Are We There Yet?: The Inca Trail

Are We There Yet?: The Inca Trail

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After a couple days in Cusco, we were ready for the main event, our 4 day and 26 mile trek on the Inca Trail.  Even though our tour company had sent us a list of things to bring, we came ill-prepared.  Because of the constant changes in weather and temperature in the mountains, it’s important to be prepared for hot and cold.  We didn’t get the memo on the cold piece, since we assumed that it’d be constantly warm.  Luckily, near the start of the hike there are a lot of vendors who probably know that tourists like us will inevitably forget something.  Lisa and I each grabbed a hat, beanie, and set of gloves for use during the hike.  We had had an orientation with our tour guide the night before and stubbornly declined his offer to rent poles.  But luckily we changed our minds the next day and these proved to be life savers during the hike.

The tour company we booked our trek through was SAS Travel.  Based on our research, they had consistently shown up with good reviews, and were also known for treating their porters very well.  We had each hired a porter to help bring our things along, and this was definitely money well spent.  I would recommend SAS Travel to anyone thinking of doing the Inca Trail, but would not recommend booking a private tour like we did for our group of six.  We ended up paying a premium for a “private” tour, and the main benefits were having our own guide and crew.  But in reality nothing else about it warranted the extra premium, since the campgrounds are small and you end up staying right next to everyone else anyways.  The other tour group that we saw and would recommend is Llamapath as their guides and crews seemed very professional and knowledgeable as well.

After a short ride to the trail head, we were off on our journey.  Day 1 is actually pretty easy, and we took a leisurely 3-4 hour walk along the path while enjoying the breathtaking views.   The guide recommended that we turn around every 10 minutes because each time you’d have a different point-of-view of the surroundings.  There’s also a lot of Inca sites on the hike and we spent some time exploring some of them.  After a few hours on the trail, I was feeling pretty good about myself and thinking that this would be an easy 4 days.

We stopped for lunch, where the porters had been walking way faster than us and had already setup the dining tents.  This was actually a big surprise for me – the food throughout the hike was really, really good.  Each meal, the cook would prepare something new for us, even buying fresh meat and fish from the villagers that lived along the hiking trail.  I had also informed the tour company ahead of time of my gluten allergy, and they were extremely accommodating at each meal.  Anytime they prepared a bread or pasta dish for the group, they would have something equivalent for me so I never missed out.

off we go
crew setting up the dining tents
delicious soup
garlic bread
salad with huge jungle avocados
group picture

After lunch, we hiked for another 3-4 hours and arrived at camp which had already been setup.  After sleeping like a baby, we got up early and started back on the trail.  Day 2 was the hardest because of the hike up Dead Woman’s Pass.  All my enthusiasm that I felt on Day 1 about being in great shape quickly went out the window.  After what felt like an eternity, we made it to the top, where all the porters had been waiting for us for who knows how long.  Those guys were amazing how quickly they walked carrying the heavy backpacks, some of them even did it in flip flops!

we made it to the top!
porters in action

After another fantastic dinner at camp, we passed out and got ready for Day 3.  If I remember correctly, Day 3 is actually the longest in terms of mileage.  The terrain was actually quite easy, and a large part of the hike was actually in the shade as the trail went through some heavy foliage.  The reward at the end of Day 3 was a million-dollar view awaiting us that was truly breathtaking.

As an added bonus, as a reward for not collapsing and having to carry us back, the chef whipped up a special dinner that even included a fully decorated cake.

Day 3 actually ends quite early, and you’re instructed to rest up since you start Day 4 very early.  You actually need a headlight for the first hour of the hike since you’re walking in near darkness, but it’s all worth it since you arrive at Machu Picchu early enough to catch the sunrise and beat the crowds.

And by late morning Day 4, you can see Machu Picchu in the distance and you realize that you made it.  Honestly, this was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and highly recommend this to anyone that’s thinking of visiting Peru. I know that Machu Picchu is the main attraction here, but in my opinion, I could have left after finishing the Inca Trail hike without even seeing it and would have been perfectly content after the amazing journey.

we made it!

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