So, I finished the Inca Trial culminating in a visit to Machu Picchu Saturday morning and it was challenging and amazing!
It was definitely worth it and I would (probably) do it all again if I had the chance. (NOTE: The above picture was taken at the beginning of the hike, hence the fresh face, clean clothes and general optimism about what is to come). I want to give the 4 day hike and visit to this ancient city its due with proper storytelling, so for now, here are some cool facts about the Inca Trail to hold you over until I have more time:
1. There are 4 control points on the Inca Trail and at each one you get a passport stamp! This means that if you complete the whole 26 mile hike you can fill a whole page in your passport that records the date and point in the hike you were at on each day. I had no idea that you could even get a stamp without crossing an international border and was so excited to have this record of my journey. Fellow travelers, I know you understand the allure of passport decoration- Definitely a cool bonus.
2. The 3rd day of the trek travels through the high jungle. Not only do you get to see beautiful Inca city ruins, orchids, hummingbirds, and butterflies but you also hike past the gentle trickle of small streams and waterfalls coming on down the mountains. So nice after the killer day 2.
3. Local families are able to make a little extra money by selling water, Generade (Gatorade), toilet paper and other small things to hikers. A few families even get subsidies from the government for allowing hikers to use their land as campsites. In this way, the Inca trail is a mini mutually beneficial economy.
4. The food on the Inca Trail is AMAZING! You must use a guide in order to be allowed on the trail and this means you travel with a whole team (more about this later) including at least 1 professional chef. You get breakfast, lunch and dinner catered for you, wherever you are, and the food is great. It is usually a local Andean dish or other typical Peruvian food, with the exception of pancakes for breakfast one day (nicely decorated with caramel mountains and other Peruvian flair). This food makes the journey that much better and keeps you fueled for the hard days of trekking.
5. Machu Picchu is amazing no matter what, but hiking the Inca Trail for 4 days and camping for 3 nights makes your ultimate arrival there SOO much better. While you can opt to take the train there, and about 2000-3000 people do each day, the payoff is much more rewarding if you have worked your butt off, sweating, camping, and anticipating the prize. It makes the journey life changing instead of just really cool. If you are able, I would recommend the hike to anyone.
SOO much more about the Inca Trail to come and amazing photos to top it off!