There is no need to say much more about Machu Picchu. Just type in Google “South America” and the ruins will appear on your screen – and with good reason. The first glimpse of the legendary Inca Citadel is unforgettable and undoubtedly an experience for life. But even if Machu Picchu is the main argument for many visitors to take the long flight, there is a whole lot more to experience on the Inca Trail, of which people never report in the heat of the moment.
One should be aware that there are other things waiting on the way than llamas and panpipes. Not everything is perfect, and there are some neglected sections of tracks that anyone should know that is considering this adventure. And that’s exactly what this is about. This post is not intended to intimidate or deter anyone, but to help you plan ahead to get the most out of your trip. Because how do you say so beautiful? Preparation is everything!
1.The dead woman’s pass looks even steeper downhill
Oh yes, the dreaded passport of the dead woman. There is no shortage of veterans who can tell you about the drag and sore knees on the ascent to this infamous peak. There it is located at 4215 meters – it is the highest point of the short Inca Trail and almost 1800 meters higher than Macchu Picchu! Many people forget that they have to come down again. The stairs are much steeper downhill, and those who are not careful, make a little glorious departure down the stairs. Therefore you should use the time on the summit to rest and breathe deeply (the altitude is noticeable), get a clear head and then carefully start the descent with the help of walking sticks. The sticks can be obtained in advance in Cuzco. The hike takes about an hour, but after this passage you will return to more pleasant paths.
2.Chewing coca leaves is an art
The leaves of coca shrub have been an important part of traditional medicine in the Andes for centuries. You chew on them until their stimulating effect comes to light, which can scare away hunger, thirst, fatigue and some symptoms of altitude sickness. In the classical method, a saliva-laden ball of leaves is kept in the mouth and an alkaline substance (comparable to ash) is added, whereby the active ingredient of the leaves is better extracted. Almost like an Andean version of chewing gum, many hikers compete to see who can chew the biggest ball of coca leaves. And also with the straps one sees regular huge bulges in the cheeks, as if they had placed there a gigantic candy
3.Never underestimate altitude sickness
As in the case of seasickness, no one believes in the treacherous altitude sickness that he suffers – until it is time. The latter, however, is not only more common, but also much more dangerous if not treated on time. In Cuzco, many visitors show mild symptoms of the disease, such as headache, nausea, fatigue or dizziness, and many have to vomit. In most cases, however, the symptoms disappear once you have acclimatized (which is usually the case within 12-24 hours of arrival).
Unfortunately, the large differences in altitude that are overcome on the trail in a relatively short time, burden the body again. This is one of the main reasons why the passport of the dead woman causes such problems for many trekkers. For example, I remember this unfortunate guy who had to be transported down by his carrier while being shaken by extreme dizziness, fainting and diarrhea. I do not think he’ll remember the trail because of the beautiful view – or that his wearer had a particularly enjoyable day at work.
Some traditional remedies, including the aforementioned coca leaf chewing, are praised for their effectiveness against altitude sickness. That may be true, but it is still very important to listen to your body and recognize the symptoms. To ignore them and push themselves beyond the limit can have catastrophic consequences. Therefore, before leaving for Peru you should visit your doctor and clarify the possible use of such remedies (and be best vaccinated against yellow fever). Modern medicines for altitude sickness are usually quite cheap and easy to carry. Of course, it is possible that you will not need them, but it is better to be prepared than to reach the sun gate on the back of the wearer.
4.On the way, a lot of bonus ruins are waiting
Who dares to the 1 Day Inca Trail, knows exactly what awaits him at the end of the path. But the real magic of this adventure lies in the remains of many other fortifications along the entire route. In total, you pass through six fantastically located sites, from the steep terraces of Chachabamba to the enchanted forests around Phuyupatamarca. Each place has its own history and atmosphere, which will gladly bring your guides closer to you. As a trekker you can hike at your own pace, so you have enough time to explore the ruins in peace. Of course, there are unique photo opportunities in these places, so you should definitely pack a few extra batteries for the camera.
5.There will be squatting toilets and they will be disgusting.
Squats are nothing new; after all they are in Asia and South America widespread. What distinguishes sanitary facilities in the high Andes from the standard squat toilets in the world is the lack of regular cleaning and electricity. No cleaning service wanders 100 kilometers through the Rainbow Mountains to clean a toilet, and so these quiet places smell just as well. At night it is also pitch dark there, so you should either have a flashlight or a cell phone with a flashlight function with you (but do not let it fall for heaven’s sake!). Also toilet paper is rather a rare pleasure. It is therefore advisable to inquire in advance with your tour operator, if toilet paper is provided or if you should bring your own. And, of course, very important: do not forget the disinfectant for your hands!
6.Always stay with the thing
The travel magazines with their high-gloss images sometimes suggest something different, but visiting some places on this planet is still fraught with risks today. The slippery and landslide-endangered paths to Machu Picchu are just one example. On the last day of the tour you will wake up at 4 o’clock in the night and cover the last kilometers of the trail. At this early hour, one sleep-drunk trekker after another stumbles along a narrow passage along a cliff, only one misstep from a frighteningly deep abyss to the valley. Mostly the path is open, but sometimes an orange band marks that someone has crashed recently. That should be warning enough, always to focus on the way and not to be distracted by the Fotofieber.
7.Put the camera away and enjoy it
The mentioned final section takes hikers to Inti Punktu, better known as the Sun Gate and the official entrance of Machu Picchu. Here, an overwhelming sunrise welcomes you as the ruins gradually shine in the morning light. It is the just reward for those who have completed the trail completely, because who comes by train, the ruins reached after sunrise. This means that the site is still completely deserted at this time. So do not rush: relax, take some pictures with your new friends and shine in the glow of this unique moment.
You want to venture alone on the Inca Trail? Book a seat on one of our Machu Picchu trips get to know more offer and beyond