Most Inspirational Moment
Standing alone on the last morning of the Inca Trail, looking out over the incredible panorama below- listening to the birdsong, admiring an overhanging wild orchid, with a lama munching in the bush behind me.
In the Amazon, seeing a female jaguar on the riverbank, being teased by a male, whilst we rowed into the sunset, on the Tambopata river, on our last evening- what an absolute privilege!
Thoughts on Group Leader
Bobbie was simply outstanding! His knowledge of Inca history was superb, but more importantly, his understanding of people, his positive psychology and his humour, helped us get to the top of Dead Woman’s Pass alive! His gentle encouragement, with no pressure to rush, but also his ability to make us feel safe, in some desperate moments where we felt we couldn’t go on, need commending- thank you Bobbie!
Advice for Potential Travellers
This is a tough trip- certainly not for the faint hearted and I would suggest, a significant challenge for younger teenagers. One needs to be athletic and be able to walk up steep hills ( as a training exercise), without getting breathless. No amount of fitness training in a gym can prepare one for the altitude, coupled with unrelenting, steep uneven steps up, and very deep, slippery and steep steps down. If one feels uneasy being at a height looking down, this is not the trip for you! The best advise is to have good Leki walking poles with rubber tips, and descend the steps sideways, like a crab, to save ones’ knees! Keep poles very long when going down, and short for going up! When packing the duffel bag, pack your stuff in a big see through bin liner first. Take lots of layers and thermals for the night- it is sub zero, wet and lonely at the top, without a proper, thick 4 season sleeping bag! I would recommend hiring a sleeping bag.
Day pack: do not use a bladder- they leak! Keep a water bottle round your neck- (buy a bottle holder at the shop where you have breakfast, before the trail starts), and a bottle of lucozade or similar in the side pouch- do not let your sugar levels go low! Take sucking sweets that are easy to unwrap and suck whilst walking- chewing and walking and breathing, up those steep steps is impossible! Take some bars of chocolates- you will crave chocolate! Keep a bag of small change (1soles) for the toliet stops on parts of the Inca trail (no toilets higher up). Take acetazolamide ( ask your GP) to prescibe 250mg tablets (not modified release). The recommeded dosage is to start taking it in Cusco the day before the trail starts ( if one feels dizzy, nausea/ vomiting, breathless and as if head is going to burst) An adult should take half a tablet (125mg) twice a day until the last moring if the trail, and a young teenager a quarter of a tablet twice a day. This was recommended to me by a Professor of Pulmonology, I chanced upon in our Cusco hotel. He was a Godsend! One can buy ‘Oxyshot’- small cannisters of Oxygen at the pharmacies- go to a pharmacy if one feels one may need advise- they were excellent! A good tip to acclimatise, is to go a few days early, before the trail starts, and stay in Pisac. (which is slightly lower in altitude to Cusco). We stayed at La Casa del Conde, just outside Pisac, overlooking The Sacred Valley- superb accomodation and views, and one has to take a ‘tuk tuk’ to get to it from the town, as it’s up a track! Pisac has a fantastic market and quaint restaurants- well worth spending 2 days there at least. Do an open top bus tour from the Place d’Arma in Cusco which takes you to various ruins- Saksaywaman- brilliant experience! Take a good headtorch on the trail and for the Amazon. Use a ‘bumbag’ to keep your camera/ iphone, lipice, tissues in- for easy access whilst walking. Take a daypack that fits: waterproof trousers and light waterproof jacket, rain poncho, beanie and waterproof gloves for the top of Dead Woman’s Pass. Wear good polarised sunglasses for the glare. Take a small memory foam pillow in your duffel bag- will make your camping experience much better!! Wear waterproof trousers to sleep in if you get cold and put your duffel bag under your mattress, at the foot of your tent, to prevent slipping down your tent! Take a power bank to recharge camera/ phone to take photos. Wear hiking liners- to prevent blisters. One needs to adhere to the tipping guidelines for the porters especially- they are brilliant- you need at least 230 soles per person for the Porter’s kitty, then additional tipping money in the Amazon for the Amazon guide, the Posadas lodge staff, the boatman and then your main guide for the trip. ( recommended $5 per person per day) The tipping is a hidden extra which definitely needs to be acknowledged prior to taking this trip. There is no cash facility in the Amazon but we could pay for our extras/ drinks using Visa. Have a pisco sour and lomo saltado in Cusco at ‘Baco’s’- both to die for! Take lots of videos both on the Inca trail and especially in the Amazon- the sounds are quite spectacular- especially the jungle call! Most importantly, enjoy every moment, take in every sight and sound as if it were your last, and ENJOY the beauty and the freedom! Don’t rush to get to the campsite- you’ll miss out!
I did this trip as a 50th birthday family adventure and fundraising challenge, for a Conservation charity in South Africa, for leopard rescue. Seeing the jaguar on our last evening was a ‘spiritual’ moment for me! And as our guide said at the outset of the Inca trail, heading to Machu Picchu is ‘a pilgrimage’! It is a challenge which needs careful planning, both for the fitness, the equipment and gear, but more importantly the mental challenge as a whole- the travel there and back is a challenge in itself! Make it a lifetime event- share your experience... write a blog.... it’ll make you feel whole.