Ok, the Inca Trail. One half of the reason I've once again quit my job and gone off traveling...again. I know, I know, you thought I was over traveling. Nope, still not over it!
Here's how the Inca trail works:
1. Find a tour and sign up at least 2 months in advance. They only allow so many people on the trail at one time and you don't want to miss your chance to celebrate your 30th birthday at Machu Picchu. Clearly I have priorities in life and working isn't one of them.
2. Fly into Cusco a few days in advance to acclimate to the altitude and bum around town taking chocolate classes and such.
3. Have a slight internal melt down the night before leaving about what to bring because you have to carry your own pack for the next 4 days and OMG whatifIneedthis???? Oh, that's right kids, you are in fact carrying your own pack. Camera, clothes, toothbrush and all...including your sleeping bag and mat.
* Disclaimer: You can hire an extra porter to carry a bag or in my case sleeping bag for you. <Best 80 sols EVER>
4. Buy a walking stick with a cool purple and orange handle to help you up and down the countless steps. And they are countless. The 3rd day we did 2,000 steps in the afternoon alone. That was just a fraction of the steps we took.
5. Get incredibly sweaty the moment you step on the trail and stay that way for the remainder of the trail getting infinitely grosser as each day passes. Did I mention that there's no showers or running water for the 4 days? Fun, right?
6. The 1st day laugh at the term "Incan Flat", meaning up and down hill. Don't laugh the 2nd or 3rd day, silently cry and bemoan you're very stupid idea that this would be fun!? FML
7. Drink, soak, consume the beauty of the Andean mountains surrounding you. Seriously some of the most beautiful natural landscape I've seen. The Andean mountains are truly unique looking with incredibly steep hills that are also intensely lush and close to other surrounding hills. It's the best description I could come up with. Just trust me on this: they rock and you should go experience them now. Why haven't you left yet??
8. Bring plenty of Advil for all sorts of muscle aches. The 2nd day you spend climbing uphill while gaining altitude, which is like, totally easy...please note the sarcasm here. Who needs things like oxygen? Not this girl. Next, on day 3 you must climb back down, on rough 500 year old stone roads. You will curse the Incans profusely this day, along with whatever cartilage might be left in your knees at this point.
9. Spend the entire time in awe of the porters, who are not only carrying your stuff, but also your tents and food, on their back and zooming past you on the trail. Seriously, these guys WORK for their living, making a measly 20 sols per trek (around $8 US) for hours of hard manual labor.
10. Finally, on the last night bask in your accomplishment of walking nearly 26 miles in the Andes at altitude all for the sake of seeing Machu Picchu in all its glory!
That kids is how you hike the Inca Trail.