Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How to Prepare for the Inca Trail: Important facts and things to bring

A street in Ollantaytambo
How to Prepare for the Inca Trail

Hiking the Inca Trail is an experience of a lifetime, and preparing is part of the adventure. This program includes three days of pre-hikes to help you acclimatize to the altitude and terrain of the trail, and the following information will help you get ready before your departure.

*** Break in your boots well in advance of your departure. Wear your boots on the flight or pack them in your carry-on bag in case luggage is lost or delayed.***

• Incorporate some form of cardio exercise, 45 to 60 minutes, 3 to 5 times a week for at least 8 to 12 weeks prior to your trip. We suggest running, walking, or biking or a StairMaster.
• Prepare for the extreme ups and downs of the hike by training across a variety of terrains such as hills or using a treadmill incline.
• Practice yoga or some form of core strengthening exercise.


• Small day pack to carry your rain gear, sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, camera, water bottles or CamelBak 
• Hiking boots that are well worn in 

• Hiking poles are provided by our operator for the entire program
• A pair of comfortable shoes, sandals or crocs to wear around the camp
• A couple of quick-dry tops and pants, socks, and underwear. Some have

   suggested only 2 pair of zip-off hiking pants  
• Fleece and down jacket
• Gloves and a warm hat
• Warm fleece pants for evening
• Personal toiletries, including baby wipes, and medications
• Camera gear with enough charged batteries for the entire hike
• Flashlight and batteries or solar equipment 

Depending on the operator that you book with, you will be limited to no more than 8 kg/17.6 lbs (minus the weight of the sleeping bag - approx. 1.6 lb) on the Inca Trail. The site coordinator in Peru will supply large duffel bags to pack your clothes and gear in for the hike. Professional porters will carry the bags during the Inca Trail hikes and the remaining luggage will be stored at the hotel in Cuzco, if you make such arrangements. You will not be able to access this duffel bag until you reach the evening camp so be sure that you have all that need for the day in your day pack each morning before heading out.


Day 1: Chillca - Huayllabamba Total distance: 7.8 miles
Estimated walking time: 7 hours
Maximum altitude point: 9,842 feet

Day 2: Huayllabamba - Pacaymayo Total distance: 5.5 miles
Estimated walking time: 7 hours
Maximum altitude point: 13,779 feet

Day 3: Pacaymayo - Phuyupatamarka Total distance: 5 miles
Estimated walking time: 7 hours
Maximum altitude point: 12,795 feet

Day 4: Phuyupatamarka - Machu Picchu Total distance: 7 miles
Estimated walking time: 5 hours
Maximum altitude point: 11,811 feet


Altitude at the Inca Trail ranges from 7,790 feet to 13,780 feet.
Upon arrival at altitudes above 3,000 meters or 10,000 feet, shortness of breath and a pounding heart are normal responses to the lack of oxygen in the air. However, for some visitors, these symptoms can deteriorate into a condition known as Soroche or acute mountain sickness. Headache, extreme tiredness, nausea and loss of appetite are standard symptoms. Take it easy upon arrival and drink the coca tea provided. Oxygen is readily available for more severe reactions and is also available on the Inca Trail.
Staying hydrated and well rested is important to adjusting to the altitude. Avoiding heavy, fatty foods and alcohol in the days before arriving to altitude can also help and is highly recommended. It’s also advisable to avoid sleep medications, as they can slow breathing and respiration, which aid in getting the blood oxygenated during sleeping.


Months                       Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. Max Temp ºF  68  70  70   72   70   70  70  70   72   72  73  72
Avg. Min Temp ºF   45  45  45   40   36   34  30  34   40   43  43  45
Wet days / month  18  13  11   8     3     2    2    2    7     8    12  16

OK, it's time to start thinking about packing; waterproof jacket and pants, yes, it's going to rain (but this time of year will surely be very green!) 
North Face gortex jacket, waterproof pants.
***This year I invested in a Marmot and I love this rain jacket!!! It is lightweight with pitzips, inner mesh pockets, gasket covered zippers and a bill on the hood that extends out over your face a bit, love that!
Water proof hiking boots; I've chosen Merrell, low profile, waterproof hiking boots. I tried on so many Trail shoes, Cross Trainers and hiking shoes but when I put these babies on they felt like they were made for my feet! In the shape of my feet! It was an amazing difference from anything I tried and I knew at once these were the ones for me. A lot of people might choose a higher shoe and one that supports your ankle. I have high top hiking boots and I wanted to go with lower ones for more flexibility. We'll see if I made the right choice but they are definitely comfy! Of course, I've broken them in first and they feel just great.
Socks - very important! For years I've used Smartwool that my husband turned me on to. They are amazingly warm, non scratchy wool socks that really hold up but they are pricey! Got some for Christmas, perfect! also purchased some Thorlo hiking socks. Just make sure you have one pair for each day. your feet will love the fresh, new socks each day!
Loose fitting hiking pants, wicking shirts, T-shirts, fleece, hat and gloves, long underwear to sleep in or something warm, plenty of underwear and of course, sunglasses. Oh, and don't forget a water bottle or two.

The next thing to concentrate on is my DOPP kit or survival kit or whatever you want to call it with all of the necessary things you'll need for basic bodily comfort and care.

- Sunscreen 
- Wipes, towelettes, etc (and a bag to pack out the used ones)
- Bug spray - I'm not a big fan of Deet. I like Natrapel made with Picaridin.  I      live in Florida and in the summer in my backyard I feel like the main course in    a West Nile buffet line! This stuff works for me and doesn't smell too bad.
- Wipes and hand sanitizer 
- Headlamp: ever try to use the restroom with a flashlight? think about it! plus,     you'll have hands free around the camp when the sun goes down.
Toothpaste (I like Tom's of Maine).
Q-tips, band-aids, vitamins, aspirin, Imodium, CIPRO?
Deodorant,... or not. You are gonna sweat and then likely land at the campsite    and be wet. Many operators supply hot water "Catwash" bowls put out              for each individual hiker before each meal by the porters along with some         biodegradable soap to wash up. Those wicking shirts for sports/running are     great for hiking.

***Some may consider water purifying tablets but you will not need them. The porters boil glacial melt water from nearby streams and purify the water with tablets. It tastes really good and is very safe, not to worry. 

Remember to bring zip-lock plastic bags and enough for your trash. You know the credo, "Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints".

Monday, April 18, 2011

It's "Inca" not Inka!" and an Itinerary for the trip

I hiked the Inka Trail to Machu Picchu in April 2011. Being an avid hiker in years gone by, this was definitely up there on my list of treks but a hike I only dreamed about completing. 

The popular section of the trail to Machu Picchu takes 4 days and 3 nights, beginning at Km82 below the town of Ollantaytambo. (there is also a 2 day hike starting at Km104). I am arriving to Cusco 2 days early to acclimatize to the 11k elevation and hopefully give my lungs and legs a little practice for what I am about to put them through. I will visit some nearby ruins each day in preparation. Day 2 of the hike, the most difficult section, features a gain of almost 4,000 ft. hiking from 7:00am to lunchtime.
This is the part I'm worried about for being the flat lander that I am, I know it will be difficult, no matter how much I prepare. 

It's "Inca" not "Inka", and some realizations about the name. 
I knew that Inka was the more politically correct spelling but I didn't know much more than that about the spelling so I looked around a bit for some information. I found some info on wikipedia site with reference to Bruce Mannheim, The Language of the Inka since the European Invasion, University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas,1991.

In recent years, the spelling of place names in Peru and Bolivia has been revised among Quechua and Aymara speakers. A standardized alphabet for Quechua was adopted by the Peruvian government in 1975.
These changes are considered to be part of a general process of spelling standardization and reassertion of the right of these native languages to their own spelling system appropriate for their sound systems, which are very different from that of Spanish. This goes along with a growth of pride in the Andean heritage of these countries and a move to recover the prestige of their indigenous languages. These spelling changes are part of the official alphabets for Quechua and Aymara in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.

So, I'm stickin' with Inka and off I go this afternoon! More later after arrival to Lima!

Plaza de Armas Cusco


Day 1: Lima
Depart U.S./Arrivals in Lima, Peru

Arrivals at the Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima.
Over night in Lima
Day 2: Sacred Valley
Flight to Cusco and Coach to the Sacred Valley/Field trip to Ollantaytambo Ruins

Arrive in Cusco and transfer by coach to the Sacred Valley with a visit to Ollantaytambo ruins.
Ollantaytambo is a town with original buildings of Inca construction where the
Inca retreated to make their last stand in the highlands against the Spanish.
Running water still flows through the town in aqueducts and the terraces above the
town still are farmed.

Day 3: Sacred Valley - Moray Inca Ruins/Salinas Salt Pans
 Trip to Moray, an ancient site of large circular terraces built
by the Inca as an outdoor agricultural research station.
As you walk around the terraces they decrease in size to a central point making this hike a wonderful opportunity to acclimate in preparation for the Inca Trail.
Then there is an excursion to the Salt Pans of Salinas for a brief demonstration
of the salt extraction process.
Walk down to the Urubamba River and the small town of Salinas for a visit.

Day 4: Sacred Valley - Pisac Market 
Depart in the morning for the town of Pisac.
Enjoy an incredible acclimatizing walk through the Pisac ruins and then down to the town.
Return to the hotel for some free time before dinner.
After dinner your leader will conduct a final briefing session on the Inca Trail in preparation for the big hike.
Day 5: Inca Trail - Hike to Patallaqta Ruins and Huayllabamba
After Breakfast at the hotel restaurant, depart for Ollantaytambo, KM82, where we will meet our porters and have a final pit stop.
We hike to the official control point to the start of the Inca Trail. 
***Original, valid passports must be ready to be presented to the officials.
We then cross a footbridge over the Urubamba River and start your hike!
After an hour and a half or so you arrive at the Patallaqta viewpoint. These classic Inca ruins at the intersection of three valleys with wonderful photo opportunities.
Consult your group leader if you feel unwell and are apprehensive about the Inca Trail hikes.
Option #1:Take part in the first day of the hike and see how you feel. 
If you decide not to continue, provisions will be made to transfer you to Cusco. 
However, if you continue, you will need to complete the hikes all the way through to Machu Picchu.
Option #2: If you decide not to attempt any hikes, provisions will be made to transfer you back to Cusco. **Note: going back to Cusco will be at your own expense**

Day 6: Inca Trail - Huayllabamba to Pacaymayo
Early morning wake-up call with a hot beverage and breakfast at the camp.
The first portion of your hike this morning will take approximately 1:30 minutes.
The first stop will be at Ayapata for the opportunity to rest, use the local toilet
facilities, and/or rehydrate.
Continue walking on ascending stairs for 2:30 minutes.
Lunch at Llulluchapampa in the valley.
After lunch, begin your 2 hour walk to Abra Warmiwañuska at an elevation of approximately 13,776 ft. This is the toughest and highest pass of the trek!
Descend to the second campsite at Pacaymayo at 11,580 ft for tea time and relaxation.

Day 7: Inca Trail - Pacaymayo to Phuyupatamarka
Again the porters will greet you tent side with an early morning wake-up call with a hot beverage.
Breakfast at camp before you begin the approximately 1 hour hike to the Runkuracay archaeological site overlooking the Pacaymayo Valley. 
After an exploration of the site, you will hike to the Runkurakay Pass, 12,960 ft, the second pass on the trail. After reaching the pass, continue downhill for approximately 1 hour before arriving at the narrow staircase that will take you into Sayacmarca, "Inaccessible Town".
The ruins of Sayacmarca are the remnants of a fortress or travelers' lodge used by
the Inca. Sayacmarca was built on a narrow mountain ridge with only one
entrance, probably planned as a means of defense. The thatched roofs are long
gone, but an observatory, small plaza, ritual baths, housing complex, and other
constructions remain. The lack of agricultural terraces and farmland point to a
dependence on outside suppliers. 
In its heyday, Sayacmarca is thought to have housed as many as 200 people.
Leave the ruins and hike for another 20 minutes before breaking for lunch.
Lunch stop at Chaquicocha.
Then after lunch, continue walking for another 1:45 minutes to the last campsite at Phuyupatamarka, 10,695 ft. Once at the camp, reward your day's efforts with a tea break and free time before dinner.

Day 8: Machu Picchu - Phuyupatamarka, Wiñay Wayna & Intipunku Ruins
Your final early wake-up call to witness the spectacular sunrise from the viewing platform at Phuyupatamarka. Hot beverages will be provided before your final breakfast at camp is served.
Later that morning, begin walking to the archaeological ruins, located approximately
15 minutes from the camp.
The ruins of Phuyupatamarka (Cloud Level Town) include many terraces and a
series of ceremonial baths. A large platform on the highest part of the site once
served as an open-air temple, the Temple of the Sun.
Continue walking for another 3:30 hours and arrive at Wiñay Wayna in time  lunch.
After lunch resume hiking this final stretch of the Inca Trail that will take
approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete.
This will bring you to the Intipunku, or "Sun Gate" and you will begin the descent into Machu Picchu, just as the late afternoon shadows appear on the citadel.
After a quick walk through the ruins, board the bus to Aguas Calientes and transfer to your hotel for a shower, dinner and celebration.

Day 9: Cusco -
Machu Picchu Ruins/Train to Ollantaytambo & Bus to Cusco
Early breakfast at the hotel and then board a bus to the Machu Picchu ruins.
Spend the morning in both guided and individual exploration, visiting the most fascinating features of this astounding and mysterious Inca settlement. 
Some might want to take the optional hike to the
summit of Wayna Picchu for an amazing overview of the site, while others may
want to investigate Machu Picchu's many hidden architectural treasures.
Board the bus and return to Aguas Calientes town.
There are many great restaurants in AC and a wonderful artisans market to visit.
Transfer to the Aguas Calientes train station for your train ride back to Ollantaytambo Station.
Once at Ollantaytambo, board the bus to Cusco.
Day 10: Cusco -
Sacsayhuaman Ruins/Cusco City Orientation/Music Presentation
Field trip to the Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman and then return to Cusco for a walk in the city.
The main historic square in Cusco is lined with incredible restaurants and many feature presentations of traditional Inca music.

Day 11: Lima -
Lima City Orientation
Transfer to the airport to board flight to Lima.
Arrive in Lima check out the Cathedral and San Francisco Church.