Machu Picchu Adventure Update 2:To the summit of the misty mountain and back again

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Another update from John Racanelli and the crew on the Machu Picchu Adventure…

A big day for the OCSC trek today…we successfully made it over the 15,300 foot pass of Mt Salcantay!  We were surrounded by 20,000 foot peaks all around us, with exotic names like Humantay, Tucarpay and of course, the granddaddy of them all: 21,000 foot Salcantay, towering another mile above us.  I could not be more proud of our group–everyone made it up and over under their own power and I never heard a complaint, even when trudging up the infamous Siete Culebras (Seven Snakes), a mean set of switchbacks that ascend nearly 1000 feet in barely twice that distance… Ultimately, we covered 8.1 miles in nearly 6 hours’ trekking–most of it uphill.

Here are a few more highlights of the day:

-A hailstorm that gave us all a chance to wear every stitch of fleece and raingear, then fizzled as fast as it came.

-Several avalanches far up the slope of Mt Salcantay, punctuated by crackling ice that sounded like gunshots.

-Trains of horses and mules trotting by on the trail with little twinkling bells announcing their coming (ie, get out of the way!).

-A delicious lunch in a cozy tent halfway back down the mountain–with Andean soup, a hearty pasta, pears in port wine and steaming mugs of coca tea. 

-Several more condor sightings, along with Andean ibis, llamas, and (we think) chinchillas.

-Learning about the fascinating history, both human and natural, of this ancient land from our guide (and Zen master) Dalmiro.

-Arriving at this rustic, warm and tasteful lodge, Wayracmachay, to be greeted by Pilar and her wonderful staff.

-Relaxing with a cold Cusqueno beer in the hot tub at sunset, watching the 20,000 foot peaks around us turn shades of orange and pink with the fading sun.

-Another sumptuous Andean dinner followed by a very entertaining ‘concert’ given by three of the lodge’s fabulous staff, to the haunting Peruvian sound of the Requinto (10-string guitar).

Everyone was thoroughly whipped from the magnitude of today’s hike and, as I write this (with more than a few yawns) all are off to bed to ready themselves for the long, steady descent tomorrow.  To a person, we agreed this had to be one of the most energizing, satisfying and full days of our lives. More adventures tomorrow!

John

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