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I just returned from 5 days of hiking in the Peruvian mountains. The trek started out at Salkantay, where everyone on my trip suffered from some form of altitude sickness. My friend and I stupidly gave ourselves 24 hours to acclimate. Epic fail. I have never been at 4,600 meters before, and I don’t plan on returning without spending a good week acclimating first.

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The hike was one of the most demanding I have ever done. Not because of the trail, which was rather gradual compared to some I have previously hiked. The altitude was the kicker. But the sights at that height were absolutely stunning.

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After a couple days, we thankfully returned to a lower altitude and everyone in my group regained some of their spunk. There were 7 of us total on the hike, and we became rather close by the end. Hiking and facing challenges together can do that to a group.

The trek ended in Machu Picchu, which is amazing but overrun by tourists. We woke up at 3am to hike to the gate, and I most enjoyed walking through the ruins in the early morning mist.

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To be honest, though, I much preferred the less touristy areas on the Salkantay trail. While the ruins are beautiful, nothing can compare to sitting around a bonfire in the middle of the wilderness drinking a fruity Peruvian tea and surrounded by good company.