With eager anticipation we arrived in Cusco, Peru. Where Titicaca is considered the birthplace of the Inkan empire, Cusco is considered the navel, the centre about which the empire developed. Although there are a plethora of sites in Cusco and about the Sacred Valley, we were most focused on just one - Machu Picchu. Many a documentary have we watched about this site, and as for many... nay every tourist in South America, much of our trip planning was based around seeing this most-famous of places.
But how to see it in style? What better approach than to trek for 5 days through the mountains much as the Inkans would have done themselves, following ancient paths etched high into the sides of the mountains.
The Salkantay trek is well-known and well-regarded for its beauty and contrast, with no two days spent in the same ecosystem. What we hadn´t heard mention of was just how physically challenging it would be. We expected to struggle at 4600m (15000ft) on Day Two after spending a frigid night camped out in a valley in the shadow of Salkantay Mountain (6271m  or 20573ft); what caught us by suprise was the 8-10 hours of hiking each of the following days. Thankfully the scenery more-than distracted us from the drudgery. Cloud forests with hummingbirds and the Peruvian Cock-of-the-Rock (with a name like this you know it is an interesting character, look it up); rivulets turning to streams turning to a river carving through the Andes; a pleasantly welcome hot spring at the end of Day Three; Day Four consisted of a gentle stroll up a mountain gaining some 800m of elevation and descending over 1000m, but with a cracking view from the top of Machu Picchu on a plateau opposite; and finally Day Five - the ruins themselves.
After countless hours of hiking and many miles covered, we took the easy way out and caught a bus to the ruins. Of course this still entailed waking up at 4am to be in line for the first bus departing 5:30am. A few hours of strolling the ruins, a heart-pounding climb up Machu Picchu mountain with an equally heart-pounding view from the top; and now totally wiped out, another stroll around the ruins. It was all we could do to keep our eyes open on the bus down, let alone the train-bus combo that delivered us to Cusco.
We were not sure what to expect when we got to Machu Picchu. With such a large reputation and so much hype we did not expect to be as amazed as everyone suggested we would be. Thankfully Machu Picchu exceeded to its reputation! It was stunning not just for the amazingly crafted ruins but also for the beautiful setting, up on the saddle of a mountain, but still surrounded by dozens of much taller peaks. Could not imagine a better place to spend out 4th wedding anniversary (well played Dale)! It is well worth the journey to get there, so if it is on your list of things to see, make it happen!

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