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near Mollepata, Apurímac (Peru)
This really nice hike takes you to the old Inca city of Machu Picchu. It is an alternative to the crowded Inca Trail. The trek can be done independently. You do NOT have to pay any fees. There are basically two options how to end the trek, please find all details below:
Start of the trek:
The trek starts in the village of 'Mollepata'. There is at least one bus at 4:30am leaving 'Cusco' (~8 soles). In case you do not want to get up that early you can also catch a minibus, they leave at the same place as the bus and cost somehere between 10 and 15 soles. I included a way point where you have to catch the bus/taxi in 'Cusco'. Spend the night in 'Mollepata' to start early the next day.
In Mollepata you can hire a taxi that brings you to 'Soraypampa'. The ride costs around 80 soles and takes a bit less then 2 hours. Alternatively you can also walk to 'Soraypama' from 'Mollepata'. The trek follows the drivable dirt road most of the time and is not really attractive in our option. If you make the trek with an organized tour you will walk this first day.
Day 2: (Day 1 in case you take the taxi to 'Soraypampa')
Just follow the path either on the right or the left side of the river, the two treks merges again at 'Salkantaypampa (4154m)'. From here you have to stay on the left side (looking up to the mountain), otherwise you end up in the classic Inca trail. Now you can basically walk as long as you like, there are a couple of spots where you can camp with small shops. We walked amost to "La Playa" where we found a small house to camp. I guess it's better to camp either in 'Chaulay (2873m)' or 'Collipapampa (2867m)'. An other option is to camp 'Huaracmachay (3942m)'. Please keep in mind that it can be freezing cold at night on ~4000m.
Day 3: (Day 2 in case you take the taxi to 'Soraypampa')
Walk to 'La Playa'. Depending on where you spent the night this takes another day (around 5 hours from 'Collipapampa') you know have two options for the next day.
Day 4a (3a):
Take a bus from 'La Playa' to 'Santa Teresa'. The minibus costs 5 soles and takes a bit less then 1 hour. In 'Santa Teresa' you can take another taxi/minibus to 'Hydroelectrica' (5 soles). In 'Hydroelectrica' you can walk along the railway to 'Aguas Calientes'. The walk takes between 2 and 3 hours. NOTE: Starting from the 1st of Jund 2011 you can not walk on the tracks by yourself anymore, you have to hire a guide. The guide costs 60 soles per person but includes a guide for Machu Picchu on the next day. This is at least what they told us at the checkpoint in 'Hydroelectrica'.
Day 4b (3b):
You can also walk from 'La Playa' to 'Hydroelectrica'. This trek is supposed to take another 5 hours and it is going up- and downhill.
Please have a look at the following excellent trip reports on the Salkantay Trek:
If you want to walk to Hydroelectrica, you have to walk up here.
At this point you leave the paved road and you go up to Mollepata
From here you can catch a bus to Santa Teresa
In case you go by taxi to Soraypama, you will be dropped of here.
This is where we spent our first night.
Here you can take a break.
This is where some of the tour groups spend their first night.
From Hydroelectrica it takes between 2 and 3 hours along the railway tracks to reach Aguas Calientes
From here you can take a taxi to Hydoelectrica (5 soles per person)
From here you can either take a bus early in the morning or a minibus to Mollepata