Salkantay Trek – Day 2

The second day is the hardest day, it’s got the steepest climb which makes the 12.5 miles seem much longer. We were woken up by Reuben bringing us coca tea in our tents at 5:00 AM. Most people had been too cold to sleep much and we were all pretty groggy. We had a quick breakfast of the usual bread, jam, and a small pancake each before heading out. It was freezing cold but were soon climbing steep hills and warming up. Before noon we were set to reach the highest point of the hike at 15,000 feet. It was a beautiful climb, you could see the glaciers on the mountains and the green valleys below.

I walked with the Brits who were a really fun group. They acted less like twenty year old boys and more like droll Englishmen, especially at meal times when they would wish for a proper English tea and asked for spoons so they could eat their noodles like gentlemen. Being around them was bizarre, like watching a dog walk on its hind legs. About the only normal thing they did for their age was constantly quote movies. We knew a lot of the same comedies so that worked out well. One of them could do great imitations of just about any character, especially Rueben.

Two of the Brazilians rented horses rather than trying to make the climb themselves which was probably a good thing. By the time we reached the highest point some of the group was suffering from severe altitude sickness. One girl had such a terrible pounding headache that she stopped along the trail, crying. I gave her some aspirin I had to see if it would help but she was sick almost the entire day.

We stopped for lunch in a sunny valley just below the highest point. Our cooks made lunch on the grass and then washed the dishes in the stream. We were told not to drink from the stream because of salmonella. We had the usual; soup, noodles and rice. Reuben said the soup was cow intestine soup. “Is delicious” he said, kissing his fingers like a cartoon Italian chef. After lunch everyone took a quick nap in the sun.

Then we continued walking until 5:30. It was amazing how much the scenery changed throughout the day. We went from snowy mountains to high altitude jungle all in a few hours. We ended the day at 9,000 feet of elevation and camped in a nice little valley.

Dinner was the usual rice and noodles. The noodles had no sauce, just the occasional odd steamed vegetable mixed in. At one point I asked one of the Brits to pass me the noodles. He looked at me as if I were crazy. “The noodles?! Don’t you mean pasta!” I looked at the tray of penne pasta. “I guess” I said, “can you pass me the pasta?” Well, dinner had to come to a stand still while all the Brits were scandalized that I could call pasta noodles and then they had to explain the difference and how serious my mistake was. I couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous the situation was. They were 20 year old boys acting like stuffy old Englishmen. They couldn’t drop it either. They needed to know if it was just me that was mistaken or if it was the entire American population. The rest of the trip it was a source of fascination for them.

We all went to bed exhausted right after dinner.