A Travellerspoint blog

January 2016

The thing about the Inca Trail is...

all seasons in one day
View Tour of southern Peru on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

I have met a few people on my travels who have said they have no desire to do the Inca Trail, or even go to Machu Picchu since both are too touristy and they do not wish to do what everyone else is doing, just because it's everyone.

I respect their opinion, and I even understand the sentiment in some contexts. For example, I have never read or seen any of Twilight. I may well thoroughly enjoy it, but it got a bit too popular, a bit too quickly and I have never been interested enough by what I do know to follow through.

Our society is quick to become obsessed with something, be it books, films, songs, theatre, fashion etc., which is a little different, exotic, maybe even a little bit naughty, but ultimately not particularly good quality. Once we get the impression that everyone loves it, herd mentality kicks in and we tend to want to get involved.

I suppose that for some people, the Inca Trail and/ or a visit to Machu Picchu is to them, what Twilight is to me. The thing about the Inca Trail though, is that it's nothing like the Twilight series, and Machu Picchu is not at all like the ever-present Team Edward vs Jacob debate; no, they're genuinely impressive.

Let's start with the Inca Trail. It's a 42km hike during which you reach 4,200m above sea level. The views change each day as you climb higher, heading into sky jungle territory, and each corner you turn brings a new spectacular photo/ enjoy the moment opportunity.

There are a lot of trekkers, but they're friendly, and the people I found myself bumping into, were willing to keep you motivated when you're flagging and vice versa. It felt like a community, especially on day two on the big climb to Dead Woman's Pass.

Then there's the wonderful porters. They really make it possible for you to trek in relative comfort and enjoy the trail. They carry (officially) 25kg, but often more, they go ahead of the group so that they can set up the kitchen tent and start preparing lunch/ dinner ready for our arrival, and put up our tents, which they carry for us. For them it's an additional source of income, they smile the whole way and even offer support and encouragement to those who need it, even though they're carrying a good 5 times the weight that we are and speak predominantly Quechua.

And then there's the fact that you pass a host of Incan ruins along they way, still in tact after all this time. Then there's the minor fact that at the end of your hike, you climb Machu Picchu and reach the Sun Gate for the first glimpse of the now classic photo with the ruins and Huaina Picchu behind. The ruins are vast, and in impressive (reconstructed) condition. Yes there are a lot of people, but it didn't ruin it for me. BesIdes, you can escape the mob if you find the right spot.

It's not that there aren't other impressive hikes/ mountains/ group experiences. There are. All of that exists elsewhere in Peru but there are reasons why Machu Picchu is one of the modern Wonders of the World.

If you've decided that it's not for you then by all means, I wouldn't want to pressure you into going either on the trail or to the ruins.

But if you're not sure if the crowds ruin it, or if you'll enjoy it, or how into ruins you are, I would urge you to sign up if you can. There are other treks if you are too late for the Inca Trail, or even the train if you're short on time or are physically unable to trek (thinking you're too unfit doesn't count!).

Just please don't write it off simply because 95% of your Facebook friends have already been.

Unlike so much of pop culture that often gains popularity without truly deserving it, I 100% see why the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu have become as popular as they have.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 18:06 Archived in Peru Tagged machupicchu hike trail inca Comments (0)

Where on earth did the last month go?

View A week in Bolivia & Tour of southern Peru on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

I left Huanchaco just before Christmas and we're now on the 21st January, so the questions are: where on earth did the last month go? What have I been doing? And why haven't I written like I said I would?

I'll start with the last question first. I haven't written like I said I would because frankly, I've been having too much fun. Simples.

The past month has been a whirlwind of meeting new people and seeing new places; I've left Peru, travelled through Bolivia and now I'm in Argentina!

I had a day to myself in Lima before I met the group for the G Adventures Andean Discovery tour. Having spent two months exploring the north of Peru independently, I must say I was a little unsure about joining a tour - would the schedule be too rigid? Would I have a good group?

The schedule was fairly intense at first, moving from Lima to Paracas to Ica to Nazca to Arequipa to the Colca canyon, back to Arequipa and into Cusco all within the first week. I got to take the flight over the Nazca lines, see a condor fly extremely close by in the Colca Canyon and be in Cusco for new year. All jolly good stuff.

We were a group of 18 plus our guide, and I can honestly say it was a great group; diverse in character, background (kind of...there were a lot of Aussies!), likes and dislikes and life experience. Mainly I spent of lot of time laughing at something (or someone) or other.

A lot of group bonding went on on the Inca Trail. We had an exceptionally fast walking group and I spent most of my walk near the back of the group, taking my time to take in the scenery, either being encouraged or encouraging others to keep going. Apparently I was still plenty ahead of schedule every day so I'm pretty chuffed.

(I'll write an additional post dedicated to the Inca Trail at some point because it is rather spectacular, and the whole experience deserves more than a paragraph.)

Post Inca Trail we had a couple of nights more in Cusco before heading to Puno; from there we went on a tour of some islands on Lake Titicaca culminating in a home stay on one of the islands (this also deserves a dedicated post so watch this space!).

We had a great schedule overall. We missed some places that I would have preferred to have experienced, which was a shame but also part of the gamble of a tour. Equally, we did some things (like the Inca Trail or home stay) that were simply less stressful because everything was pre-arranged, which allows more fun to be had!

In the end though, the group made the tour. Had the gang been rubbish, I might have gone off and seen the places I think we missed. As it happens, our group of 18 participants, was always interesting to be around and totally worth hanging around for.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 17:59 Archived in Peru Tagged ruins tour inca Comments (0)

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