In 2016 I was in my final year of my Bachelors degree in the UK, and I took part of a charity challenge organised by Choose a Challenge UK.
The goal : Raise a minimum of £3000 and trek the Salkantay Trek in Peru to the famous archeological wonder, the Machu Picchu for Make A Wish Foundation UK.
Raising money for a great charity + having the opportunity to go to South America for the first time to see one of the 7 Wonders of the World ?? HUM YES PLEASE !?
But first, what is MAKE A WISH FOUNDATION you’ll ask me ? 🤔
Make A Wish is an amazing non-profit organisation founded in 1980 in the US that grands wishes to children with critical illnesses. Here are some examples of wishes:
I got the opportunity to raise money to help fund a wish through this challenge and it was such an honour to fundraise for such a beautiful organisation and amazing children !
So for 6 months I was fundraising money, going out in the streets of Sheffield and Lincoln in the UK, under the cold and the rain, but the reaction of the people was incredible ! I’d never expect to see such generosity and friendliness from bystanders especially towards fundraisers with buckets collecting money ^^ (in Paris you would have gotten weird looks or people trying to avoid you)
And after a lot of help from friends (thanks friends ! ☺️), my parents (thanks mom and dad 😁) and parents’ friends I managed to raise a little over £3000 for these amazing children !
After having fundraised enough money for the charity, it is time to start getting ready for the challenge. And when I say getting ready, it’s not just the packing ! oh no no no ^^ It’s also getting the body ready ! 😅🤘
The physical preparation for the trek had to be serious because I was going to be hiking for 8 to 12 hours every day for 6 days at 3 000m and above. So it was time to start going to the gym and doing long walks to get used to walk for a long period of time.
One thing that helped me too was during the summer when I travelled to Italy with a friend of mine. We went to different places like Sorrento or Lake Garda and did a lot of walking and biking which was perfect. We also stopped at Cinque Terre where I did the hike between the 5 towns, which also prepared me a little bit more physically. (a post about that will come later don’t worry 😉)
One thing you have to know if you’re going to do a big trek like this, is that no amount of preparation will be enough to prepare you for what you’ll be experiencing during the trek – especially if you don’t have mountains to train in !
The trek started on the 4th September when my group and I departed from London Heathrow Airport direction Lima !
The journey took about 20 hours, with a flight towards Madrid, a 5 hour stopover and a 12ish hour flight to Lima. After arriving in Lima we spent a – VERY – short night in a hostel to wake up 4 hours later to board a short flight to Cusco, the starting point for our adventure.
Cusco is one of the highest city in the world, culminating at an altitude of 3,400m. A lot of travellers are prone to experience altitude sickness, which is why the Peruvians in the region drink a lot of Coca tea made from coca leaves.
Once in Cusco, we had 3 days to acclimate to the altitude, during which we visited the Cusco Sacred Valley. I have to say, climbing up and down the steps was particularly difficult with this altitude ! I had never been this high, and I can tell you, you will feel like you’ve ran a marathon after every 5 steps 😂
But the views are so beautiful that it is very worth the effort !
After 3 days of acclimatisation, it was time to begin the 6 day trek !
So most people will trek to Machu Picchu through the Inca Trail which takes about 3 days. However, for this challenge we are going through a different itinerary !
We will be hiking the Salkantay Route, that take about 6 days and makes you climb to the Salkantay Pass at 4,560m and come back down the other side in direction of the town of Aguas Calientes, the departure point for the Machu Picchu climb.
The trek is long, uphill for the first half and downhill for the rest. It will cross different kind of terrain: open fields, dried up grass, rocky paths, and forests. It is very challenging due to the altitude (up to 4,560m) but the scenery is absolutely breathtaking !!
There are 2 very challenging parts on this trek :
- The altitude : you are constantly out of breath during the first half towards the Salkantay Pass, which means that every step is an effort. The higher you get, the less oxygen there is.
- The downhill rocky path : for me this was probably harder than going uphill because of the constant pressure on the knees.
- The path is very rocky and dusty, which may cause ankle sprains if you’re not careful.
For those who are interested in a more detailed explanation of this trek I will be posting an article dedicated to everything you need to know about the Salkantay Trek !
After 5 days of trekking, we arrive at the little town of Aguas Calientes, which is located at the bottom of Machu Picchu and is the last stop before climbing to the famous 7 Wonders of the world.
We spent a – very short – night in a hostel (it was also the first time in 5 days that we had internet and service so coming back to the real world felt a little strange) and woke up around 4-5 am to start the climb to Machu Picchu in order to arrive for sunrise.
So I don’t know it you know this but the path to Machu Picchu is actually very hard and strenuous because it consists of climbing only stairs for about 2 hours 😆And I don’t mean the stairs with short steps like in your building kind of stairs, but stairs with steps quite high where, if you are a little short like me, you have to actually climb 😝 (of course there are other ways of getting to Machu Picchu but this one is the most authentic one)
And after 2 good hours of struggle up the never-ending stairs I arrive at the main entrance to Machu Picchu !
And you might think that the climbing is over then
Once inside the gates, depending on where you go you have more steps going up and down the Machu Picchu 😊
I decided to climb up one last time to get to the famous viewpoint from which many pictures of Machu Picchu have been taken and that’s when I can officially say that I have COMPLETED THE CHALLENGE ! 🥳
Machu Picchu is actually really breathtaking and it is incredible to think that people actually built this years ago ! I do wonder how they actually did it considering the elevation and the steepness of the paths to get to it ? 🤔
And we were incredibly lucky because since I managed to get there a bit before 7am, the site was still empty and quiet.
Thank You for reading my incredible adventure in Peru !
I will be posting another article more in depth about the Salkantay Trek for those who are interested, so stay tuned 🤗