Snow blindness, Salkantay and an easy stroll

After a couple of months on the road I had belatedly arrived at Cusco. A happening little tourist town with too much on offer. After 3 consecutive evenings living it large and one too many UV paint stained pieces of clothing, I decided to actually get productive and save my liver and kidneys some more work. So I booked myself a nice little 5 day hike which winds it way towards arguably the number one tourist destination in South America, Machu Picchu. Luckily I was paired with at least some decent fellow travellers who also shared a common language, and some friendly Brazilians which sign language had to suffice.

Day 1: Was spent walking some farmland roads up towards the mountains. Here I found out I was one of the fittest peeps in the group which wasn’t saying a lot and i spent most of my time waiting in the cold for everyone else to catch up. I also found out Brazilians can be quite lazy as a bunch of people scored a lift in the back of the food truck.

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Mountain farmlands.

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View from the love shack.

Day 2: The dream team awoke up to start the hike up to the pass at about 4600m. It had snowed heavily overnight and was pretty overcast so no one in the group used sunblock and few brought their sunnies. The guides were surprised at how much snow had hit overnight and forgot to warn everyone of the sun’s power at high altitude. So we all powered on ignorant to damage being done to our supple bodies. This was by far the best part of the hike, cruising up into the cold snowy mountains to awesome views of the snow capped cordillera Vilacabamba and then back down to warmer cloud forests. Most of the braZilians continued their hard work and hired some sad looking mules for the trek up.

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Camp night 1.

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Snow capped mountain range.
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Looking down the valley.
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Windy path up to the pass.
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Mountain tarns.
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Sad mules journeying home.
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First view over the pass to the cordillera Vilacabamba.
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Salkantay summit.
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Heading back down to the tropics.
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View back up.
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High altitude perros.

Day 2 evening: After 9 hours walking and a standard average tour dinner everyone retired to their respective tents for some shut eye. I felt some mild irritation in my eyes and thought i’d gotten mosquito repellent in my eyes so I thought douching my face in the local stream would save me some pain, but this proved ineffective. 30 minutes later the pain had escalated to an unbearable level, and I was joined by a team of about 7 people sharing my newly contracted eye condition. As it turns out snow blindness, although only temporary, feels like a tiny man is continuous massaging sand into your corneas. Our guide proceeded to conjure up a jungle potion consisting of grated potato and beaten eggs which was carefully administered to the eyes with surgical precision and advised strong pain killers which worked a treat.

Day 3: Awoke in pain expecting to have lost my eyesight but thankfully I could still see some blurry colours. Our guide, or now suspected sorcerer had been preparing a fresh jungle elixir of carrot juice overnight which again was poured deep within our eyes. After some time we continued on our merry way semi blind to the next town with a road. From here the weak took a bus to the hospital and the rest of us determined to continue, powered on to the next stop.

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Swollen satanic eyes.
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Camp night 2.

Didn’t take any more photos due to lack of vision, perhaps it would have been smart to do so.

Day 4: Hiked along a raging river until the dream team reached the railway to Aguas Calientes. Again the weak and the lazy took a bus. In the end, I’m pretty sure some of the Brazilians walked all of 15km of the total 70kms. Bizarre folk.

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Cascada.

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Raging river.
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Oncoming train.
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Tracks with Machu Picchu mountain in the background.
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PanoRAMA
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More raging river.
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Peruvian man-mule-machine

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Aguas Calientes.

Day 5: Machu Picchu – next installment.

2 thoughts on “Snow blindness, Salkantay and an easy stroll

  1. I followed the same trail in August, was awesome! Some of the views just left me speechless. Glad to see my experience on the mountain wasn’t a freak occurrence (we had a -10 blizzard!)

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