The road to Machu Picchu

The road to Machu Picchu
The citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru with a majestic scenery.

There are two ways to reach Machu Picchu - by train or on foot.

The four-day Classic Inca Trail is popular because it was the route travelled by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham who introduced Machu Picchu to the world.

The amenities on the classic trail are basic, and hikers stay in tents.

Not wanting to sacrifice any creature comforts, I took the alternate route via Salkantay Pass and joined Mountain Lodges of Peru's (MLP) seven-day lodge-to-lodge trek.

Salkantay Lodge

Salkantay Lodge is the largest and the only one accessible by car. It is located in an open valley in front of the Salkantay and Humantay mountains.

The Incas associated Salkantay mountain with rain and fertility. During the rainy season, from the main sundial in Machu Picchu, the Southern Cross can be seen when it is at the highest point in the sky, above the Salkantay summit.

To acclimatise ourselves, we went for a hike to the Humantay Glacier Lake. Lounging on its banks, we could see condors flying high above our heads.

The Incas worshipped condors as they believed that a dying condor would soar and disappear into the clouds, and this was why no condor carcass has ever been found in nature.

Back at Salkantay Lodge, I booked myself a body massage to get ready for the hikes ahead.

Wayra Lodge

The next day, we were to cross the Salkantay Pass at 4,638m. The gentle uphill climb was followed by a series of steep switchbacks nicknamed "the seven snakes".

At the pass, we could see the peak of Salkantay looming over us through the white clouds. It was really cold.

The descent from the pass was yet another set of steep downhill paths.

I chose to cross the pass on horseback. This is not for the fainthearted, as the trail was littered with loose rocks.

I rode mostly on paths that were about 1m wide, with the vertical face of the mountain on one side. Beyond the edge of the path on the other side was the bottom of the valley.

After the pass, the whole group met up for a threecourse hot lunch. MLP employs a team of chefs who are trained in high-altitude cooking. At high altitudes, food preparation requires changes in time, temperatures or recipes.

Our chef, Rosa, who travelled with us, made tasty soups, desserts and fresh bread every day. The menu comprised mostly Western cuisine using fresh local ingredients.

After a hard day of walking, we wanted food that was familiar.

Wayra means "the place where the wind lives", and it was really cold at night in the room even with heating. Naturally, we were all tucked in our warm cosy beds by 9pm.

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