and left the battery on charge. Fail. We sit in the water until the darkness takes over and we head back to camp.
We eat a feast prepared by the chefs, drink vodka and again collapse into our tents.
DAY 4 – DOWN THE TRACKS
We eat cake for breakfast to celebrate Addy’s upcoming birthday and Ivy is incredibly excited about this. After too many pieces of sprinkle covered sponge, everyone heads off to ziptrek, while I wait behind with Ives because she is not old enough to participate.
When it’s our turn to leave, we pile into a tiny car and drive down a road that makes me wish I was on the ziptrek. We pull over, the man asks me for $1 and I am unsure where we are. We walk towards a train track and I notice tiny stalls form lines between the jungle and the tracks. Women sit on plastic chairs selling treats, water, juice and fruit.
We wait for the others at our lunch destination and Ivy makes friends with a local girl a little bit older than her. They play together happily although they cannot understand each other.
When the others arrive, we eat and wait for the train to take our luggage. The train doesn’t come and we notice the TV news – our train derailed before it reached us. I stand, shocked, watching the aftermath on the screen, trying to listen to every Spanish word I can understand. With no train on the way, we carry our luggage outside into the rain and head for the tracks.
Jono buys an umbrella hat and I cannot look at him without laughing. It only rains for a minute but he refuses to ditch his hat. We walk the train tracks, two perfect lines like arrows through the mountains. We buy a banana from a man selling fruit beside the tracks, cross wooden bridges over flowing rivers and realize just how heavy our luggage is. Mountains tower over us on all sides and we alternate between Ivy walking and carrying her.
Horns warn us of an approaching train and we stand to the side of the track. A blue train rushes past much to Ivy’s excitement and we promise her she can take the train back to Cusco. We continue and it feels like the tracks will never end. Perhaps they go on forever. A man stops us and points up to the mountain tops.
“That’s Machu Picchu,” he points.
My breath catches in my throat. Excitement floods my body. I am so close to a place I have dreamed about for longer than I can remember.
Knowing we are so close, we pick up the pace. The track is busy, travelers walking one way or the other. Going or leaving the world famous site.
We walk for what feels like forever but eventually we make it to Aguas Calientes – our last night before the hike to Machu Picchu and our first night in a bed and with a shower since we left.
We check in and all race to our bathrooms. There is no hot water, but it’s water. We dress for dinner and meet at a nearby restaurant to enjoy local guacomole, beef and rice.
We drink Pisco Sours and talk excitedly about tomorrow. When I fall into bed it feels like I’ve landed on a cloud. I float into my dreams – we’re so close to them now.