Today’s blog comes from our old friend of STA Travel Isabel O’brien. She’s just finished trekking the Inca Trail and her legs are still killing!
Considering embarking on one of the world’s most epic treks to the mysterious Machu Picchu? DO IT! Who knows how many years they will let us travellers roam the ruins of this ancient city for. And you know what they say; ‘It’s not the destination, but the journey that counts’.
1. To book in advance
Unfortunately you can’t just rock up at the start of the trail with your backpack on and walking poles at the ready. You need to have a permit, and these get booked up fast! Only 500 people a day are allowed on the trail, and most of this number is reserved for the amazing porters who look after you on route. So, if like me, you have a hard time being organised – put this on top of your list of things you HAVE to sort out a good couple of months before you head to Peru. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this one.
2. To wear hiking boots
YES hiking boots are annoying to lug around in your backpack, but you need them! This trail is real; there are lots of loose rocks and many, many steps to climb. Running trainers just wont cut it climbing up Dead Woman’s Pass. Luckily you can rent them in Cusco if you can’t physically squeeze them into you backpack and they were pretty good. Bring thick socks, and some blister plasters just in case!
3. To eat amazing food
One thing I wasn’t on the Inca Trail was hungry. If you are travelling with a reputable company you will be fed like a king. It is literally like magic, how do they make such delicious 3 course meals in the middle of nowhere in the Andean mountains? I would stock up on some snacks in Cusco, if like me, you like to constantly be munching. On day 1 and 2 of the trail, there are stalls set up by locals where you can purchase snacks on route (Pringles, Snickers, Skittles). But this ends after day two, so stock up! I got slightly addicted to pizza flavour pringles <3
4. To not shower and to master the squat toilet
SO there are showers and toilets at campsites along the Inca Trail. But the water is colder than the Atlantic, and the toilets are a challenge. Only the bravest (or most showey-offy) members of your group will go for the shower. My advice, bring wet wipes, lots and lots of wet wipes! A nice wipe down before bed is greatly advised – and avoid staying downwind of your fellow hikers. The toilets get progressively worse as the days go by. Practice your squats before you go and you will be just fine. On the plus side you will be heading home with a nice firm bottom!
5. To take a LOT of photos
It is stunning. Everyday of the hike brings something a little different. Snowcapped mountains, Inca ruins, stunning streams and lush greenery. There are SO many picture perfect moments along this trail. My advice, take a lot of photo’s on Day 1 where you will be looking your best. And maybe bring along some dry shampoo for the infamous Machu Picchu shot on day 4! Don’t forget your power monkeys so you can charge your phones/cameras on route.
6. To arrive at Machu Picchu
Well, this is why you are making the journey right? It is an early start on your final day with a wake up call of just past 3am. You then join a queue of bleary eyed and excited travellers waiting to be let through to begin the final leg to the ruins. The excitement of that day really was one of the highlights of my whole 6 weeks in South America. Getting only a few hours sleep doesn’t matter; you are running on adrenaline and anticipation. And when you see the ruins for the first time, it is a moment you will never ever forget.
7. To make friends for life
There is something about experiencing the Inca Trail with a group of people from all over the world. You form strong friendships quickly. Camping, hiking, talking about any toilet dramas really does bring you together. You can expect to leave the trail with a handful of friends who you really, truly love.