“People have their bucket lists but they sometimes don’t know what goes into achieving something on that list,” said Valenti, underscoring that homework and common sense are key. The following, in her words, are tried-and-true ways to be miserable, “if you don’t properly prepare for the Inca Trail.”
- Be a porter instead of hiring a porter. Your quads will be screaming as you summit not one but two mountain passes at nearly 14,000 feet each.
- Hire the cheapest trekking company that will have you. Horror stories abound about guests going to bed starving because their designated company didn’t pack enough food.
- Forget to bring toilet paper. Enough said.
- Hike in sneakers or brand new hiking boots you haven’t broken in yet. You’ll wish you could make the hike in flip flops once the blisters begin.
- Let a friend talk you into hiking the trail without first researching what you are getting into. You need to train for this hike. If you aren’t in good shape for it, you’ll wish you could kill your friend.
- Think that because you hiked Kilimanjaro the Inca Trail will be a piece of cake. Kilimanjaro is gradual. The Inca Trail is steep.
- Race the porters. If you hike too fast at altitude, you increase your risk of getting altitude sickness. This could include severe headaches, vomiting and diarrhea in a place where bathrooms are few and far between (plus, remember you forgot the toilet paper).
- Plan your hike during the rainy season, November through January. Rock-paved paths and stone steps can become dangerously slick. And then there’s all that mud.
- Pack summer clothes for a hike during June, July, or August. It’s winter in the southern hemisphere. You’ll freeze, especially at night. Tip: bring a hot water bottle. It can be just the thing to help you feel toasty in your sleeping bags on those cold nights when you are chilled from hiking all day.
- Bring heavy books or a hair dryer. If you hired a porter and your pack is overweight (approx. 45 lbs. max.), you’ll end up carrying these heavy, unnecessary items in your daypack. It won’t be fun.
Valenti suggests reserving a trip three to six months before arrival because everything here runs by prior permit issued by the authorities. Guests must hike with a company–not solo or with a companion. The entire trail is 26 miles and is typically hiked in four days. Five-day hikes allow guests to tour Machu Picchu on the fifth day, whereas on four-day programs it’s folded into the fourth hiking day. Overall guests summit two mountain passes (Dead Woman’s Pass and Abre de Runkuraqay) at nearly 14,000 feet each.