I'm one of those people who always says she's not going to document the vacation and she's going to leave her camera and just take in the moment. It never happens that way. I get so overwhelmed by things and my self-diagnosed ADD starts to kick in and as I'm noticing things I start taking pictures of things and then it's just a whirlwind.
A few years ago I took a trip with some girlfriends to Peru to hike the Inca trail, pretty sure I took a million pictures. Not only was I going to have the bruises cuts and scrapes from doing the strenuous Inca Trail hike… I wanted to have documentation of the trip that I took with my three friends. Two of us live in Canada two of the others live in the United States and we don't see each other often or often enough. I vowed that I was going to document this trip.
Hiking the Inca trail is an experience you will never forget. It is something that will remind you of what you're capable of and you will be forever proud of your accomplishment. Take a listen to my podcast , How the Inca Trail Saved Me for my account of the adventure.
There are some things you need to know about hiking the Inca trail and perhaps another reason why you need a trusted travel agent to help you with this sort of trip. I would not recommend trying to plan something like this on your own, there are too many moving parts to make it work properly.
Figuring out which route you're going to do as well as your budget, the Tour Company you wish to use and then finally obtaining your permit. As a travel professional who has personally done this hike as well as sent many clients on the same adventure, I have a couple of companies that seriously can do this trip justice.
What to pack:
Explaining to somebody how to pack for a trip like this is simple, plan for all four seasons. You will see rain you will see sun you will see snow there will be wind there will be fog and the night time tent sleeps are rather chilly. I slept in my tent with a beanie on my head socks on my feet leggings and a long sleeve shirt.. worth noting, I did the trek in June. I also brought granola bars with me and protein bars to keep in my pack for when i felt peckish along the way, more of an energy boost when required. Our cooks kept us well fed and to explain the meals that we were served by the camp cooks you would never believe it. Im sure I ate better in the middle of the Andes then I did at home.
Bring some toilet paper with you as there is none available, and you will certainly be grateful that you had some.
A package of baby wipes comes in handy as a mini shower at day's end.
A band aid blister stick and of course blister bandages.
Facial lotion with SPF and Chapstick were essentials for myself.
What fitness level:
You don't have to be a CrossFit champion to complete the trek, and any fitness level could probably do it. It is still important that you know it is very physically exhausting and the days can be long.
Stairs……. I hate stairs, you will climb stairs for three days, and even when you're done the trek you're going to feel like you're climbing stairs. And when the trek is over you will do everything in your power to avoid any set of stairs you come across. The Inca trail is stairs, ancient concrete stairs, and there is miles and miles of them. If you're preparing for the trek start taking the stairs at work and get on a stair climber at the gym. And when you think you're a stair champion, put on a backpack with about 15 pounds do it all over again. OKOK, perhaps that would be a bit much but that's how it felt for me.
Keeping in mind that people will view the hike differently, and it may be more strenuous for some than others. What doesn't change is the elevation gain on the trek.
The porters are the most incredible people and the make the trip possible for most of us. Not only do these people carry all of the gear required for each passenger, they genuinely care about the people in the group and the people on the path. Although most of them don't speak English they can communicate with their bright smiles and handshakes. When you come into camp each day they are standing waiting for you and applauding you as you arrive, they're like your own personal hype team. The guides are essential, they're the ones that keep you going and tell you the stories of the Inca trail, you realize they have done this trek many many times and they still love it. When you're feeling exhausted they encourage you, if you need anything they are the ones who will take care of you.
After the Trek was done, we made it to Machu Picchu and had a couple of days together in Cusco before we set off back to the United States and Canada. It was solstice and we were treated to celebrations throughout the city , it was a sweet reward. So was checking into the JW Marriott, and enjoying the much deserved spa.
If you're on the fence about doing a trip like this, just go! travel with your friends travel with your mate whomever it is..just go.
I started off talking about taking pictures and funny I took quite a few but last year my hard drive decided to do a dance on its own an I lost most of my pictures so the ones I've shared are what I have left. It's OK though, I'll forever have the memory.
Have a listen to my podcast: "Hiking The Inca Trail And Celebrating Survival"