Salkantay Diaries

I’m setting a new goal: a trek to Machu Picchu with my cousin Ujwala, this June. There are a number of blogposts about our travels together. Ujwala, or Uju as we call her, is an adventure seeker, and my best buddy for outdoorsy stuff. At this point of our lives we’re not all that fit, yet, but she’s coming to visit, and we’ve signed up for the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. The finish line is set, and all that remains is to get to it.

Machu Picchu

The journey is going to take a month of preparation to get to the state where we don’t embarrass ourselves gasping at the first km uphill. That’s our biggest worry. Embarrassment. Not breathlessness, nor injury. Just embarrassment. That’s the kind of ‘societal’ pressure we put on ourselves.

Talking and writing about it usually helps to motivate me. And comments from friends and family too. Advice…… hmmm… depends. Just kidding. Every bit helps.

Sunday, April 29:           8.29km, total elevation of 327m, 6 floors up. Señor Arturo is mildly amused at my new initiative of shunning the lift.

Arpita is thinking of joining us on this trek, which will be fun. We haven’t met face-to-face in years, and I hope she can work around her busy life of business to make time for this.

Monday, April 30:           9.3km, total elevation 236m, 12 floors up.


With all the family history of asthma and wheezing, breathing at the high altitude will be one of my biggest challenges. It’s a 30-50m elevation from sea level to Miraflores, which is my starting point to build legs and lungs capability.

Arpita is all set to join us. How excited am I! Next step – the gear.

Tuesday, May 1:           9.9 km, total elevation 458m, 6 floors up.

Everything hurts.

Wednesday, May 2:           Had a physical exam with the gym doctor. I’ve declared by goal for the month, and the kind folks at the gym are gonna help me train. Did I smell a whiff of scepticism there? Hopefully just my imagination.

Thursday, May 3:           A yoga session by the seaside to fill the lungs with oxygen. And to stretch out the kinks from the walking and climbing efforts. Followed by gym. Commuting by bicycle.

Friday, May 4:           An ‘easy’ day at the gym. Uju climbed 20 floors. 2 steps at a time.

Saturday, May 5:           Arpita has been going up and down Chaturshringi temple on back-to-back days. And gear shopping at Decathlon.


Sunday, May 6:           Achieved my longest ever distance of 12.7 km, elevation 378m. My usual 6 floors up is now the default.

Arpita hurt herself trying out her new hiking shoes and not focusing on the walk. Uju had a family emergency that put her workout in a tizzy.

Monday, May 7:          Gym in the morning and a 4.5km walk in the afternoon.

Tuesday, May 8:          Yoga and gym in the morning. Started my new workout plan. It has me exhausted.

Wednesday, May 9:          An ‘easy’ cardio day at the gym, and a walk to the Tatoo Adventure Gear shop in the afternoon. I have shoes! And the base layer.

gear - 1

Thursday, May 10:           The gym sessions just amped up a notch or 5, and the afternoon saw a trial walk in those new hiking boots with a laden backpack. Now I have learnt that I do NOT want to carry over 2 kg on the trek.

Friday, May 11:           Uju got herself a birthday gift of trekking hamper from Decathlon. Now we can be all dressed up and ready to go.

Saturday, May 12:           It’s Uju’s birthday. She’s back at climbing floors. And napping. While I get my yoga fix.

Sunday, May 13:           Longest ever till date, in my new hiking gear. 16.97km, 566m up.

Monday, May 14:          Blisters, aches, and other happy problems.

Tuesday, May 15:          I’m moving yoga out of my week to the weekend. Sleep is precious.

Wednesday, May 16:          Morning cardio, evening cardio. And a new jacket.

Thursday, May 17:          Inflammation and ice packs. Arpita is flying over 39 floors. Uju is climbing the slopes in Shimla.

Friday, May 18:             Gym, of course. The rest of the day is a blur.  This is Uju’s slope. We chat a lot about the ’emergency horse’.


Saturday, May 19:          Yoga and 8 km. Some jacket browsing in the evening. Arpita climbed 4 sets of 13 floors. And Uju did that slope a few more times, while supposedly partying with friends.

Sunday, May 20:          7 km with major uphill. And 3 sets of 8 floors. Arpita got in her 4 sets of 13 carrying a backpack, which is a first for her. Hopefully is saying less and doing more.

Monday, May 21:          Gym was a real drag this morning. In spite of pranayama in the morning. It took all my willpower to get through it.

Tuesday, May 22:           Arpita is hitting the hills of her hometown, Shillong. That would be the best prep of all. I’ve splurged on a new insulated jacket. There should be more than one opportunity to use that in the Andes, now that winter is coming.

Wednesday, May 23:          Uju has a cold. Nothing strange; we have a family history of respiratory problems that haunts us everywhere. My ‘easiest’ day of the week with an hour of cardio solamente. I’m planning my camera gear to carry on this trip, because in addition to completing the trek, I do want to make some good landscape photos. This evening, walking up 6 floors with the camera on my back, the dilemma got worse. Tripod or not? How many lenses? Any filters?

Thursday, May 24:          Arpita’s rain gear failed miserably. I feel down in the dumps and am questioning my sanity. Uju better be training hard, ‘coz we’ve threatened to tie ourselves to her and let her drag us up the slopes.

Friday, May 25:          After ages, I managed an evening walk in addition to the gym routine. The heels hurt. I didn’t know that could happen. Imagine being lazy about walking up to the fridge and getting ice for my joints. That’s me. Arpita declares that her ascent isn’t getting easier either. I feel a tiny prick of relief. They’ll just have to spare a special slow guide for us, that’s all.

Saturday, May 26:          Cycled to yoga class, for a change of pace. Felt nice to use a different set of muscles. Arpita has been regular 4 day in a row. Here are some views of her training slope:

Shillong 2


Sunday, May 27:            8.6km up and down the hill, with an elevation gain of 315m. Stopped only because I got bored of the route. We made a list of potential problems on this trek: Oxygen, elevation, fitness, blisters, aches and pains, scrapes, toilet, period, viruses. And we love our detailed chats about the gear. Uju is all packed up.


Monday, May 28:           A good gym workout. Arpita is back in the Delhi heat.

Tuesday, May 29:          Uju came up with a never-ending list of potential meds to carry. I’m taking a 3-day break from all workouts.

Wednesday, May 30:          Arpita is climbing floors, carrying a backpack. That’s a big step forward for her. I bought hydration packs. Uju almost got the timing of her flight wrong.

Thursday, May 31:          Uju left for Peru. And found that most people on the Lima flight seemed to be dressed for trekking. We notice that more now. Of course, everyone looks taller/ fitter than us. Oh well!

Friday, June 1:          Squeezed in a last gym workout before my travels. It was not easy. Welcomed Uju home in the evening.

Saturday, June 2:          Dragged Uju out for the weekend walk and yoga class, along the scenic Malecon. To build an appetite for the big lunch at Central.

Sunday, June 3:          Easing Uju into the Peru atmosphere, with an 8km walk and a picnic at Bosque Olivar.

June 4 – June 12:          The start of our travels, Uju and I. All prep out of the window, as we set out to explore the most well known parts of South Peru.

June 13 – June 19:          Uju & I arrived in Cusco via the scenic route from Puno. Met with Arpita in person after yeeeears. Quickly rebooted ourselves into trek mode, comparing gear, prep (or the lack of it), stress and fear. We did manage to have a good time leading up to trek week, and during too.

Read Arpita’s immersive day-by-day account: The Salkantay Trek – to Machu Picchu.

Read about my trials and tribulations: Voices in my head. 

View photos of the gorgeous scenery that we encountered: A Feast for the Eyes.

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