The Salkantay trail is offered to trekkers as a more challenging alternative to the classic Inca trail. It was a year before our trip began that I first saw Joe Cruz’s blog about bikepacking the Salkantay route. It obviously stuck in my mind. Feeling a bit lazy, Gina and I were torn as to whether or not to burn straight through to Cusco or give it a go. The nice thing about riding a fatty is that it guilt trips you whenever you try and cop out of a challenge. Boring asphalt is wasted rubber.
We turn off towards Mollepata. It being the starting point of the Salkantay trail, I thought it’d be busy and touristy. It was dead, although the prices were happily touristy. We later found out that most hikers forgo the leisurely (boring?) stay in Mollepata and take up the trailhead in the small community of Soraypampa. As we climbed towards the pass, the clouds began to transform into angry dark swirls. A light rain started followed by… (wait for it), heavier rain and then hail. The decision to pitch up early turned out to be a good one as the weather persisted and worsened. Two other hiking groups had made the same decision. Drifting off to the sound of tent fabric thrashing in the wind, we gratefully awoke to a more peaceful morning.
The following day as we carried our bikes up the 4600m pass, we were shocked about the almost endless barrage of guided hikers joining us on the trail. In fact, the trail popularity has increased so much that there is talk of bringing in a booking system next year, not unlike the classic Inca trail. This is probably bad news for anyone looking to bikepack it in the future as I suspect security will be ramped up. Moral is, bike-hike it while you still can. It’s a stunning route.
The ride up to Soraypampa was a straightforward afair, there is also a trail which we could’ve ridden. Still at least I had a good excuse to take get a topless photo of me taken when the mountain came into view. (I swear I was riding without a shirt anyway)
If you’re joining The Divide and Cusco/Salkantay, you will probably have to ride on the highway for a bit like we had to. In Curahuasi, a lovely hotel to stay in is Q’orihuayrachina. Probably more easily identified as the big pink hotel right on the highway. The owners are incredibly friendly and we paid 15 soles for our humongous room.