We knew what we were walking into when we signed up for the Salkantay Hike in November. We arrived in Cusco, Peru with two pairs of shoes (neither hiking boots) and clothing meant for 80 degree weather, not glaciers and snow.
Let’s just say we didn’t hike to Machu Picchu with name brand hiking boots, walking sticks or proper clothing. We did pretty much everything wrong and against our better judgement, but we still made it to Machu Picchu with the rest of them!
Learn from our mistakes:
We didn’t have any warm clothes with us. We had a long sleeve shirt and one pair of pants. So like any normal person would do, we wore the same clothes for pretty much the entire 5 day hike. Yes, your clothes do start to smell after day 2. One thing we did right is bring a clean outfit for the last day at Machu Picchu. You get to stay in a hotel/hostel the night before in Aguas Calientes and take a proper shower. After showering it would just feel wrong to put the old dirty clothes on, so we suggest having one clean outfit for your last day at Machu Picchu.
We purchased a closet full of alpaca clothes from the local Cusco market for as cheap as we could negotiate and hiked decked out in alpaca hats, gloves, sweater and socks.
We had Teva Sandals and tennis shoes. Our tennis shoes were not the full coverage style with ankle support, they were the barefoot running shoes which are basically thick socks on your feet.
November is the beginning of rainy season which means a lot of the hike was through streams, a whole-lotta mud and even more horse poop. Our socks and shoes were soaking wet 75% of the time. We considered renting hiking boots, but we had heard horror stories of bad blisters due to not breaking in the hiking shoes first.
Our day bags were by far the smallest of anyone else on the hike. Josh’s backpack worked ok, but we couldn’t carry much.
I was completely in the unprepared category with my side shoulder Patagonia bag. I continually switched shoulders to balance the weight but there was no arguing that this wasn’t the best choice for a 5 day hike.
Our tour guide insisted with our lack of shoe support that we bring the sticks.
In an attempt to hike as unprepared as possible (sarcasm) we opted to forego the walking sticks. Honestly 85% of the hike we didn’t need the walking sticks, but for the other 10 – 15% they would have been really helpful, just because it was the beginning of rainy season. We were hiking in deep mud, straight up hills that were near impossible to climb. We had to borrow hiking sticks for these small stretches from others in our group who brought them.
You don’t get many mosquitos on the hike, you get nastier sand flies that itch like nothing I have ever itched before. These little brats bite you and leave a red “I was here” bump that looks almost like a bee sting. These bites are so small and painfully itchy and they last for weeks after. I am sitting here 2 weeks post-hike and still can count 4 – 5 bites on my legs. I sprayed all my clothes and sprayed my body again and wore long pants at all times, and I still came out with plenty of bites.
Despite how unprepared we were, the hike and the views made it all worth it, more photos to come! Learn from our mistakes and travel to Cusco prepared, or don’t, but definitely plan time to hike to Machu Picchu while in Peru.