Day three would be all down hill and a much warmer hike, but the treat at the end would be an evening of swimming and soaking in hot springs which we were all looking forward to. The day would end with our last night of sleeping in a tent, which I was looking forward to.
We spent another cold night, waking occasionally to the sounds of crashing ice and rocks from the nearby glaciers. Here we are getting ready to set out for our third day on the trail. Just a side note here, Royar, Evan and Alfredo would pack of the tents and cooking supplies and all of the other camping stuff and load it onto the horses (which are allowed on the Salkantay trail) and then catch us at some point on the trail, hike ahead and start lunch or dinner.
We would continue our descent through a cloud forest and into the valley below, all downhill on knees that were sore from miles of downhill the day before.
It was definitely warmer and more humid. Jeremy, a true lover of nature, especially the creatures, stopped often to move a creepy crawly out of the path or inspect an interesting flower or bug with the kids.
Many local people passed us on the trail with their horses and donkeys, including the woman who lived in the house where we camped the night before. The rule is to stay as close to the mountain as possible, never pull over on the cliff edge of the trail.
There were many brightly colored flowers to admire.
Ashley and I hiked ahead of the boys, admiring flowers along the way.
It was about four hours of hiking before we arrived in a village and stopped at another campsite where Royar and Evan were preparing lunch.
There were cute little piglets in the camping area…
We ate a great lunch and rested while Jeremy talked with the ranger at the checkpoint. He came back with a worried expression, looking for Scott. The trail had been washed away and the last three hours of our trek would now become five on the road, or we could hire transport from our location.
We decided to hire a truck and start hiking while Royar and Evan packed up and loaded our stuff into the truck. We said good-bye to Alfredo and Pan Duro and started walking down the dirt road.
We saw this old man carrying a huge tree trunk up the very steep road.
There was still a lot to see. Jeremy found a pair of Stick insects.
Ashley loved holding them.
About an hour and a half later a truck pulled over. We loaded up in the back and began the hour and half drive to the hot springs where we could shower, swim and camp. Why did we ride in the back of the truck you might wonder? First of all, the kids could not believe their luck. The thought of riding in the back of a truck was better than a trip to Disneyland. In addition, the cab was full with the driver and two other stranded hikers. I wondered how I had ended up careening down this mountain road in the back of a truck somewhere in Peru.
The ride was terrifying. This picture doesn’t even come close, but you can see the edge of the road and the side rail of the truck. I watched the river far, far below us for awhile until I just couldn’t any more. I looked ahead over the cab of the truck and saw the road crumbling into an abyss just past a narrow bridge with no guardrails. I closed my eyes and started counting. Ashley happily exclaimed every few death defying moments,”This is actually dangerous! I can’t believe you’re afraid of flying!” One of the guys in the back talked about the truck that went over the cliff just a week ago.
We eventually made it down into the river valley, dropping the two other hikers off at a coffee farm on the way. The vegetation had changed again and huge avocado and banana trees grew over the road. The kids were thoroughly entertained. When they weren’t surfing the truck bed or dodging low hanging tree limbs, they tried to grab fruit like avocados as we whizzed by. The kids were thrilled with our roller coaster ride, said it was the best part of the day and a huge improvement over three hours (or five) of hiking.
We arrived exhilarated from the crazy ride, sun-baked and covered in dust at the hot springs. The camp sites weren’t open yet, but we could camp in the parking lot. Okay, why not?
We camped in the far corner of the property.
Our tents are just out of sight on the left side of the road. There is a cafe in the building where the dog is sitting. The blue structures in the distance are the restrooms and changing rooms for the hot springs. We made our way down the dusty road.
The pools were gorgeous and clean and warm and there was an area you could stand under warm running water and clean off. It felt so good. There were quite a few people there, hikers and locals. We swam for three hours and then dried off and went back to camp for dinner. Scott and I stopped and bought beer for the adults and Fanta for the kids at a little stall selling drinks and renting towels near the pools.
Back at the campsite, Scott passed out the refreshments and Jeremy, Royar and Evan all poured a little beer onto the ground before they drank. I remembered this lesson from our guide Luis. He would always pour a little water onto the ground before he drank. It is a common practice in the Andean culture to give first to Pachamama, the deity that sustains life on earth. It is giving thanks and another example of the idea of reciprocity in the culture. We enjoyed a spaghetti dinner and climbed into the tents for our last night. It was hot and humid in our new location. We had gone from freezing to roasting and sleep was difficult. Scott and I played cards.