The way the trek works with Saltankay Trekking is a group of people, minimum two maximum eight people according to the website, are assigned a guide. In our case because our group was 12 people we had two guides, Hector and Diego. Hector was the leader of the group, spoke English and knew all about the Inca history. Diego was younger and still in college, spoke no English and followed the last person to make sure they didn't perish alone. Unlike backpacking where you carry everything, tent, sleeping bag, fuel and food, the trek is luxurious in the fact we had a cook, horsemen and horses that carried our duffles with our personal items. We only had to carry our day pack and hike. I carried just under 1.5 liters of water, my camera and a rain jacket. John carried the toilet paper, sun screen, bug spray and our snacks which I'm really thankful he carried that because my camera already weighed plenty.
The morning of
Luckily the time difference from Phoenix to Peru was only 2 hours so the 4 am wake-up call was really only 2am and not some other ungodly hour. Our hotel, Rumi Punku was used to the early morning hikers; started serving breakfast at 5am so after our breakfast of fresh fruit, fresh juice, bread and cheese, we stood out front waiting for our 5:30am pickup. I assumed time in Peru was Peruvian time but Saltankay Trekking was timely. Now of course they weren't timely for the people being picked up at 5:45am instead of the 5am but the pickup was timely for us.
Our guides allowed us frequent breaks; they know from experience it isn't a race and it's all about pacing. Start out slow so you can finish strong. The scenery in the Andes is absolutely beautiful; the pictures don't reflect the true beauty. Everywhere I looked was so different than anywhere I have hiked before. It was only 3 hours to lunch which was also our camping spot but it was uphill. Or at least I thought it was uphill. The true uphill wouldn't occur until after lunch and then it was UPHILL. Being a runner I have a misconception that somehow this hike wouldn't be as painful. I have this same misconception on every Grand Canyon hike that I do and should have learned my lesson by now.
We arrived to the campsite and the tents were set up and lunch was being cooked. There was a little snafu with my luggage in that it was accidentally brought to another groups site (Saltankay Trekking had two groups traveling and sharing horses) but that was quickly sorted out and I put my name on my duffle.
At the start of lunch Hector asked about food restrictions. Since lunch was fish I said I would pass but I do eat meat. My decline of fish meant from that point on, the cook thought I was a vegetarian and there was always a special vegetarian meal for me.
Stay tuned for the rest of day one where a mere 400 meters UPHILL is worth the trip to see a glacier lake.