Salkantay Trek with WHOA Travel
By Jessica Miller, Girls Who Hike Los Angeles Member + WHOA traveler
About a year ago I heard of WHOA Travel through the hiking group Girls Who Hike. WHOA Travel advertised an all female trekking trip of the Salkantay Trail in Peru. I started to do my research and save my pennies––visiting Peru and the Lost Incan City of Machu Picchu had been a dream of mine. I knew then that I wanted to trek the Salkantay Trail and visit the sacred ruins.
There are hundreds of travel companies that advertise trekking trips to Peru, why did I choose WHOA? WHOA promotes all female trekking trips, their acronym stands for Women High On Adventure! They are a boutique adventure travel company encouraging women to come together and explore the world. With every adventure WHOA gives back by connecting with local women to make a positive impact. For the entire trip I felt at ease and very well taken care of, from the daily planned itinerary, extra transportation, shelter and accommodations, as well as delicious meals cooked fresh every day.
With WHOA we trekked the Salkantay trail as opposed to the more popular Incan Trail. The Salkantay trail is more scenic and 72% less trafficked, campsites are less crowded allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the wilderness. With that said, it’s about twice as long. Our trek with WHOA Travel was a total of 32 miles over the course of four days. We trekked through all the elements including snowy blizzard, pouring rain, and hot steamy jungle!
Day 1: Traveling from Los Angeles, I flew to Lima, and then caught a connecting flight to Cusco. The city of Cusco sits at 10,498 feet, so it’s important to travel a day or two ahead of time to acclimate yourself in preparation before the trek.
Day 2: At 3am we boarded a private van and drove 3 hours deep into the Andes to the trailhead of Salkantay. When we arrived we ate breakfast and met our trekking crew which included our horse wranglers, chefs, and our expert trekking guide and native to Peru, Elizabeth aka “Momma Sherpa”.
After breakfast we trekked from SORAYPAMPA to SOIROCOCHA, approximately 5.5 miles to our campsite at an elevation of 14435.7ft. I’ve never camped at such a high elevation before, staying hydrated, taking Diamox, and drinking the local coco tea leaves definitely helped my body to adjust and alleviated altitude sickness.
Day 3: We hiked from SOIROCOCHA to SALKANTAY PASS to COLLPAPAMPA. One of the most physically challenging and utterly exhausting days of the trek hiking over 13.7 miles, reaching our highest point at Salkantay Pass at an elevation of 15092ft. An unexpected element we encountered, waking up to 6 inches of snow! Momma Sherpa told us that in her 14 years experience as a trekking guide, it’s only snowed 4 times at the Salkantay pass. Made for a snowy winter wonderland, beyond the wall Game of Thrones territory!
Day 4: We trekked from COLLPAPAMPA to LUCMABAMBA, entering jungle terrain. We entered the “Ceja de Selva” (eyebrow of the jungle), full of colorful flowers, hummingbirds, and parrots. Later in the day, we camped at Lucmabamba coffee plantation. As a group we took a tour, collecting coffee berries, learned the process of shelling, drying, and roasting the beans in preparation to become coffee.
Day 5: We said goodbye to our friends at Lucmabamba coffee plantation and continued on our trek to Llactapata ruins. Along the way we passed through avocado, banana and more coffee plantations on the final leg of our journey to Machu Picchu. At the top we took a break, listened to the history of the area, and enjoyed a spectacular view of the backside of Machu Picchu! We continued trekking to the Hidroelectrica train station for lunch followed by a short train ride back to civilization where we spent the night in the town of Aguas Calientes. We enjoyed a long awaited hot shower as well as time to recuperate in the charming city of Aguas Calientes.
Day 6: Our final day was spent exploring the Lost Incan City of Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World! We started our day at 3am so our group could avoid the crowds and be the very first to enter the ruins. In the Quechua native language, “Machu Picchu” means “Old Peak” or “Old Mountain.” It’s hard to believe but no wheels, iron tools, or animals were used in the construction of the city. Structures were built with a technique called “ashlar.” Stones were cut to fit together without mortar–even to this day not even a needle can fit in between two stones.
Day 7: On our last day we visited Chinchero, the village of our guide, Elizabeth, better known as “Momma Sherpa.” About a 45 minute drive away from Cusco, we were greeted by Elizabeth and her family all wearing the traditional clothing they wove themselves. Upon meeting with her extended family we danced down to Women’s Lake, while we were adorned with flower leis. We shared stories, ate a delicious lunch, and purchased hand woven crafts. A much needed relaxing day to recuperate from our trek.
WHOA Travel far exceeded my expectations! They offer numerous trips to destinations all over the country. If you are an adventurous gal, I highly recommend checking out the WHOA Travel website. I hope you can connect with likeminded women while going on a life changing adventure! Cheers!