Perú: a series (Salkantay Trek Day 2)

Day 2 of Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu.

So from the beginning, our guide had been telling us that day 2 would be the hardest, and I was ready to just get it over with. Everyone kept telling me to “just enjoy the journey - enjoy where you’re at right now!” But I just couldn’t with that huge 7km incline hanging over my head.

After a 5am wake-up with a steaming cup of Coca tea, I layered up, ate a delicious breakfast, and headed into my nightmare.

The guide told us that the day was basically comprised of 3 different inclines, followed by a steep 17km downhill. He also mentioned there would be a long flat part after our first incline, which was a filthy lie, and did not leave me feeling good about the 2 other inclines to follow. The first incline was rough and long, but I managed to keep up pretty well, and though I felt terrible, I didn’t feel like death was upon me. Then came inline 2: The Seven Snakes.

Standing in front of Salkantay Glacier during the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu.

Holy shit, people. It was a series of switchbacks that seemed to go on forever. I tried to just keep looking at my feet and take one step at a time, knowing that each step forward was bringing me closer to the downhill, but Mitchell was leaping from curve to curve like a little mountain goat and it was hard not to see how much higher he was than me, and thus how much more territory I had to cover before any sort of relief. Guys, it was flat out awful. Apparently 40% of people who do this trek take a horse for this part. One girl in our group did, and I was super jealous of her, and cursing my stupid pride for not letting myself get one.

By the time I did finish The Seven Snakes everyone was all congratulatory like “you did it!” completely ignoring the fact that there was still another incline to go! Again, I got yelled at for being so pessimistic and was told to enjoy the victory I just accomplished, but the cynic in me just couldn’t do it. So onward we pressed, through snow and rock, up, up, up the glacier.

At the top of Seven Snakes on the Salkantay Trek Day 2 to Machu Picchu.

At the third incline I was so tired I had to keep making little goals for myself, “Ok, Kelsey, just make it to that rock, then you can stop and breathe. Ok, now get to that curve…nope that was too ambitious, just make it to this grassy area. There you go.” etc., etc.

And then there it was. The end of the uphill. And our glorious chef was waiting for us with sandwiches and hot Coca tea, which was much appreciated on the snowy, windy pass. I was so happy y’all! The hard part was done…or so I thought.

Salkantay Pass on day 2 of the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu.

We started the descent and got to rest for 30 minutes or so on a warm grassy area that opened up to our first view of the Amazon, as we gave the cooks time to prepare our lunch. They had to do the same hike as us, only faster so they had to time to clean up breakfast, pack up, get to the lunch spot, unload, and then cook, all before we got there. Our cooks are superhumans y’all. They did the same thing for dinner, and it just blows my mind thinking about it.

The Amazon coming into view on day 2 of the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu.

After lunch we continued 10 more km downhill to our lovely Andean hut campsite. I was killing that downhill, friends! Everyone was complaining about it and saying how they’d rather do the uphill again, but not me. No siree, I was dominating that downhill and would do it 5 times over just to avoid doing the uphill.

In the end, I’m glad I pushed myself, and glad I did it, but I would NEVER do it again. I have no desire to climb any more mountains. But if you ever want a downhill, flat, or softly rising incline hiking partner, I’m your girl!

I did it! Salkantay Pass on day 2 of Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu.