Baby Wipes: there are NO SHOWERS until the last day and these are truly awful. Our group didn’t have one at our camp site, other sites did. Baby wipes were a god send.
My wife said that her dry shampoo was essential. I’ll take her word for it. We took our tooth brushes, tooth paste, a travel shower gel each, ( we didn’t use them as there were no showers – which is why baby wipes were so important)). Deodorant wipes were nice too. It makes you feel a little more human – and so nice for your fellow travellers too. My wife also took face wipes and hand cleaning gel too.
‘Stuff’: sun block, sunglasses, lip balm, battery packs for your phones, torches – go for good ones with decent batteries, (I used my bike lights, Cree TX 5 type – they are awesome and just one battery lasted the whole trek), a camera – the views are what you are here for. Paracetamol and ibuprofen for the thumping headaches that high altitude will probably give you. Anti-histamine tablets were useful too. Bite cream for when the Mosquitos get you and of course some good anti mosquito protection, (I used a 50% DEET product, It stinks, feels awful, but it does work). A plastic bag for your smelly clothes is useful too – we just took a carrier bag for that, which was fine. Blister plasters are light and worth taking too.
I wouldn’t worry too much. I nearly had a panic attack when I did a canopy walkway in the jungle a few days previously, but the trek didn’t really bother me. Don’t get me wrong, there were some seriously big drops with nothing to stop you from falling, but I found I was so preoccupied with getting my breath, making sure I was getting my footing right, physically working hard to the point that it didn’t bother me. There were 2 or 3 ‘let me hug the rock’ moments, but nothing too bad – so don’t worry about it.
We got fed quite well. Not nearly as much as I’d normally eat, but I survived. Breakfasts were a quinoa based porridge, a slice of ‘eggy bread’ or a pancake each. The porridge was really watery. There was apple in it too – not to my liking, but you can’t have everything? Lunches were the main meal of the day. Soup (watery), with chicken stir fry, trout or chicken again. Veggies were catered for – but their food was pretty tasteless. Again, small portions. We also got snacks – a piece of fruit and/or biscuits. We took our own cereal bars and some chocolate too. A nice energy giving treat.
Although the food wasnt served in massive portions, credit where credit is due, all the food came out of this ‘kitchen’:
and was served in our dining tent:
As I am sure you can imagine, it was very cramped, but we later found out that this is where the porters slept – so it doubled up well.
Because of the toilet facilities, I didn’t eat much – but you should – you’ll need ALL the calories.
This was an issue. We were led to believe that it was up to each individual to make their minds up on how much to tip – HOWEVER – our guide told us what he expected – in front of all the party, then took the money off us all, ticking our names off his list. This somewhat soured the evening, (some people couldn’t afford the amount requested (S120 per person)). It’s not the amount, but it was the way that when we asked at our trek meeting, we were told it was up to us, but when it came to the moment, it was pretty impossible to say no – in front of all the other guests. It was a shame.
You will not believe how incredible these guys are. They carry huge back packs, set out after you have started hiking, then you move out of the way so they can yomp past you. When you get to lunch, they will have set up the dining tents, toilet tents and cooked lunch. You turn up to a round of applause and huge smiles. Our oldest porter was 63, the youngest was 18. They are as hardcore as men can be – and humble with it.
The Bag The Porters Take:
When you go for your meeting to discuss the trek, you will be handed a canvas holdall. This is what you take along with your personal rucksack. You put what you dont need for each day, (sleepwear, toothbrush, flip flops etc in this bag for the hard working porters to carry). We were told, and planned for a 5Kg bag, only to be told that we could only take 3.5Kg, 2 nights before. This meant that we all had to carry more weight. The excuse the head guide gave us was that the sleeping bags weighed 1.5Kg. This was quite annoying – so check before hand.
Make sure you are used to them, you don’t want blisters. The walking is hard. At times very hard. And ridiculously steep. You will need decent boots to ensure you have good support for your ankles.
Clothing: (an example of when it was hot and cold)
Take base layers for sleeping in. Take some short and long sleeved breathable t-shirts for day and night wear and and I’d recommend good qualify walking trousers. I had Craghoppers which were Mosquito proof. They served me well. You will need underwear for each of the 4 days, a hat for when it gets cold, good quality socks, (Merino if you can), breathable tops, a snood is a good idea, as you can use it for warmth and to protect you from Mosquitos. Gloves – I slept in these on night 2. I had a a hat that I slept in and another wide brimmed hat to protect me from the sun. Make sure you you have a hat that you can be sure won’t get blown off in the wind – it does get windy the higher up you go. Micro fleeces were another great idea, (I didn’t take one – but wish I did). They were great for taking off and putting on when weather changed or you hit altitude, where it got colder. Ladies should take a sports bra, (I have been reliably informed). Waterproofs: on our first night, it really rained heavily. Luckily, we were in our tents, however, don’t forget them. Life would be pretty grim without them. I didn’t use the waterproof trousers I took, but they are light, so if I did the trek again, I’d take them. Don’t forget sunglasses too. Bed socks were good for sleeping in and flip-flops (not thong style – you can’t slide your socked feet into them, were lovely to put on after your days trekking – just to give your feet a chance to breathe.
Use them. It’s that simple. I would invest in them. They help with climbing and really helped me in the decent too. I had no idea they had little springs in them, which means that they took some of the shock from your knees. We bought 1 each in Cusco and haggled the price to S110 for the 4. I used one, but wish I’d bought 2.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Horrific. There are ‘Toilet Tents’ a male and female one. Next to each other. They were tiny and had a little plastic box inside, which held a bag. You had to go there. Number 1’s and number 2’s. It was truly disgusting. There obviously wasn’t a flush facility, whoever left there deposit before you had to leave it there. You went over their ‘stuff’. The stench was awful, flies/ mosquitos, the works. Night time was worst, because if you tried to go discreetly, your torch told everyone that you were there and what you were doing. Mentally, this was the worst part of the trek for me. It affected what I ate, (little, so I wouldn’t have to go – but then I needed more calories to get me through the hike).
(During the trek, I used one of my apps, Cyclemeter, which has a hike option. I also used a heart monitor. The like below will show you the REAL topography and how it affected me, physically).
DAY 1: 09:30 start
It isn’t as flat as they would have you believe. You climb 574 metres. When you look at the topography maps, it appears flat. It isn’t. There’s a peak after an hour. It takes you up to about 2790 metres. You then decend, then it’s back up to 2950 metres. My heart rate peaked at 158bpm – which is quite high.
Camping was at a site which had a couple of areas where the tents were pitched. It was adjoined to a families house. In our instance, it appeared to be disco night, as some truly awful music was played at a heck of a volume until 4/5am. I think it was this that awoke the cockerel that started off at 3:30, (not at day break as I thought!)
Waking up(?) was a joy. The views were incredible. We got to brush our teeth in a small bowl of water. To wash, we used baby wipes – lots of them.
DAY 2: 07:30 start (woken at 05:45)
This was hard. Really hard. Soul destroyingly hard. You will climb over 1100 metres. It just drags. If you thought day 1 was difficult, this will make you want to go home. Some parts were ridiculously steep. The bit that’s hardest is trying to get used to the thin air. It doesn’t sound much, but breathing was really difficult. I had to take lots of stops, trying to catch my breath. By now, your knees are telling you that you are an idiot for doing the trek, whilst your legs are now starting to ache from yesterday. When you finally see Dead Woman’s Pass, you will be delighted – but it’s further away than you think. There’s a steep bit just before you reach it, too. When we got there, it was really cold, (about 5 degrees), cloudy and windy. Don’t think that it will be sunny all the way.
Going down from Dead Woman’s Pass was better for me, but lots of the group found the decent harder than the climb. Your knees take a real battering. The sense of achievement from reaching there was great though. When we got there it was really cloudy on the decent side, though it quickly cleared up. My maximum heart rate was 153 bpm, which is quite high – but it was the breathing that was the difficulty. Breathing at this height was very, very hard. The camp was in a field with the most breathtaking views – above the clouds – it was awesome, quite literally.
Dead Woman’s Pass (its her on her back and that is her breast sticking out!
I have said all along that its steep. This is going over Dead Woman’s Pass. And it was cold!
Day 3: 07:00 start, (woken at 05:30)
Lots of down – After 500 metres of climbing, which was quite tough. You the get 1450 metres decent. This is a long day. I think we hiked for over 10 hours. We saw some Inka sites and got to camp. The good news about day 3 is that at our lunch stop, we were shown Machu Picchu mountain which wasn’t that far away. We then hiked in the opposite direction to our final camp! This was in a camping complex which seemed to be set up for about 20 groups like ours, (our group had 16 people from 20 – 63 years old). The camp had proper toilets but they didn’t flush. They certainly hadn’t been cleaned for a while. They were shared between everyone there. Horrible.
Day 4: 04:45 start (woken at 03:45)
This is why you put yourself through the previous 3 physically and mentally demanding days. It’s a ludicrous time of the morning, but you know it’s only a couple of hours until you get to the Sun Gate, where you get to see the sun rise over Machu Picchu. The hike on the final day is relatively gentle compared to the previous days. There’s 255 metres of climbing and 433 metres of decent. The hardest part is just before you get to the Sun Gate, where there are 53 steps that are so steep we all used our hands and feet to climb.
Adrenaline will see you through this bit. And then you get to the Sun Gate. There were about 100 in total from other parties there. You then have the privilege of seeing the sun rise over one of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s really emotional. There were plenty of tears all around. It was incredible, truly incredible. I had carried a bottle of Champagne with me for the whole trek for this moment, (it weighed 1.52kg btw), we popped it and shared the moment. Just wonderful.
FYI In this first picture, I am exhausted!
Our wonderful gang of hikers and our absolute joy in achieving our goal of reaching Machu Picchu:
After an hour or so at the Sun Gate, watching the sun fully cover Machu Picchu, we walked down to the site. Apart from it’s obvious beauty and majesty, there were toilets! I think every hiker used them. Doors that locked, flushing water, sinks to wash your hands in – pure luxury!
We walked around the site, our guide giving us a superb tour. There’s not a bit that I loved more than any other part, it was all sublime, (though the Sun Temple was particularly good).
Don’t think that your stresses are now over, you have to get the bus down to the train station. The wait can be up to about 45 minutes, (we just beat the rush and got on one in about 20 mins). You now get to experience the coach drive from hell, zooming down the seriously steep mountain to the bottom at breakneck speed, going around switchbacks, getting so close to the edge it’s unbelievable.
It was quite terrifying! That said, we did come out of it alive, if a little shaken. From here, we had lunch and a well deserved beer with the guides and our group, then got the train for about for about 2 hours, (which was seriously high class – big leather seats, drinks service, smiling staff, glass ceiling to allow you to see the mountains), then a coach to the hotel, (about a further 2 hours drive).
The it’s back to the hotel, point out your stored luggage to the porter and that oh so much desired shower.
I hope the above has been of use to you? If you have anything else to add, that I’ve forgotten or not thought of, please let me know, so,I can add it.