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Inca trail trek, Peru

Michael Tyrrell - Sunday, December 08, 2013

Inca Trail Trek

Inca Trail

Key facts

Cost: Varies from $520 USD-$800 USD

Time needed: 3 nights/4days

Items you must take: Walking sticks, a poncho if you are going in the wet season, travellers diarrhea medication, a blister pack, tape for knees and ankles, a traveller first aid kit, hydralyte tablets to help with maintaining hydration

Where is it?

The start of the Inca Trail is about 2.5-3 hours drive from Cusco, Peru. You finish the trek at Machu Picchu which is high above the town Agues Calientes. To return to Cusco, you can take a train all the way or there are trains to Ollantaytambo where you can change to a shuttle bus. The train is very expensive and most companies will do the second option as it is cheaper.

Inca Trail

Who should you go with?

There are many different companies to choose from. If you want luxury, then pay a little more to get better quality meals and a private tent toilet for your group!

I went for a cost effective option and paid $520 USD with Info Cusco. The food was still great and the guide and porters were solid.

All the porters and guides compete against the other groups to try and maintain high standards.

Should you book your trek in advance?

If you have time to wait around in Cusco, then you could risk waiting. I didn’t have this luxury.  I heard a lot of from travellers that you must book your trek months in advance. If you are going in the high season, then this is a must as there are only 500 permits per day granted with 200 of these for tourists and 300 permits for porters and guides.

I saw tour companies advertising treks with spaces left for cheaper than what I paid, however I was unsure of the quality of these and whether it included your train ticket and entrance fees to Machu Picchu.

What other options are there?

The Inca Trail trek is the only trek that walks the Inca trail and passes through Sandgate to enter Machu Picchu from above. All the other alternative

Inca trek options finish in Agues Calientes and you then must walk up to Machu Picchu (a 45-1.5 hour strenuous walk) or catch a bus with the other tourists.

The alternative treks are cheaper and involve some trekking and outdoor activities such as rafting and zip lining.

If you have always wanted to visit Machu Picchu and wanted to walk the trail, then you must do the proper Inca Trail. It far exceeded my expectations.

What to expect?

Day 1: I left Cusco at 5am for Ollantaytambo where you can get breakfast (at your expense). From Ollantaytambo it is a further 1 hour drive to the starting point of the trek. You walk about 10km on the first day which is relatively flat compared to your next 2 days.

Inca-Trail-Altitude

Day 2: The porters wake you early ready for a departure between 7-8am. The first 3-5 hours is all uphill (depends on your fitness levels) as you make two passes at high altitude. After crossing the highest pass, you head downhill for 1-2 hours to the campsite for the night.

Day 3: Begins with a bit of uphill and downhill followed by more uphill to a view point where you see Agues Calientes. From here it is all downhill to the camp site. This is very hard on the knees and if it rains like it did when I was there, it will be extremely slippery. This is where the walking sticks really come in handy.

Day 4: Involves a 3:30am wake up. Why? The porters need to have everything packed up so they can get an early morning train back to Cusco. You then walk 5 minutes to the guard check point and wait there until 5:30am when they open up the check point. You then walk about 30-45 minutes to reach Sandgate and then you begin your tour of Machu Picchu.

Inca-Trail-Mountains

Which first aid KIT should you take?

To save on space if you carry your own bag, you can get by with your Handy first aid KIT.

Make sure you have it stocked up with added items such as the blister pack, spray on plaster, blister prevention spray and antiseptic liquid. You should ensure you also have the new SMART snake bandage for any contact with snakes or need for compression.

A lot of travellers were sick on this trek so ensure you have appropriate medication that your doctor has advised.

Summary

  1. This trek lives up to the hype, it is an amazing experience walking down to Machu Picchu after 4 days of hiking
  2. Altitude and wear and tear on the body will be your biggest concerns. Make sure you have at least your Handy First Aid KIT and custom pack it

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