The morning started early as we headed towards the SacredValley. We had a couple of stops along the way, a llama farm and the Pisac market, and then it was off to start our trek through the LaresValley. At least that is what we thought. When we got to the road leading to our base camp, the road was closed. They are doing a lot of work on the road and it is normally open from 12 to 2 but just like the Peruvian way they had changed the time to 6pm when the road would be open. That means we have about 5 hours to kill and that we are going to get to our base camp late in the night. Paul quickly changed the plan and we headed for new activities.
Our first stop was in a small village where we had some horrible hamburgers and the kids practiced their routine in the town square which drew a lot of stares and curiosity. Then it we were off to tour the salt mines.
The SacredValley is a very volcanic area with lots of hot springs. Some of the water has natural salt in it so the Andean people have created pools to catch the water and allow the salt to settle. About 50 families run the salt mines and they get 7/S ($2.30) for a full sack of salt. The mines are on the side of a cliff and the ride down was a bit harrowing. It really reminded me of the leather dying factory in Fez Morocco without the smell.
Finally it was time to head back to get on track for our trek. The road opened up and up we headed on a narrow dirt road with sheer cliffs on one side, a dirt road full of pot holes and cars coming the other way which usually caused us to backup to find a spot where a car and a large bus could fit. About two hours into our drive up the hill the bus driver realized that he had missed our turn which precipitated a three point turn on this tiny mountain road, a bunch of terrified kids and backtracking about three miles.
We finally arrived at our destination about 10:30pm with 18 tired, hungry and grumpy kids and leaders. The whole attitude changed as they walked by pools of hot springs. The guides started cooking dinner and most of the kids slipped in their bathing suits and hopped into the 100 degree water. What a relief after almost 12 hours in a bus on rough mountain roads in 35 degree weather. We had a big spaghetti dinner and then it was off to our tents for a good night’s sleep.
The morning started early, with a 6am wakeup call. Actually it was one of our guides imitating a rooster but it had the same result. All the kids rolled out of their sleeping bags and off we went, 8 hours of trekking at 13,000-15,000ft took a toll on a lot of the kids. Some of them were experiencing mild altitude sickness. Everyone walked at their own pace, for some it was a real challenge.
We fell short of our planned destination but struck camp in a beautiful valley with snow capped mountains all around us. It was absolutely gorgeous but really cold. The local people came around with their wares and one little girl made it her job to keep the camp fire going, not much wood to burn so in this area they burn dried dung. It was another night of the group talking, bonding and going to bed early. Our wake up call the next morning was 5am.
The morning started with the toughest part of the hike up a mountain and through a pass down to a beautiful lake. We finished our hike about 12pm the next day, had some lunch and headed towards Machu Picchuon the train. The train rolled into Aguas Caliente about 9pm. We planned our trip up toMachu Picchu the next morning and headed for bed.
Most of the kids and some of the leaders got up at 3am to try for a chance to climb Wanna Picchu the next morning. Wanna Picchu is a harrowing climb with a 60 degree slope, not for the faint of heart. They only let the first 200 people hike up the mountain and our kids were the first in line. Some of the old farts and four of the kids decided to sleep in and do the Machu Picchutour then hike up to the Sun Gate.
All of the kids ended our LaresValley adventure with a sense of accomplishment and an appreciation for the people who live in the Andean mountains and an awe for the accomplishments of the Inca people 500 years ago.
Now it’s one day of rest and then off to the jungle.