March 28, 2012

Tips for hiking the Inca Trail

If you love the idea of huffing and puffing out in the elements and can’t think of anything more fabulous than hiking for 4 days to the amazing hidden city of Machu Picchu, then there are some things you need to know…

While I confess to having taken the train to this ancient city 2400m up in the Andes (see previous ) those who have hiked it are known to rave on for years. Firstly you do have the very able assistance of local Peruvian porters who run on ahead like gazelles and set up camp for when you arrive. But you’ll need to pack strategically as there is no mule or pack-horse to hoof all your shoes and sundresses.

You'll meet this lady on your hike

You’ll meet this lady on your hike

But on that final morning when you come over the mountain and see the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu stretched out in front of you, it’ll all be worth it.

Incredibly, Machu Picchu escaped the Spanish invasion and wasn’t even discovered until 1911 when American explorer, Hiram Bingham, who was skulking about these parts, met a local farmer who he paid 1 sol (45 cents) to lead him up for a look. At the time a Quechua family were still living here in the primitive city. I can only imagine the fright they must have had when the white man came crashing through the rainforest.

You’ll need a good level of fitness and be in good health, although altitude sickness strikes randomly (and didn’t strike me at all). You’ll see spectacular sights all along the way to Machu Picchu. It really is a beautiful trail. The ruins along the way are not as amazing as the famous hidden city but are still incredibly stunning. And although in essence you are ‘roughing it’ by camping, the food is super impressive. It’s amazing what they can come with on a small stove!

Here are some great tips for hiking the Inca Trail from Laura Barker, Adventure Specialist (wouldn’t you love her job?) at Harvey World Travel:

Don’t forget:

The city hides under clouds

The city hides under clouds

  • Book well in advance as numbers are limted – I met a backpacker in Cusco who hadn’t booked and was waiting for weeks for a cancellation.
  • Good walking shoes/boots that are well worn in (blisters are no one’s friend).
  • It’s a lot of up and down hills so if you have even slightly dodgy knees take (or buy when you’re there) walking poles. These can be purchased easily from the markets on the first morning at Ollantaytambo.
  • Take ear plugs. The tent walls will not muffle the snorer next door. And yes, he will be there!
  • Take a bladder water carrier (Camelback) to pop in your rucksack. It’s much easier than having to get your bottle out time you need a sip.
  • Mornings and evenings can be chilly at certain times (I went in June) so take a good fleece/warm windproof jacket.
  • Take water-free soap and wet wipes – there ain’t no sinks up there on the trail!
  • Don’t worry about taking snacks/sweets from home. They have loads of things you can buy there – and probably cheaper!

The trek operates 10 months of the year between March and January.

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About Megan Singleton

Megan

Megan Singleton is a travel writer, blogger and radio correspondent. She's been gallivanting around the world telling stories for the last 16 years and has her suitcase always half packed (or half un-packed!) Follow along on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want to keep up with the journey!

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