This is not the greatest route for trail runners. Portions of the descent are a bit steep and uneven, and in March when we visited there was quite a bit of mud.
This section of the trail leads from Lucma lodge to, in our case, the train station at Hidroelectrica. Trekkers can continue on by foot, or take the train to Aguas Calientes (as we did).
Most of the trail is dense with vegetation, which closes in on the trail from time to time. There is a great variety of plant life here, and overall the impression is jungle-like.
The highlight of this section of trail is the views of Machu Picchu
at a distance on the other side of a lush valley. This is a view not often seen by those on foot, and it places the site of Machu Picchu
in context with the surrounding terrain. Bring your binoculars so you can see it better.
While this is not the "Inca Trail" often associated with trekking to Machu Picchu
, parts of this trail are Inca Trails. By this I mean that the Inca built all kinds of trails in this area, and if you look closely at the earlier parts of this trail, you'll see the stonework that is characteristic of Incan work.
There is a set of ruins along the trail that make for a nice diversion or snack stop. The purpose of these ruins is unclear, but our guide suggested that it might have been as simple as a competing vision of where Machu Picchu
should have been built.
The trail crosses a river over a sturdy but somewhat bouncy bridge and continues into Hidroelectrica, where the train station is. There are places to buy refreshments, including beer and ice cream. There are two trains, one of which is cheaper and only for locals, and one of which is more expensive and only for tourists.
Trekking poles were helpful on the trail at times at some steeper points, and due to mud which made things slippery at times.
What really made this great was getting our first views of Machu Picchu
itself, which is one of the highlights of the Salkantay route.
Lush, varied vegetation abound on this leg of the trail.