Wandering with a Purpose

Tag: hiking

Machu Picchu: What to Know Before You Hike

sunrise in the Andes on the way to Machu Picchu
Beautiful sunrise from my tent in the Andres

“You’ll hike for three days and then the next morning, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate. It’s an incredible view, so you need to do it!” I would wager a guess that anyone who has “hiking the Inca Trail” on their to-do list has heard someone summarize the trip in this way. That’s what I had heard before I left. I read several books and researched blogs, but only one of them gave a glimpse into the challenge that is the hike to Machu Picchu. Thank goodness I read that blog post (which I, unfortunately, didn’t save!) to prepare myself that it wouldn’t be a walk in the park.

Because I was surprised, I wanted to share those things that I think every Inca Trail adventurer should know before going.

1. You are going to Be dirty

For anyone who has been camping for multiple days in a row, this may seem obvious. I knew I wasn’t going to have a shower, but nothing could prepare me for how gross I was going to feel after strenuous hiking for three days. That’s why a hat is important and the porters bringing water to wash is a godsend. Not sure what you can do to prep for this…

2. Altitude can affect you even if you run

I knew altitude sickness was a possibility. When we met our group in Lima, our guide gave us a suggestion for a medication to help with altitude sickness. We got this at the drug store and took it just in case. The last thing we wanted was to ruin our trip because we were sick from this!

Before we left, I wasn’t worried because I had been to Tibet (around 12,000 feet). I was one of the only people in my group who didn’t feel ill – winded yes, but not ill. Well, that’s what happened this time, but with a lot more physical activity. I thought I was in better shape and had done a good job training for the Dopey Challenge. Needless to say, it didn’t help. I was still incredibly winded, which leads me to #3.

3. Dead Woman’s Pass is 13,828 feet high
hiking up Dead Woman's Pass - the hardest part on the hike to Machu Picchu

That’s very high and it is not the same as hiking the same distance at a lower altitude. It is not a stroll in the park; it is challenging and you need to go slowly. I was one of the last in my group to finish, but our guide said we still made good time. It took us about 6 hours to make it up! The advantage is you have an incredible view from the top and then it really is “all downhill from there!” The better your endurance, the easier this should be, so just make sure you are exercising a lot before your hike.

4. You Won’t lose weight because the food is so good

When I pictured this trip, I thought this would be a great, healthy trip and that I would lose weight because of all of the activity. I also thought the food would be simple, but instead, we have gourmet camping food that would have been impressive if it was made in a proper kitchen. I was also hungry from all the walking, but I always left the table wishing I hadn’t eaten so much!

view from my tent on day 3 on the Inca Trail
Beautiful views from the tent
5. sleeping in a tent is hard

My assumption is that many Incan Trail hikers are not used to camping. I don’t think many people in our group camped regularly, so it was hard for most people to sleep in a tent. Personally, I didn’t sleep a wink. I didn’t think I would have a problem with this, but I did. No idea why. I suggest bringing Benadryl or something. I took this after our hike over Dead Woman’s Pass, and it was critical to my getting some sleep that night.

6. You can’t pack very much

You see people posting really cute pictures of themselves at the Sun Gate and along the trail. I have absolutely no idea how they do this. Maybe different tour companies have different packing limits, but porters have to carry all of the gear, so I can’t imagine there isn’t some type of restriction. Maybe some people are just normal and naturally cute. I give them kudos but there is no way I would be able to do that. I packed a variety of my long-sleeved running shirts and hiking pants. It really is all you need, and I don’t think anyone was judging us for our appearance! If they were, I really didn’t care.

I hope these tips are helpful for your trip to Machu Picchu! I hope it gives a little advice in resetting your expectations for the trip to make it even better.

Fine Dining on the Inca Trail

The fact that I am writing a post about the food on our Inca Trail hike should be proof of how impressed I was! I’m not someone who camps, but I expected our food to be sandwiches, granola bars, smores, hot dogs, or something. In fact, I called G Adventures before the trip because I am a vegetarian, and I wanted to make sure they had options for me to eat. The nice girl who answered the phone assured me I would have more than enough options…

Most of this post will be pictures since I took pictures of almost every meal we had along the way!

Day 1

Lunch

We had lunch at a stop about halfway between the trail start and our first campsite. When we arrived, the porters had drinks for us while they finished preparing the three-course meal.

sipping our drinks before lunch 1
Our team enjoying our juice before lunchtime at the start of our trip
Dinner

Our team had a good first day and were excited to get to our campsite. We always had tea time before dinner which consisted of crackers, butter, jam, and popcorn. The popcorn was always the star of the show. They had a variety of teas (green, black, orange), hot chocolate, and, of course, had coca leaves to make coca tea.

Day 2

Breakfast

We woke early to get breakfast to prepare us for our long, grueling hike ahead. It was so much food! We all complained about how full we were, but once we realized how much energy we needed to complete the hike, I think we all appreciated the large breakfast.

Lunch

We finished our hike before lunch, which is a good thing because there is no way I would have been able to eat on the way! By the time we had lunch, we were all insanely hungry!

Tea Time and Dinner

After we took naps, we reconvened for tea time and dinner. Even though we were still full from our large lunch, we ate it anyway. It was delicious. It was now time for bed.

veggie dinner
Even the plating is like fine dining. I can’t believe this is all made in a tent. Some types of vegetables and rice.
Day 3
breakfast
Lunch

This was probably the best meal, as it was a lot of food, but they made us a cake! I cannot understand how you can bake and ice a cake after carrying everything from our campsite, beating us to our lunch site, and doing all of that before we arrive. There are no words to express how impressed I was about this! What a surprise!

Tea Time and Dinner
Summary

I didn’t take a picture of my cheese sandwich on our way to Machu Picchu, but even that wasn’t bad! What I find most impressive was that the chefs made all of this food in a tent! I could barely make some of this in my fully-stocked kitchen, but they did it with items they had to lug from campsite to campsite.

Hands down, the food we had on our hike was the best food I had our entire time in Peru! I’m not sure if all tour companies have food this great, but I would say that is one reason to hike Machu Picchu with G Adventures.

Highlights: Rainbow Mountain, Peru

In researching my trip to Peru, I decided to follow Instagram accounts to learn more about the country. I knew about the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, but I wanted to know what else we should see.

Something that appeared regularly on the feed was Rainbow Mountain. A beautifully layered mountain that was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I didn’t realize how close it was to Cusco or that G Adventures had a day trip to see it. For $50 USD, I decided to sign up for the trip; five members of our group from the Lares Trek were also going before their jungle adventure. When I travel, I take the all-or-nothing approach. I might as well live it up while I have the opportunity! Just worry about recovery later when I get home; I never want to miss an experience.

Apparently, the hike to Rainbow Mountain used to be a very strenuous 6-day hike because of the altitude. About 3 years ago (hello, Instagram!), they opened up a way to drive there and hike a much shorter distance. It increased tourism to the area, and now these pictures advertise that Peru has more than Machu Picchu. It worked on me!

Traffic jam of alpacas

We took a 4-hour bus ride (so not really close to Cusco!) southeast of Cusco. It was very remote; there weren’t big highways and eventually, we were on dirt roads. Even though it was desolate, we did hit a traffic jam – of alpacas! I was asleep when we got there, but I’m so glad I woke up! It was the funniest thing because I think they are so adorable!

Once we parked, we had a 14-kilometer hike to the top of the mountain which reaches 16,500 feet! I had no idea it was that high. When I got there, I could feel the altitude and started to struggle at the beginning. I knew I couldn’t keep up with the group, so I paid around $20 USD to ride a horse. They didn’t explain that the horse didn’t take you all the way…

Me riding a horse to get to Rainbow Mountain

Once my horse dropped me off halfway up, it was time to keep moving. It was so cold but slow and steady. I met some Americans who joined our group and we just went slowly. I had no idea how strenuous the hike would be because of the altitude. Eventually, I made it!

Me at Rainbow Mountain showing the sexy Llama

We followed our guide and came down the backside. That was much better because it is a steep hike up and there were a lot of people. My whole experience in Peru convinced me there are trips when it is a good idea to have a guide. They know the local culture and what to do, which will really improve your trip.

The Summary

Rainbow Mountain is quite a sight, and you can’t find many places like this in the world. It blows my mind to see these pictures and know that I made it there! While I still wrestle with whether this trip was a good decision, I at least have the pictures to treasure! This probably confirms my travel philosophy of taking advantage of every opportunity you have while you’re there!

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