I have recently got back from South America where I completed the Inca trail! (woo!) It was one of, if not the best thing I have ever done and no words or photographs will ever do this experience any justice. Nor will you ever be prepared for what you are about to spend 4 days doing! However, before the trip the organisation freak in me was searching the internet for top tips (as you do) and I was surprised that there wasn’t actually that many so, here it goes!
- Find an amazing tour company
First and foremost this really is the important part! There are lots of companies who run the Inca trail tours but I would really do your research, read reviews, speak to people who have already done it and always read the small print. Unlike other parts of the world where you can stumble on tours (which you definitely can do in Cuzco, they’re everywhere!) I would really recommend using the world wide web on this one.
We went with Inca Trail Reservations which were recommended to us by our friends and they were great. Our tour guide Paul made the experience so special, taking us slightly off the beaten track to avoid the other tourists where possible. Paul’s knowledge was phenomenal, the porters were always there to make us feel comfortable at camp and the chef kept our energy up and created some amazing dishes even though we were in the middle of the Andes!
2. Walk, hike, walk and hike somemore…
Nope, there was no warning on how tough this actually is. Although you cannot really train for altitude sickness (believe me I tried, I was even reading sports nutrition books for tips) you can definitely train for all the kilometres you will be walking. Go on walks at home and if you have hills nearby then I would recommend hiking a few times before you jet off to Peru. Hire or buy walking poles as these were a life saver for me walking down hill on the wet ground and make sure you have walking boots or hard wearing running type trainers.
3. Pack for all weathers
You will probably experience all types of weather, no matter what season you go in! We had wind, sun, heavy rain, light rain… it is very unpredictable! It does get cold, especially when you reach height, as you can see on the photo above at some points you are as high as the clouds so you can imagine the temperature drop.
Layers saved me a lot of hassle – I would wear a vest, long sleeve Lycra top, a fleece, hoodie and have a waterproof to hand. A lot of the time I would have things tied round my waist as it gets very warm hiking up hill but then the temperature could drop in the space of 5 minutes so having clothes on hand was really useful!
Here is a basic list of clothing to take:
- Thermal top and bottoms to wear under pjs
- 5-6 pairs of thick socks
- Warm PJs and a thick jumper to sleep in
- Walking boots, shoes or running trainers (avoid pumps/converse type trainers)
- Sandals for around the camping area – it is nice to let your feet breathe
- 2-3 vest tops
- 2-3 long sleeve Lycra tops
- 1 hoodie
- 2-3 pairs of Lycra leggings/walking pants
- Sun hat, sunglasses and a woolly hat (to sleep in)
- Waterproof jacket
- 2 lightweight fleeces
- Underwear (obviously!)
- Small towel
4. Keep hydrated and eat as much as you can
The chefs on the Inca Trail are amazing and make fresh, authentic food for you every day. It is so important to make sure you eat enough, the chef will cater for big appetites as you will be using up a lot of energy so make sure you drink and eat as much as you feel you need to at meal and snack times. Coca tea is great for altitude sickness so if you are feeling the pressure of altitude definitely give this a try (even it is doesn’t work it is contributing to keeping you hydrated)
On the first day or so there are plenty of families you can buy bottled water from, ensure you take extra money so you can keep refilling. I would also recommend for you to drinking more water than you usually would for the day or two leading up to it, especially if you are flying into Cuzco – this is said to help with altitude sickness (so some Peruvians say!)
Snacks are usually provided at certain stop points on the trek from your tour company however, we took sweets, chocolate and all the usual quick sugar fix goodies… this may not be proven to help keep energy levels up but it did help keep me motivated with steep hills, I mean who doesn’t love an incentive?!
5. Enjoy every single moment (even the tough ones!)
Once you have your itinerary, bought your trekking gear and charged your camera there is nothing left to do but enjoy this amazing experience.
Make new friends, take lots of photographs, keep a little diary, show gratitude to your porters (you only appreciate how amazing they are once you watch them run past you on dead woman’s pass carrying 30+ kilos!) eat lots of amazing Peruvian food in the middle of the Andes, take in the beautiful view of the milky way as you sleep under the stars and take a moment at the Sungate to acknowledge what you have just achieved before walking down in awe to Macchu Picchu!
Good old disclaimer time *these are personal to me but it will hopefully help a few of you out there. This post is also not a nutrition blog, so I am not endorsing any Peruvian tips with coca tea etc, this post purely a bit of fun*