We could argue that it was to be expected, Spanish time and all that, but to be fair no one we knew or have spoken to knows where our hostel is, so it was no real surprise when the transport didn´t arrive on time. In fact it didn´t arrive until 0515, apparently he´d been driving up and down the street looking for us.
Not to worry if that was all that was going to go wrong on the trip we were laughing! It was in fact a taxi that came to pick us up, with another young guy in it called “Wim”, it turns out he´s from Belgium and he´s been over in Lima for 7 months or so on exchange. The taxi takes us across town where a local bus is waiting and being uploaded with gear. We get on this as instructed and it´s pretty much full. It´s not long before we set off to our trek start point a village called Mollepata where we can have brekkie and get to know who exactly is in our group… There appears to be 9 or 10 tourists on the bus and the rest seem to be guides and cooks etc… but we are just guessing at this stage.
At brekkie we realise there were two groups on the bus, ours is made up of Wim, Jason and Nigel (Canada) and us. Our guide for the trek is called Enrique (Iglesias he kids!). Things are looking dandy; we tried really hard not to be in a huge group. The Condor trek in Sucre was full of lovely people but it´s pretty hard to keep everyone together when the group is that large (there were 14 of us!); five is a nice number, especially with one guide. The other group has 4 guys in it, an American father and son (Tim and Nick), a Swiss French guy and a French Canadian. There are going to be many more groups as time goes on, but here is this 1st other we´ve met and we are likely to keep on meeting these guys throughout the trip.
How it works with Salkantay is this: we all pack a day sack with essentials in it – water, sun cream, a waterproof just in case, then the remainder of our kit – sleeping bags, spare clothes, tents they supply etc.. get carried on a mule/horse for most of the way. There is a horseman who looks after the horses and guides them through the mountains and we also have a cook, all his gear and the food also go on the animals. We have a weight limit to abide by and it turns out that with all this gear we have 4 horses with us. They aren´t actually with us as such as they walk at a different pace and leave after us each day having stayed behind to pack up camp.
After brekkie we have another truck ride (like the one at the end of the Condor trek) for about 45 minutes, lucky for us we get offered the passenger seats in the cab 🙂 . Then we don our daysacks and set off for our 1st overnight camp – at Soraypampa, it´s at the base of a glacial path we will be walking tomorrow and a hidden lake just above us that Enrique tells us we are walking just for fun after lunch! We are already at 3,700m and the lake is another ~500m up. We guess its good practice for altitude acclimatising, only we tackle it too soon after eating (Jason doesn´t join us as he has a pretty bad head) and Bernice not being 100% yet really struggles. Thing is the others think it´s the altitude but it´s really the food poisoning still causing her issues. That said slow and steady paid off and it was worth the effort, a really nice glacial lake awaited us.
Back at camp it was dinner and then bed. What we´ve discovered already is that our cook likes to cook and lunch and dinner are huge meals, even for a normal day out, but taking into consideration altitude effects it is a real shame as we all struggle to eat what is put in front of us 🙁
In the valley there is evidence of quite a few other groups scattered about the various smallholdings around us. Which means the path we all walk over the coming days is going to be pretty busy. Enrique has offered to source a horse to take Jason to the pass tomorrow if he thinks he´s still going to be crock, but he says he´s feeling better already so all is well.