The Inca trail is one of the most popular treks in Peru. Starting from Chillca, it ends in Machu Pacchu, the lost city of the Incas. The Inca trail is however a moderately difficult trek, and preparing well for the trek would help in making the hike that much more easier and fun! :) Here are 5 steps to ensuring that you’re well prepared –
1. Plan your itinerary and book in advance- the hike to Machu Picchu can be done in as few as two days, to five days. We did a four day variant, covering about 45kms over four days. The distance covered and level of difficulty varies with the option you choose (the five day hike is easier but also longer, although it goes up till a higher altitude). Due to the hike being above 10,000 ft for the most part, it is also important to factor in a few days at Cusco to help the body acclimatize. Two – three days are usually enough for most people. Make sure you book well in advance as only 500 passes to the trail are released each day, and they tend to get over pretty quickly.
2. Health check and Diamox – make sure you get a health check up done. Get the necessary shots, and also a prescription for Diamox (helps you deal with altitude sickness). It is debatable whether you would need Diamox or not as different people react differently to the altitude, but unless you’ve done high altitude treks before, best you’re well prepared. Be warned though – Diamox has side effects such as tingling.
3. Get the right gear – although you don’t really need anything special for the trek, having a shell jacket and shell trousers can be very useful, especially if you go in the rainy season. Hiking poles, sleeping bags, gaiters are again useful to have. Three things that I found super helpful – hand sanitizers, baby wipes, and a headlamp!
4. Train! – While you’ll be able to do the hike even if you’re not the fittest person ever, a little bit of training before the hike can go a long way in helping you manage the trek and enjoy it while it lasts. At high altitudes, your fitness levels can definitely make a difference in terms of how quickly you get tired or exhausted. The second day of the hike in particular is fairly hard as it has a long and steady ascent to the highest point in the trek (Dead woman’s pass). Just half an hour of jogging a few weeks before the hike should do! :)
5. Do your research – Make sure you do some preliminary research on Cusco, Machu Picchu and the trail in general before you go. This is an area rich in history, and having some background beforehand would really help you appreciate the beauty of the place.
Sounds hard? Here are some pictures that will hopefully motivate you. The effort is well worth it! :)